Kosha was anxious. He wasn’t sure if he was ready for death. But, he knew death would bring him safety. He’d be with the others. He wasn’t sure if he wanted other people to die either. They told him that the people he killed deserved it. They said the people he killed would go to a different place than he would go to. But, he wondered if they would be there too when it was over. Maybe something would happen and they’d end up together, with him and the others. He wondered what he’d say to them. Was he supposed to hate them even after he killed them? Would they hate him still, too? It would be very peculiar to meet the person you killed, he thought.
Kosha was shaky. He clutched the pack against his chest. They said to take good care of it. “If you drop it, you may fail and if you fail you will let us down and you will let God down,” they told him. He didn’t want to let the teachers down and he couldn’t bear the thought of letting down God. So, he clutched the pack tight. It felt nice against his robe. It wasn’t so heavy, he thought. He continued down the rocky dusty road from the school toward the city. They had prayed for him earlier and wished him luck. They warned him again about the rules. They told him he was taking the most honorable path. They told him he was a hero. Those words made him feel good. When he thought about that now, he rubbed the part of his chest that was over his heart, and it beat a little slower.
Kosha was alone. He kicked stones. He liked kicking the stones on the path. He liked to see how many times he could kick the same stone without stepping over it or kicking it over the edge. One time, he kicked the same stone 26 times before it fell over the mountain. He was proud of that. He could see the city now. It always felt very far away. The city was a bad place. He didn’t belong in the city, he thought. The people in the city called him bad names. Even though he didn’t really understand, he didn’t think he hated them for it. The teachers at the school yelled sometimes, but he liked the school much better. He had a bed and people were nicer.
Most of all, Kosha was thinking. Would everything go like they said? What would it be like to see the others? Would people be sad? He didn’t want people to be sad. He was sad when the others left.
He walked off of the mountain path and onto a sidewalk. It was hot out today. The sky was bluer than he had ever seen, he thought. He wondered if he’d be able to see the sky from where he was going. He guessed the sky was always blue there anyway. Kosha weaved his way through the alleys just like he had done so many times when he was younger. The old man was selling lamb mantu under an umbrella. He always loved to smell the garlic. He wanted to eat some lamb mantu now, but he didn’t have time. And, in any case, his pockets were empty.
Kosha loved lamb mantu and kicking stones and the blue sky. He hoped that all of those things would be there. He thought they must, or else no one would want to go. He figured the people he would kill liked all of those things too. He didn’t want to think about them liking those things though. Something about that thought made him a little bit confused and a little bit sad.
Kosha reached the market. It was so crowded today. He guessed that made sense. It wouldn’t make sense to do it on top of the mountain. Kosha began to blink rapidly. That often happened when he was nervous. He couldn’t control it. He moved forward frame by frame. His steps became heavy. He moved deeper into the market. There was a woman selling colored silks. She reminded him of his mother. His mother used to sell silks too, but his mother had been gone for a long time. He didn’t want to do it so close to the woman.
Kosha walked on a bit. He was scared now. He remembered what they told him. “You will be afraid, but God is with you and we are with you.” But now that he was in the market, Kosha felt more alone than he had in his whole life. He had no choice. He didn’t think he could go back to the school. His bed would already be full with another boy.
Kosha leaned against a pile of cinderblocks and set down his pack. He clutched the box for a couple of seconds and stared at the eyes of a bald man. The man saw him and began to shout. Everyone began to shout. They all ran in different directions, but the market was crowded and they could not run far. Kosha touched the red and the blue together, just like they said. He closed his eyes and stopped blinking. There was a loud poof and a great explosion. He felt nothing. Everyone was so loud and frightened. He could still hear them. Slowly, they began to grow quieter.
Kosha opened his eyes. He was still in the market, next to the cinderblocks. He had not moved. He looked up. There was no fire. Nothing was destroyed. No one screamed in fear. Instead, there were thousands of beautifully colored flowers and little colored pieces of paper flying over his head. The sky was full of them, pink, purple, blue, turquoise, red, light green, and white, as far as his eyes could see. Everyone in the market craned their heads and opened their mouths in wonder. The flowers and the pieces of paper slowly began to float back to Earth. He held his hands out and a rose landed in his palm. There was a piece of blue paper curled around the stem. He peeled it off and turned it over. There was something written on it. Kosha could not read. He walked over to the bald man, who was still, like everyone else in the market, staring in awe as the flowers and papers fell across their bodies. They were all OK. Kosha pointed to the word and the bald man stared at him, but in a much different way then he had stared at him moments before.
The bald man opened his mouth and rubbed the part of his chest that was over his heart and said to Kosha, “Love, my boy. Love.”