Sunday, March 29, 2009

The Market (Written for Modern European History)

The Market

It had been a good day for Viktor Sidorov. The harvest was good on his farm this year and his wife was about to give birth to a child who would hopefully live through the winter. As he walked towards his home heard gunshots in the distance, just hunters he said to himself as more shots fired and an explosion lit up the night sky. Dropping to the ground he yelled to his family to stay indoors. Warhorses caused the ground to shake as the victorious army approached the farm. Viktor had not thought to take his rifle with him today

“Greetings comrade, we hope our little battle did not scare you.” The man on the horse laughed and threw Viktor a potato. “My name is Commissar Taras Petrov of the Red Guard. Under the decree put into place by Vladimir Lenin you are ordered to give up your harvest for redistribution in cities, you will be given enough food to last you the week then you will have to come to the city for rations, failure to comply will result in unpleasant consequences.

The soldiers began taking Viktor’s first good harvest in ten years. They left a small section of the field for him to live off of for the next week and left leaving a cloud of dust. How would he tell his family what had happened? He had an eight year old daughter and his son was a month away, he had to think of something.

Viktor went inside and picked up a small bag of coins off of the counter, the months rent. Viktor’s wife, Tanya looked up from the sweater she was stitching and began to say something but Viktor interrupted, “I need to go do something in town; I’ll be back by dinner hopefully.”

The road to town was long and dangerous. Every turn could lead you into a trap set up by bandits or just a drunk looking for someone to fight. Because of this Viktor was taking the long route through the forest, where he didn’t expect to find anyone else. He continued walking until he saw a small stream and began to drink. He stopped drinking as soon as he started. The water was red. Viktor looked upstream and saw at least five bodies thrown into the water near a campfire, a group of hooded men with rifles and swords were standing around the fire talking. One of them looked back and saw Viktor staring at them and began aiming his rifle. “Walk over here slowly with your hands visible. We will not hurt you unless you try to run.”

Viktor walked towards the group. Once there a rifle butt hit the back of his head and he fell forwards into the fire. They pulled him out before any serious damage could be done, leaving a jagged scar down the left side of his face. The man who had spoken kicked Viktor onto his back and checked his pockets. “Looks like this one has some coin on him, he can live.” Viktor passed out as another hard kick hit his head.

Five hours later Viktor woke up. He was lying in a field outside of the village, he attempted to stand. At least his legs still worked, he thought as he walked towards the tavern. Once inside he sat down at the counter. “Viktor my friend, what will it be today?” asked the fat old man behind the counter. Sergei had owned the tavern for twenty years and knew most of his customers by face if not name. If anyone knew how to help Viktor, Sergei would.

“My farm has been claimed as property of the communist war effort and I was just robbed in the forest. I have no way of feeding my family, especially with a son being born next month. Do you know anyone who can help me?” The tavern went silent as a tall man got up and walked over to Viktor. “I can help you feed your family and more. You can become one of the richest men in Russia if you do what my people ask of you. I will send one of my men with you to your home if you want.”

Once back at his farm Viktor noticed the person following him. “My name does not matter. Now that we are here I can tell you our offer. You will participate in the black market, trading services or goods for food and other items. Sometimes we will come to you for special requests, you will have to go through with these or you will find the Red Guard knocking on your door with an execution squad waiting in the field. Do you accept?” Viktor looked back at his farm, if he did not accept his family would not live through the winter. The special requests couldn’t be that bad, he accepted. “Good, here is the money my men stole from you in the forest. Go get some sleep; we will be visiting you early tomorrow.”

The next day they returned. They didn’t ask for much, just for Viktor to repair some tools in return for some potatoes and meat. This went on throughout the winter once a week, Viktor and his family became wealthy and his son survived. Then spring came. The requests became harsher and the Red Guard had increased patrols in the area, soon they were asking for stuff he couldn’t give them until one day they went too far.

“We have a special request from a commander in the white army. You are to give us your daughter in return for increased protection against the reds; you will never see your daughter again.” Viktor began to protest but it was too late, he heard a scream as two men dragged his daughter out of bed and placed her in the back of a car. “Your service is appreciated.” The man smiled and got in the car, Viktor watched the car drive away in disgust.

Ten years later

War communism had passed and Lenin’s New Economic Policy was in place. Viktor still remembered the first day of May ten years ago, one day he would have revenge. Today a messenger had arrived at his home with news for him. “I have a report from the market. Your presence is requested in the village immediately, you are ordered to bring all of your wealth with you.”

Viktor looked at the boy, about one year older than his own son. This was the first time in eight years that the Black Market had contacted him, something must have happened. Viktor got in his car and drove to town, the car was given to him the last time the market had contacted him requesting he repair a stolen prototype weapon from England. Once in town his car was stopped by five men bearing the red star of the military.

They couldn’t have found out, it has been eight years. The men pulled Viktor out of the car and threw him on the ground. “You are under arrest under charges of supporting the rebel forces during the civil war. We have just caught your men here and they told us all about how you forced them to work for you.” Viktor’s face was red “They are the ones who forced me to-” Viktor could no longer talk as a rifle butt slammed into his face and his head slammed into the ground. “Take him away.”

Viktor woke up in a dark cell next to a family of rats. He got up quickly and startled them, running back into the crack they came from. He looked around and saw a young woman across from him, his daughter. She looked like she had been there for at least a year, her skin was pale and clothes torn. Her eyes had long ago lost any glimmer of hope that she would see daylight again. Viktor began to cry and attempted to get over to her. “I’m sorry. I was only trying to help the family.” The woman looked away, she didn’t notice him. “Speak to me” he said as she remained silent. Viktor began to yell and a guard opened the cell door. “Come with me, your time has come.” The woman stood up obediently and walked out of the cell. Five minutes later a gunshot echoed down the hall and his daughter was dead for a crime that was his fault. Viktor looked down at the ground and fell asleep.

He never woke up.

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