By Ronald J. Miller
Jaja (Yaya) was nestled, deep asleep in the straw-filled barn just outside of Sarajevo, Bosnia, when they came. The brutes rushed in as his mother tried to defend him and his siblings only to be met by a kick that sent her tumbling against the barn’s rough-hewn walls.
This was happening all over Bosnia as mothers tried to hide their children anywhere they thought would be safe from the searchers. There was nothing they could do to stop these large men as they grabbed him and his silent brothers and sisters; silent because they realized it would be useless to protest, no one could hear them.
As they were carried out of the dark barn into the bright early morning sun, they could see people. Not one person looked toward them; this wasn’t any concern of theirs. Besides, what did Jaja mean to any of them?
He and his siblings were packed into the back of a small van and whisked away down a well-worn dusty road towards a large, old, rusty warehouse. When they arrived, the men pulled them from the vehicle and put them inside the building. Jaja looked around, awed to see so many of his kind dispersed throughout the structure. There must have been at least two hundred!
“What do they want with so many of us?” He thought.
Different men came in and lined up Jaja and the rest according to size. He, being quite big, went with the larger ones, while his siblings went with the smaller ones …. He never saw them again!
His group was taken outside and put into the trucks, then headed back down the road. But now they were heading toward Sarajevo!
As they bounced down the road, he thought, perhaps it is better that I am bigger; the smaller ones may not have been good enough. Oh, God! Maybe they won’t destroy me after all!
Brakes squealed as the trucks came to a dusty halt behind a brightly painted red structure.
Muffled voices could be heard, then the back doors of the truck swung open. Large hands reached in and grabbed the horrified Jaja. They carried him into the cold building, then down a damp concrete corridor past rows of small solitary cells until they stopped in front of one of them.
They put him into it and sealed the entrance; he could hear their fading footsteps then complete silence.
“Hey, can you hear me?” Came a voice from the next cell.
Startled, Jaja answered, “Yes, do you know what’s going to happen to us?”
“I’m not sure. I arrived recently. But from what I’ve heard, it isn’t good. Before they took my neighbor, he said they are complete sadistic monsters! They will pick out the youngest ones and after stabbing them, suck all of their life’s juices from the wound, like a vampire!”
A terrified Jaja begged, “Isn’t there anything we can do to persuade them not to do this to us? Or, or, is there something they want to know that we could tell them to save ourselves?”
The voice was silent for a moment, then with a sad tone said, “No, nothing. I’ve heard that some had tried to reason with them, but they acted as if they couldn’t hear.
They seem to have a thing about our darker brothers and sisters. For them, a special death …. boiled alive! You and I are in the hands of complete demons; we’re doomed!”
The voice had no sooner spoken when a man opened all the cells and looked at each prisoner. Jaja cowered when the man reached in and pulled the voice from his cell.
“Oh, God, no! This is it!” screamed the voice as they carried him away.
Jaja trembled as he remembered what the voice had said about the fate of their darker brothers and sisters. When he had spoken, he didn’t know that Jaja was one of them!
“To be boiled alive because of my color, that is insane!”
Two days passed while he sat in the cold cell waiting and waiting.
“This isn’t what I was born for. I was meant to be alive and roam the countryside free, not end up boiled to death!”
Fear gripped him when he heard loud footsteps coming directly toward him. Light showered into his cubicle as an enormous man opened the entrance and stood looking at him.
With a grin, he turned and shouted, “He’s a brown one, so off he goes into the boiling waters.”
“The boiling waters! No! No! This isn’t what I’m meant for – stop! Please stop!”
Grabbing and raising him high above the bubbling liquid, the heartless creature smiled and then dropped him into the hot swirling waters. Jaja tried to scream, but quietly rolled over and sunk.
The man turned to his partner and said, “Milos, that’s the last brown one. If anyone wants another, they’ll have to wait until we can find some more. You know, brown eggs are harder to find than white ones …. especially when the hens hide them in the barns.
NOTE! – Jaja means eggs in Bosnia. Many Bosnians, for whatever reason, seem to like boiled brown eggs better than white ones.
The idea for this story is taken from what is called an Unreliable Narrator who introduces a plot twist that creates a surprising and unexpected ending.
Example: Story written by Rod Sterling for the Twilight Zone from a book called the Depository: It tells of five characters in search of an exit from a dark pit. They include a Hobo, a Clown, a Bag Piper, an Army Major, and a Ballet Dancer. It follows all of their perils trying to escape from the dark pit only to find out that they are toy dolls inside of a depository.
Ron served 27 years in the Army (Sergeant Major).
Because of his nomadic lifestyle, he attended four universities before acquiring a bachelor’s degree in Business Management.
Serving in Germany gave him the ideas for three, historical books similar to The Game of Thrones and The Last Kingdom.
They are The Spirits of Cimbri, Attack on Cimbri, and From the Flames of Cimbri.
Following this, he wrote two Historical Murder mysteries: Chasing Shadows and Howl of the Beast.
He composed The Prisoner while sipping four fingers of Balvenie Single Malt Scotch Whiskey. So whatever your opinion, blame it on the Scotch.
All Ron’s novels are available on Amazon.
8 thoughts on “The Prisoner”
Interesting short story that sucked me right in. The surprise ending….surprised me!
Great setting, this chronicle of persecution and discrimination. Heavy heart and warm wishes for the victims and families, especially the mothers. There’s hope — keep the sunny-side-up.
The Prisoner was very clever. I enjoyed it
Thanks for writing and sharing this story, Ron. Your title led me to dive into it. As I read, I kept wondering how some humans can be so brutal. You chose a faraway place that is unknown to most, that added to the suspense. The ending is not only surprising, it has a humanistic component. I breathed a sign of relief. I learned that Jaja means eggs in Bosnia. I also learned from you about an Unreliable Narrator. Love this story!!
I was so horrified until the amazing ending.
Amazing story and pulled you deep into the darkness with the main character. Loved the twist and how emotionally invested you get while reading.
WOW. Enjoyed this short story as much as I did watching the TV show “The Prisoner” back in the mid-60s.
Thanks for sharing it and HALLARD PRESS for printing it for their readers.
Wow, yep dragged right in…such explicit detail described and pressed the buttons of all emotions.
You have an amazing mind. Well done.