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A short story for my English class. Prompt was a quote by Archbishop Desmond Tutu: "Having looked the beast of the past in the eyes, having asked and received forgiveness, let us shut the door of the past, not to forget it, but to allow it not to imprison us." Also based on the film 'Forgiveness' (South Africa).

Submitted:Feb 22, 2013    Reads: 68    Comments: 2    Likes: 2   

The sheer terror of it overcame me. To confess my past mistakes to someone unknown? I couldn't do it. How many before me walked through those doors, fearing the same thing as I do right now?

Breathe in, breathe out. You can do this. I took a sip of water from my bottle, screwed the lid back on and walked through the large, wooden doors before me. The first thing that I noticed was the smell of the room - it smelled old and musty, and I could see the minute dust particles floating through the air. I looked at the far wall and saw the Chairperson sitting at his bench, awaiting my arrival. Sweating profusely, I allowed myself another sip of water before we began. I greeted the chairperson.

"Good afternoon, Chairperson."

"Good afternoon, Mr Coetzee," he returned. "Shall we begin?" And with that, I began my appeal.

"Chairperson, I humbly present my appeal for amnesty for a crime I've committed, the details of which I shall present to you now," I began. I took a moment to breathe, and then continued, "During my time as a member of the police force, I was given orders and had to follow them, no matter what. The crime I am going to lay out for you was one such order, and I felt it was my duty to carry out that order," I wiped the sweat off my brow, and braced myself for the next part of my story.

"We were given a tip off about a local 'freedom fighter', as they called themselves. I was sent to follow up on it, and it proved to be valid - we found a stash of explosives in a room of a young man - he was a boy, really - by the name of Daniel Grootbroom. We took him to our farm, and kept him there for three days. He refused to give us any information. After three days, I was given the order to kill him, and so I did," I kept my voice neutral, not wanting to betray myself at this point in time.

"Chairperson, this is my appeal for amnesty. I solemnly swear that what I have just told you is the complete truth," again, I forced my voice not to waver. I bowed my head and waited for the Chairperson's dismissal before leaving the room. I immediately sat down on a cold, stone bench and focused on maintaining my breath. Now I just had to wait.

After a period of time, I don't know how long, a man came out of the 'judgement hall', as I called it, and handed me an envelope before returning to the hall. With shaking hands I opened it, ripping the official wax seal of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. My eyes scanned the sheet of paper as I unfolded it, looking for that piece of information. I read it through once, twice, three times and then placed the paper back into the envelope.

I'd been granted legal amnesty.

But what did that mean?


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