Prisoners for war By: Nathan Nace
I am Bora Kim, in 1975 my life was going good. I was 12 years old but I could not afford school so I would work at the market to make a little extra dough for my Mom. Little did I know what would happen that would change me forever. The Khmer Rouge invaded our village and took us to a big field. Later on they separated me from the rest of my family and took us too an old farm to keep me and other boys captive. Working day and night with little sleep and food. At that time I had no clue what they were doing with us, no one did. We thought we were being kept as slaves, kept to work for those damn Khmer . It has been a week since we got here. People really miss their families, I do as well. All we get fed at night is rice which is so watery we call it rice soup. I think of good food I ate before all of this. That makes it worse.
I wake up this morning to gunshots, we all sleep in a one room cabin, so the others wake up too. We notice someone missing. Some kid named Kim. It did not take a genius to figure out what happened to him. We all stood there dead silent, not knowing what to do. And what could we have done. The Khmer Rouge had guns, we were just a bunch of kids. Yeah we have numbers, but that would not have changed a thing, he was dead, murdered. We just had to take it. All day gun shots were going of as we worked in the fields. Growing crops and picking weeds. As well as doing jobs for the Khmer Rouge. Many of us are here. Many kids get killed for no reason. Some begin to cry as they work. Those kids get shot as well. I hold back tears as I hear screams and as the kid next to me gets shot for taking a break from work. That's when the guy next to me told me not to show emotion and keep working, he said that if I did that and did whatever they said, I would live. His name is Arun. He is a little bit older than me and is in the same cabin as me. So tonight I go over and get to know him a little. He is 15. The Khmer Rouge invaded his home and like the rest of us got separated from his family. I asked him, why the Khmer Rouge were killing so many people. “To get rid of the weak ones” he said. He also said he thought he knew what they were doing with us. The kids around us all started looking over and it got quiet, it was peaceful. “They are not making us work just to work, they are training us. I once read about how kids are sometimes used in wars and how it goes against rights and all that.” Said Arun. One kid ask “then why bother separating all of us, would it not be easier to” Arun interrupts and says that adults can not be child soldiers and that they were likely slaves. He also says that the girls are not going to be soldiers and more or less assist by carrying damn heavy bags of rice. At least that's what he thinks. We decide to go to bed, everyone got a little shaken up after what Arun had said. “He might be wrong” some guy said. But deep down I thought he was right, we all did. No matter how much we wanted him to be wrong. The next day more gunshots go off. There is also a horrid smell going through the whole camp. It makes some vomit. One kid I see vomit gets taken away by the Khmer Rouge. Arun then whispers to me, “ breath through your mouth, that way you can't smell and you won't vomit, don’t vomit, and you won't be shot”. I look up and see the Khmer wearing those paper mask, like doctors wear. I feel angry inside, furious. However, the outside I am blank, no emotion. I start to really hang out with Arun, he is now like a big brother to me.
A few months have passed. We kids are now so skinny that we are practically a walking skeleton. So many people are dying that they move people in nearly empty cabins into others and use the empty cabin to either store stuff or as firewood. Now that me and Arun have known each other for a while we talk often and work near each other. We look like we knew each other our whole lives. Sometimes they make us go to these woods. Where they take some kids before they get killed. Me and Arun think we are gonna die. Maybe they would kill us because they might not want people making friends. As we walk and think we are gonna be shot. We are not sad, we as usual have no emotion. We are kind of already dead on the inside. The Khmer Rouge says to go by this big hole, me and Arun walk over and look in. What we see is horrifying and disgusting. Bodies of kids piled inside the hole. “We've noticed you two really get along”, says the Khmer soldier. I braced myself and waited to see what was next. I was thinking about how I would die here. In some smelly, grody, prison camp, starving, and tired. But then he pointed to a big pile of dirt and said “well work together and bury these kids”. I say as politely as I can, I say “ with what, sir” . “With your damn hands”, he says . He then pushes me into the dirt pile and yells to get working. Me and Arun spent hours on that hole. I felt like I could have passed out right there by the time we were done. Me and Arun were making our way back to the field as it was getting dark. We walked by another hole, but we paid no mind, then we heard a loud chopping sound. As if someone had just cut open a coconut. We looked over towards the hole we had seen. What we saw was terrifying, a Khmer soldier pulling an axe out of a kids skull. Arun told me to be quiet and keep walking, he said that they were probably using the axe now to save on ammo. We went back into the field in where the Khmer Rouge told us to work until bedtime. We went in our cabin that night to see only seven other kids in there. Nine of us in total. When we first got here there were forty five kids in the cabin. Not counting the kids that were moved in her. That really put in perspective how many kids were murdered by the Khmer soldiers. Murdered for what reason. It was genocide.
