Exposure

Once it was spring and there was hope. Now, in the deadening autumn of the year, on the broad, bleached boulevard white and ochre tanks wait in formation; engines gently churning diesel fumes, thickening the air. Their steel treaded tracks sink in hot tarmac amidst the dust of shattered buildings where even the rubble somehow embodies fear. The air bristles and crackles in the heat from the sun glowing behind an opaque cloud. 

Magda, with her cameras, is a witness in this place of war, in this place of hate and loss, so often ignored and quickly forgotten; she favours neither one side nor the other. Nevertheless, she knows that her portrayal of the consequences of the bombed, shelled, embattled and dead, rather than a glorification of those with massive firepower makes her the enemy of the mighty. To these, the dead and injured in a destroyed hospital or school are lies; her photographs make her a target for their loathing. She pays no heed to this; to do so would be to surrender. 

She stands very still, adjusts her camera settings, ensures her web connection is secure and waits. She presses the shutter release; the rapid sound as familiar as her own heartbeat.

She listens. A distant sound throbs from far off alleyways and broken city streets. It grows. She frowns, What is it? The pounding of feet? The tanks’ engines throb and tremble, hungry omnivores, they wait to gorge. Magda sees the throng, a thousand strong, their chanting a roar of rage, their stamping feet drumming defiance. She gasps in awe. A thousand more, unified, surge forward, impossibly bearing two double-decker buses as barricades, born light as air. Her images soar to the satellite above and fly free through the sky; another day from an enduring war.

At Reuters, unheard, they shout, Magda! Get out of there!

Behind the buses thousands more carry what came to hand – weapons for hand-to-hand dying. They rush on chanting, feet pounding, dust clouds rising and the buses press on, shielding hope. 

The ochre tanks no longer idle, their sound now deafening, they feed in a demented delirium of death as cannonades send thousands to oblivion, Those who can flee from a future long lost, their footfalls fading into the dust of memory, but Magda’s images will live forever in their history.

The sniper smiles.

Magda’s shutter still beats and fires on and on until the battery also dies.

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