Silenced.

Twelve men were standing side by side in front of a wall. Their hands were cuffed; their eyes blind folded. It was way past midnight but surely dawn is not coming anytime soon. These men’s last memories were how they were seized at the comforts of their homes. Men in full battle gear crashed their doors. There was no time for them to respond, let alone ask one question— what is happening?

“All is clear Sir,” one man with a long M16 said.

Then one by one in twelve different houses, these men who are now standing by their sides, still clueless about what had just happened, were hand cuffed and blindfolded. The armed men who in the middle of the night bolted their houses took them, leaving these clueless men’s wives hysterical with their crying children who, just like their fathers, were unaware of what had happened.

Now here they are standing side by side with each other, not knowing who’s who, where they are, and what is happening. All they know is that their lives are in the hands of these armed men.

“Who are you?” cried a man standing in the middle. His name is Marco; he appears to be a middle-aged man with a lanky physique.

The eleven other men followed suit. Asking the questions they want to ask since the beginning of all this.

“Shut up!” the man with the M16 yelled back.

He pointed his gun towards the little commotion. Fired. There was a deafening silence. They heard something slump on the ground. Was anybody shot? Again, they were clueless but one thing is now certain: these armed men, whoever they are, don’t give a damn about killing them.

They heard engines approaching. Somebody must have arrived. More armed men? They don’t know. The night’s getting deeper and they know the longer they are with these men the more uncertain their future is.

The engine stopped.

“We have all twelve here Sir,” said the man with the M16, “but we had to shoot one. They ask too many questions” “Just be sure you file the appropriate reports first thing in the morning. We don’t want any controversies anymore. The hounds are talking too much”

Is he the boss? The remaining eleven men asked themselves. They heard footsteps approaching them.

“Alright! One, two, three…” the boss counted them one by one including Marco, “Twelve.”

“I want to see their faces”

The armed men immediately followed the boss’s orders. They removed the blindfolds of the eleven men. After hours of darkness, their eyes finally saw some light. Aside from the bright flashlights piercing their fresh eyes, the moon is the only source of light in the place. Are they still in the city? They didn’t know that there’s still a vacant lot this huge in the city. Perhaps they are not in the city anymore. Where exactly they are, none of them know. They saw a body on the floor, lifeless, with a bullet in the head. Five trucks are parked around. Dozens of armed men are watching them, clutching their long assault rifles. Are they going to war? One man asked himself.

“Julius! Is that you?” one man whispered as loud as he can.

Julius recognized the man but he won’t speak. After what happened to Marco, he’s afraid that making any noise might cost his life.

“Hey! Julius!” the man continued calling him.

The boss noticed the man. His shouting broke the silence of the night, save for the few murmurs of the armed men.

“What’s going on there, huh?” the boss shouted.

The man calling Julius stopped. He was suddenly unable to speak. The boss and the man with the M16 approached him.

“Did somebody told you to speak?” the boss asked staring at the man eye to eye.

The man froze to death, yet he can’t keep his eyes off the boss. Wait. He thinks he recognize his face. Did he saw him on TV? Oh, the newspaper! He saw the boss in the papers a few days ago! He wants to ask the boss to make sure, or is it necessary? But he wants to know what is happening and he thinks that knowing who the boss is, will shed some light. He gathered some courage, breathed deeply, and then let the words out.

“Are you…”

Bang!

“What the hell!” the boss exclaimed, “Why did you shot the man?

The man with the M16 put down his gun. He approached the dead man’s body. Another bullet in the head, the man is a dead shot.

Julius saw everything, tears now falling from his eyes. He knew the man. He was filled with fear and anger. He was right: making any noise would not save his life, but knowing that is not relieving. It just adds to the helplessness that cripples him together with these eight remaining men.

“It’s getting dawn. Let’s clean this mess,” the boss said.

The voice was almost inaudible but was enough for Julius to hear what the boss said. What will they do? Julius asked himself. The armed men stopped all their individual activities. They began to surround their captives. Their guns all pointed at the clueless men who are now pleading for their lives. What are you doing; what is happening; please don’t kill us; and dozens of other questions filled the air. All but one went crazy; he stayed still amidst the supplications of his fellow captives. The boss ordered to remove the handcuffs. The ten men are now free to move but no one wants to make the mistake as deadly assault rifles are still pointing towards them ready to fill their bodies with merciless bullets. The man with the M16 who appears to be the boss’s right hand guy signaled to put down the guns. The remaining captives, who since their blindfolds were removed already examined the whole area for possible escape routes, were surprised.

“Do you know why you are here?” asked the boss.

The captives responded like a messed up choir, singing the same song in different tunes. All of them replied except for one.

“You didn’t answer my question,” said the boss “do you know why you are here”

Julius looked at the boss but said nothing; he just shook his head to say no.

“The Leader is so passionate about eliminating all the enemies of the State, and you are all enemies of the State.”

“Please don’t kill us. We didn’t do anything wrong,” the messed up choir responded again singing the same song in different tunes.

“I am giving you a choice. You can now surrender, or you can now run and never go back ever again. Never in this city”

The ten men looked at each other reading each other’s mind. I don’t want to rot in prison, said one man. The man started to run, as fast as he could, away from these armed men. Eight others followed him. They ran for their lives telling themselves never to go back in this city again. Julius stayed, looking at his fellow “enemies of the State” escape.

The man with the M16 is counting aloud. He is counting down. Eleven, ten, nine…

Julius heard him. He closed his eyes, and knelt to the ground.

The man is now in five. Four. Three. Two.

One.

He raised his M16, pointed it towards the running captives. One by one, one shot at a time, the runners fell to the ground. All twelve but one captive were now gone.

“Good choice!” the boss approached Julius, “The Leader is always after the interest of the City. The enemies must be silenced.”

Still kneeling, he opened his eyes. He saw the boss, a pistol in his hand pointed at his face.

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