For Kosovo!M. Stanley Bubien
"The date, tell me the date!"
"T-t-today," I said, hands clasped behind my back, hiding their trembling, as I concentrated upon the words. "Today i-is---"
"Not today," our leader barked, "damn you! The da---" he fell into a fit of coughing, leaning front-wise upon the table, though it hardly bent under his form. His aid, and second-in-command, moved to intervene, but he waved the assistance aside.
We waited until the tremors in his body slackened, and he dropped, breathing wetly, into a chair.
"Thehhh..." he rasped in an attempt at speech, but shook his head. Clearing his throat several times, yet to no avail, he finally gestured to his aid.
"Our instructions for you are clear," the aid lifted a pistol from the table. "You will be first in the line."
"F-f-f-first?" I stammered. "Are-are you s-s-sure?"
"Absolutely! You are our most capable shot, and the automobile will pass first position the fastest."
"Freedom for Kosovo!" the aid stated solemnly as he presented the firearm.
"F-f-f-reedom." I replied, unclasping my hands slowly, but before bringing them forward, clenching my fingers into a fist. Yet that simply caused the whole of my forearm to tremble as I reached toward the pistol. I closed my eyes as I grasped it, but another palm, cold and clammy, laid itself upon mine.
"Unity!" our leader said, having found voice once more. "Won with the blood of their 'fearless leader.' Pah!" He spat on the floor. "Our hands are already blackened, but blood will pave our path. Are you up to this task?"
I stiffened, for to express doubt now would certainly mean my own death. "A l-l-land united for u-u-s and all Serbians, its r-r-rightful heirs." I said, though my hand still shook.
At that moment, his grip tightened, the firmest grasp he had ever thrown upon me. "Ah! You are for the task! These aggressions will not abide, and you, my friend, you will have the first opportunity to free our land from such treacheries.
"The instant that he dies, it will be for Kosovo. And his people---all people!---will know the Serbian wrath cannot be contained."
The three of us stood there at that moment, each with a palm surrounding the pistol.
"The date, I ask again. The date?" our leader said in a tone that had earned him his post, though in contrast, he had become so pale, he seemed to fill the darkened room with a glow.
"Twenty-eighth, June," I stated with perfect annunciation.
"In the year of our Lord 1914," our leader continued. "Then, the Archduke Ferdinand, heir to the Austrian throne will fall."
And as one voice we repeated our rallying cry. "For Kosovo! Union or death!"
They released the pistol, leaving it fully in my possession. They had finished with me, this I knew, and made my exit. I fled to the street, and falling against an alleyway wall, I held my hand before me. Through the moonless night I could not see it, but I knew that, still, it shook as though it would never stop.
Copyright ©1999 M. Stanley Bubien. All Rights Reserved.
Please contact the editor for free text versions of this very short story formatted for e-mail, usenet news, or ftp.