We have been here for so long now that I have no clue what the year even is, but this morning the Khmer Rouge today woke us up in a hurry. They said that the Vietnamese soldiers were invading. Me, Arun, and the rest of our cabin jumped out of our uncomfortable beds to go outside and see whether or not they were really going to have us be soldiers. Arun was right. They divided us into patrols, each with a group of kids and a Khmer Rouge leader. They also had girls around our age or younger come into the patrols. One girl for each. She was given a bag of rice to carry. She was so weak that when they put the rice on her shoulders, her legs trembled, as if she was about to fall down. Arun was surprisingly put in the same patrol as me. We were handed rifles so heavy even Arun could barely hold it. One kid refused to fight saying he did not want to. The Khmer leader of our group pulled out the pistol he had at his side and shot the kid in the head right there. Arun looked at me then, and glazed over at the Khmer Rouge soldier. Who was yelling about how we were not going to refuse to fight or we will be killed. Arun then leaped to pull the pistol from the soldier and shot him in the gut. I yelled at the top of my lungs “NO”! He aimed the gun at the other patrols leader and I closed my eyes then I heard another shot go off. I opened them to see both Arun and the Khmer Rouge soldier on the ground. The soldier cried in pain. Arun had been hit in the head. At that moment I felt tears running down my face for the first time since we got here. I was crying. They shot my friend. He tried to fight back, he tried to save us. But he could not. I sucked back my tears and straightened up as we got another Khmer Rouge leader. The one on the ground was starting to quiet down as they attended to him, he then died right by Arun. Our new leader seems younger then all the other soldiers. He also seems more lenient. We walk along this dirt road for miles. Trudging and trudging as we dragged our heavy rifles behind us. He tells us rest by this little pond by the side of the road. He says how the trees near the pond will be good cover in case of an attack. After we eat, he lets us listen to the radio. He changes the station from some guy talking about the war to a station playing an american song. It was a guy named Paul McCartney with his band called songs singing about a band on the run. It was catchy, and it helped us kids go to sleep. Then we woke up after hearing a loud bang. It was a bomb. We were being attacked. I saw a kid laying on the ground screaming. He had lost his arm. As he layer there other kids and our leader were firing in on the direction of the vietnamese military. I managed to rise up off the ground and stand with my heavy rifle. I started to fire shots in the Viet congs direction. Bullets were whizzing by and I felt blood drop from my ear. I had been grazed. If that bullet was over just a tad bit, I would be dead. The thought that I almost died distracted me from the battle, and an explosion of fire, dirt, and metals goes off on in front of me, sending me flying into the pond. Somehow, I am not injured from this. As I climb out of the pond, I notice the fighting has stopped. I see a kid signaling me to stay down. He signals me to follow him deeper into the forest near the pond. He says that the Khmer rouge leader was killed, and that if we we walk into the direction the vietnamese came from, we could escape. He says goodbye and we split up. I take his advice and go towards the direction of the vietnamese.
A few days have passed and I finally see a place. It has lots of kids and a lady calling for them to come in, one kid looks over and sees me. The lady hurries and let's me come in. They notice how skinny I am and they give me lots of food. Real food. Fish and meat with veggies and bread. I ate like a pig. I go to bed that night and i smile. Im laying in a comfy bed. I smile and i sleep, peacefully.