13b 1915 KILLING A COSSACK
The battlefield of Lutsk: the edge of a vast, marshy forest.
Machine guns are spraying the air with long bursts, interrupted
by dull thuds of exploding shells. Curls of smoke are hanging
in the air. Oskar Kokoschka is lying badly wounded on the
ground, among other dying or dead soldiers. The air is filled
with hundreds of voices murmuring names of beloved girls,
calling mothers and fathers, moaning, swearing, sighing with
Alma! Where are you? What are you doing now? Are you thinking
about me? Think of me, Alma! Hold me up! Don't let me fall
! Hold me! Don't let go of me! Don't let me slip away! Support
me! Hold on to me! Tie me to you! Don't let me sink into unconsciousness!
Alma! Don't let me go into the dark! Alma! Why didn't you
keep an eye on me? Why didn't you warn me? I trusted in you.
I was sure you were looking out for me. Why did you let my
patrol fall into that ambush? Why did you send me into this
hell? Do you know what hand-to-hand fighting is? No, you don't.
Hand-to-hand fighting. I'm sure this is my final hour! Alma!
Can you hear me? Yes! I can hear you! Raise your voice, Alma!
Now I can hear you better. I'm so happy I can talk to you!
I'm so happy!... I'm... My horse was killed out form under
me... I was shot in the head... I can't hear you very well...
I've been shot through the ear... There's a hole in my head...
from ear to ear...What do you mean that can't be true... I
can hear the wind howling through the tunnel the bullet hollowed
out in my skull... I can hear your voice on the wind blowing
through my brain... It makes me happy... I don't know... I've
lost track of time... I don't know how long I've been lying
here in the mud, maybe days, maybe weeks ... It got dark a
few times, then the sun shone a few times... I don't know...
maybe I jut lost consciousness a few times... maybe it's been
only a few hours that I've been lying here...
The voice of a man is heard approaching, singing a sweet,
sad Russian song.
it's not me singing... It's a Russian soldier. A Cossack...
he is killing the badly wounded... No. he's not shooting them...
he's doing it with his long bayonet... No, he's not a bad
guy... He's right in doing it- there's no point in moving
the badly injured... they'll die anyway of gangrene... It
would just be much ado about nothing...
Screaming voices are heard from nearby against the background
of the uninterrupted sweet Russian song of lyrical effusiveness.
it's not me screaming. Those are some of my wounded comrades...
The Cossack is dispatching them to the other side ...
The Cossack appears carrying his gun equipped with a long,
it's my turn.
Kokoschka draws his revolver, and hides it ready to shoot
at his side.
be afraid, my love. I have my revolver ready... Aimed at his
chest...There's a bullet in the chamber...
The Cossack approaches Kokoschka. He keeps singing his beautiful
song, as he starts to stab Kokoschka in his chest.
think his bayonet is entering my jacket... It's only the jacket...
Don't worry... He's fumbling around there with his damned
bayonet... apparantly looking for my flesh... Yes... Of course
I could shoot him... and save myself... But my mind isn'tt
yet deranged enough to permit me to murder a man who is just
doing his job ... carrying out an order... Ah ha, now I feel
his weapon very slowly penetrating my skin... now it's gliding
through the fat on my ribs... Oh!- Now it's going into the
ribs... Alma!... The pain is terrible... Truly not to be endured...
Do you love me? ... Alma- Say you love me and I'll shoot him...
Why don't you say something ... You want me to die... Alma!...
Please!... all right then... Just a second more... I can take
it ... Oh! The pain is gone!... The blade is in my lung...
There's no pain any more... My head feels light... I'm happy...
I'm happier than I've ever been before ... I'm floating on
air... Blood is flowing from my nose... my ears... my mouth...
it's blinding my eyes... Dying is so simple, so easy... Ha
ha ha ha ha!...
Kokoschka is laughing like mad. The Cossack stops singing
and looks at him in bewilderment. He backs up, leaving the
weapon sticking in Kokoschka's body. Kokoschka's laughter
grows louder and wilder. The Cossack turns and runs away screaming:
Boggo Moy! Mama!!!
Kokoschka gets up on his knees. He pulls the bayonet out
of his wound. He leans on the gun, stands up on his legs,
turns the gun upside down, and using it as a crutch he limps
over the corpses and walks away from the deserted and silent
battlefield, humming to himself the melody of the sweet Russian