Global Context Winning Essay

October 25, 2016

 

 

 

 

Last Cigareta

 

Marek was more than aware of his cowardice. Surrounded by thousands of other students, caught in a vortex of empowerment, frustration, and hope, he knew more than ever how scared he was. To his left, his best friend Adela stood proud, holding a sign that proclaimed V. Havel as the true leader, the president of the nation. And on his right, his brother Martin smiled broadly, cheering fiercely in the name of liberty. All around Marek was pure, vibrant energy, deafening noise and a fiery sea of bodies. Yet he had never felt more alone. Despite the convictions of those who stood around him, Marek was unsure. Unsure of his motivations, unsure of the passion that seemed to effortlessly fuel his fellow students.

 

 Is this truly the right course of action? What are we looking towards? A playwright? As president? How Tata would laugh. Marek reached into his jacket pocket, searching for his box of cigarettes. He opened the box, finding a single cigarette left inside. Korova. Of course, I only have one cigareta left. He pulled out his lighter, giving life to the tobacco, inhaling slowly, letting the smoke fill his lungs. A wave of calmness caressed Marek as he felt his nerves settle. However, he could not shake the uneasy feeling from his stomach, a tight knotting in his core. Marek felt like he was the only person acknowledging the large presence of police, seemingly enclosing the vast crowd from all sides. He felt his palms moisten and his back was growing wetter by the second. Something is not right here. Marek grabbed Adela and Martin by their arms, saying, “Let’s get out of here. The air is not good.” Adela shrugged his grip off.

 

“That’s because all you do is smoke. How can you ever expect to grasp liberty when you won’t even give your lungs freedom?” Adela said. Marek rolled his eyes and grasped her arm again.

 

“Not relevant at all. Besides, this is my only cigareta. Please, just trust me, both of you.” Martin turned to face Marek with a quizzical look on his face.

 

“Bratr, I know that you find many faults in our cause but please, see the bigger picture for once! This is where we make our stand; all of Prague is our audience tonight. No one will be able to ignore the young, and no one can deny that we are the future. Let us pave the way for our deti, as well as our children’s children. This is the universe calling us forward! And like Tata always use to say, when the universe calls we must answer.” Marek sighed and shook his head. He eyed his cigareta, noticing that half of it had already disappeared. Korova. There’s no way I’m convincing Martin or Adela to move. And I’m not leaving without them. Please Tata, keep us safe. I can’t lose Martin. Mama wouldn’t be able to live with herself if anything happened to her baby. Marek closed his eyes, still keeping one hand on Martin and the other on Adela, and tried his best to drown out the cacophony. He drifted into a conscious slumber, repeating a mantra in his head to stay collected. This will all be over soon. We will be safe. Everything is okay. He felt his shoulders relax a little, the tension in his back fading with each repeat of his self-manifested therapy. Unfortunately for Marek, it seemed as if the impossible had occurred; the noise around was getting even louder. Suddenly, swarms of students seemed to be moving every which way, like an army of ants without a queen. The deafening drone of the crowd was fleeting, replaced with murmurs of confusion and disarray. Marek craned his neck upwards in order to see over the crowd, but at this point all he could see was a swirl of bodies. Martin and Adela seemed to have picked up on the change of tide as well. Martin pursed his lips, shuffling uncomfortably. “Something’s happening. Marek, can you see what’s going on?”

 

“No. Korova. I can’t see anything. We need to leave. Now. No arguing. Yes?” Marek said. Martin and Adela looked at Marek, then looked at each other, and at the same time, nodded.

 

“Follow me, I know the quickest way out,” Adela proclaimed, already proceeding onward. The trio stuck close together, weaving in and out of scattered, confused college students. As they got further from the center, the cacophony died down, replaced with something much worse: angry yelling and blood-curdling screaming. Marek felt a cold shiver coarse throughout his whole body. He, Martin, and Adela stopped dead in their footsteps at the sight before them. Gone were the stone-faced, silent policemen who once lined the outskirts of the crowd like automatons. They watched in horror as the uniformed men surrounded individuals on the ground, mercilessly beating them with heavy, wooden batons.

 

“Prosim. Prosim stop!” a small, blond boy screamed, surrounded by three savages, who seemed to revel in his miserable screams. This is insanity. That can’t be Martin or Adela. Marek broke out of his trance and seized the hands of his two companions. Both Adela and Martin were still frozen in place, unable to take their eyes away from the scene in front of them. “Adela! Get us out of here. Now!” Screamed a panicking Marek. The glazed look in her eyes started to disappear, as she awoke with horrified apprehension. Adela rapidly nodded and motioned for the boys to follow her to the right, revealing a small, narrow corridor about twenty meters away. Marek hurriedly ran after her, bumping into other fleeing civilians and trying his best to avoid anything with a uniform. Finally, they had made it. “Come on, let’s go home,” Marek said turning to face Martin. Except Martin wasn’t there. “Where the fuck is Martin?” he yelled. Adela and Marek frantically looked around, desperately searching for any sign of him.

 

“Marek! Look!” Adela screamed and pointed. Marek turned his head and finally caught sight of him. There was Martin standing in front of the small blond boy from earlier, with his hands up to show that he meant no harm. Five soldiers surrounded him, menacingly wielding their batons but not yet attacking; it seemed they were temporarily acting like humans again. Marek wasn’t willing to see if they would continue to. Korova. Just as stupidly brave as Tata.

 

“Wait here. I’m going to grab his dumbass,” he murmured to Adela. Marek gave her a wink to try and assuage her worried face. His body coursing with pure adrenaline, Marek zig-zagged between sporadic masses of bodies, narrowly avoiding a baton to the face. He made it over to Martin, who was still locked in a volatile stalemate. The blond boy at this point was delirious with pain. He started to babble nonsensically, causing the policemen to inch closer.

 

“He means no harm, I mean no harm, please just walk away,” Martin said. Marek was surprised to see the guards backing off slightly. However, much to the misfortune of Martin, the blonde boy abruptly stood up, hobbled sideways, crashing into one of the uniformed wolves. Almost immediately, Martin and the boy were caught up in a swarm of batons and bodies. Korova. Marek jumped forward, taking the guards by surprise, knocking away three of them. He swiftly kicked the one standing over the blond boy and grabbed the weapon hand of a soldier just about to crack Martin’s face open. Marek then grabbed Martin and pushed him out of the circle, just as the soldiers were recovering. “Run. Don’t look back. Just run,” was all that Marek could say before he felt his entire world become pain. A fury of blows rained down on him; the policemen were enacting full wrath upon Marek. There would be no escape like last time, no chance to leave. Marek felt his mind slipping. He could feel his senses fading as he descended into nothingness. I could really use another cigareta about now.

 

Kendall Kim

 

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