The last day they saw each other, they didn’t say a word. They just stared and finally left, each own his or hers on way. They were six people and they had all been there as the war had happened. They had been useful servants, slaves if you will. They had done everything they were ordered and even then the ones that ruled over that place had beaten them with sticks or solid rods. Everyone was cruel and sick during the war and the secret that they all shared was proof of that. When it happened, they all shared that moment but they never really spoke about it. First, because there was no time to do so and, second, because it was extremely hard for them to do it. The war then pressed on and reached its desired end; they were liberated one morning and found themselves to be free.
Clara was the youngest of the group and the first one to leave that horrible place. She noticed, as she left in a truck filled with liberated people, how the surrounding forest was still dark and scary and how it had no life inside of it. It had been rendered lifeless by the atrocities of war. Eventually, Clara made it to the nearest town and there she desired to get to a port and then away from that forsaken continent. But she never got to do it because she had no money. She decided to work in the town, doing small chores all over. It was doing so that she met a nice young man, a baker, and she fell in love. They eventually married and had a very large and happy family. She was almost seventy years old when she received a phone call, one she never thought she would get.
Robert, the youngest man, left in the following truck. Its destination was another place like the one he had come from, which made him sick. He vomited several times and made the soldiers think he was sick with something. They left him in a provisional hospital, not too far from there. He wasn’t sick, just nervous and scared. In the hospital, one of the doctors asked him for help, as nurses were very scarce. Eventually, Bob followed the medicine man to a big city in the south and there he paid Robert’s studies to become a doctor. The man turned to be a second father who loved Robert as his own son had died months earlier in battle. Bob turned himself into a great doctor, getting the call too after one of his lectures.
The oldest was Irina, a woman that didn’t say a word and that left the place by foot. She was not that older but she had seen more of life than Clara and Robert. She was hunted by the violent deaths of her family, which she couldn’t forget. Feet bleeding, she collapsed and was rescued by a group of women, who nursed her back to health. They were also escaping violence, so she joined them. The group eventually settled in the east and became of the first feminist groups of the area. They were adamant in their convictions and Irina proved to be a real fighter. She did good things for women all over the region and was in a frail state when she got her call.
Next was Alexander, who was the first one that talked publicly about the atrocities he had seen. He became a renowned writer after been able to travel abroad and reunite with his family. He was member of an aristocratic family who had disowned him but now that everything had change, they recognized him again and even more as his fame grew larger. Alexander published books about the war, all very successful. He did novels, and documentaries and short stories. He even sold his rights to make movies about the subject. By the time he was an older man, he was one of the richest persons on that side of the world. Privately, he had grown tired of the subject but as it was his life, he couldn’t drop it. His call caught him in the middle of the night.
Marissa was the only one that had been transferred from a proper prison camp. She had seen other atrocities and when she was transferred she thought she would have a better life but she didn’t. After the liberation, she had to be institutionalized because of her mental state. She received shock therapy for several months and was even the subject of several dissertations about paranoia. She was finally released to a resting home when she was a woman in her forties. She had no skills and had been permanently damaged but that didn’t stop people at the home to make her clean floors and bathrooms, use her as many had used her before. Then, one morning, someone came and took her away.
To complete the group, there was Louis. He had been a musician but after the war his fingers were not the same ones. He couldn’t play anything and he did not have any other skills. He tried finding a job as a waiter or as a chauffeur, but he would always ruin it by having awful breakdowns that involved hitting himself repeatedly. His guilt always showed itself to others, and it couldn’t be controlled. He was violent and unpredictable so, when one day he shot himself in the head, no one really made a fuss about it. So many people that had been liberated were committing suicide, so it wasn’t a real shock. When they called Louis, trying to locate him, the news hit hard and deep.
The person who called was Clara. She had started to contact everyone else for one simple reason and that was because she had received a call by a state officer who was investigating the events that took place in that place in the woods all those years ago. They had identified her as a resident for some time, as well as some others. They wanted to talk to them in order to know exactly what went on there because there were these rumors and it was necessary to know if they were true. Clara just hung up, asking her husband never to pick it up again. When the government came to her doorstep, she chased them away.
For her, it was too much. Her children and husband didn’t understand, but for Clara it was all a disaster. She was an older woman now, someone who had already done what she had to do, and someone that was already planning to come to terms with her existence as a human being. Clara was almost ready to meet her maker and she had no intention to face the human justice. That was when she had the idea to track all of the people that had been there with her, in those basements with rooms with no windows or proper lighting. She looked for them and after some time she had called them all. They had all agreed to meet, no questions asked, in the town where she lived.
It was fun, at least for a while, to see how different everyone was. Clara had been a housewife all of her life so she did an effort to look good. She was the one who picked up Clara and, with the help of her husband, nursed her back to a better health in order to be more aware of the world. But Marissa was gone and would rather play with the dogs than talk to those people she didn’t know anymore. Bob and Alex looked fantastic. They were all so dapper and successful in their respective fields. But once there, once they got all together, they went back to being young and simple. Irina walked slow and needed to be waited and helped. But her demeanor was strong and resilient, having struggled all of her life for others. They reunited and, once again, just stared.
But those empty looks turned into tears and hugs and kisses. They had never done that while at the woods, they had never shared a moment of love because love had been outlawed. They only law, the only real thing there was violence and cruelty and they had been poisoned by it. They talked about their lives and about how everything had changed but had stayed the same in some parts. They also spoke about Louis and Marissa was the first one to smile when hearing his name. She had helped him once and they were the only friends in existence in that awful place. They went there and the cold wind that greeted them made all the memories come back.
The place was now a museum with a park. A young woman came to them as asked if they wanted to take a tour of the place but they told her they knew it too well. They each told the story of how they had gotten there and how they had gotten out of it. They also confessed to have helped to the killing of several people, including children. The place was used as a testing site for several weapons: biological, chemical and radioactive. They also tortured them with other experiments and them, who were prisoners, were made to watch and help. If they didn’t, they died. So they did. That place had been hell and now they had liberated themselves from it, in order to leave it there forever.