By Anna Pietuszek

This story is inspired by Dražen Erdemović.

Once upon a time was a young man name Dražen. A short time after his 22nd birthday, in his town, started a war. Dražen tried to run away, but he came to a wall so high, he could not get past. He had to come back to his town. When he returned, he met a soldier. The soldier was a little older than Dražen.

“You must join our army, we need you,” the soldier said. 

Dražen was shocked. “Why me?” he thought, but he agreed to go, but he said he would not kill anybody. At first, all was okay, but a few days later he got a new commander. Dražen thought the new commander would not change anything. But the new commander gave him the order to “kill that man who stole my diamonds.”

Dražen immediately know he wouldn’t follow the order. He didn’t want kill anybody. So Dražen packed his backpack, and he ran away as far as he could. 

When he had run far, far away, he met another soldier. That one was also older than Dražen but younger than first soldier. And the soldier said, “You must join to us, to our army, and if you do not then we must kill you.”

Dražen was surprised, but he said, “I will join your army. But I will not kill anybody.”

“You don’t have to do this. This is not our job,” the soldier said, like it was sooooo obvious.

So Dražen agreed, and he joined this second army. Everything was fine. 

But one day, an old man came to the army, and he said “Dražen you have to kill the princess’s new boyfriend.” Dražen was shocked, he thought that he would not have to kill anybody. But Dražen was strong of will, so he packed his backpack, and he run away again. 

But when he had run far, far away, he saw another soldier. “Please not again,” Dražen thought. The soldier approach to him.

“You must join to us, we need young men in our army,” the soldier said. 

“I can join your army. I have experience with that. But I won’t kill anybody,” said Dražen.

The soldier agreed, so Dražen joined his third army. 

One rainy day, the soldier came to the Dražen and gave him a new order. Dražen didn’t heard anything about killing anybody, so he said he would do the task. An officer he did not know drove him to a dark forest. When he got out of car, he saw a 100 people standing with magic bracelets around their wrists. They did not look like nice, good, and polite people. 

Then the officer gave Dražen a gun.

“You must kill these people. They are such bad people. They have to die,” said the officer, with a very serious face.

“I said I don’t want to kill anybody. I can’t do this,” Dražen said.

The officer said, “So stand with them, if you won’t kill them. And we will kill you, too. That is your choice.”

* * *

Dražen was very confused. He didn’t know what to do. He did not want to kill anybody. He had ran away from the other armies because they had ordered him to kill. But now, he could not pack his backpack and run far, far away. 

Dražen was thinking about what he should do when time stopped. The officer stopped moving or even breathing. The trees stopped moving in the wind. The prisoners stopped crying. Dražen thought that it was time to escape. But he could not move! 

Suddenly, he saw the First Judge, a young man whose face looked like the shopkeeper in his favorite shop, but who had green hair and white clothes, like a fairy.

He heard, “Dražen, make the right choice. You can kill him and live, but listen to me carefully. You can also say that you don’t want kill them. You don’t know them. What if they good people? What if they have families? Did you think about that?” He walked around Dražen and appeared very serious, but also kind. 

Dražen was terrified, and he said, “I don’t want to die. I dream about seeing my town when the war is over.”

“Dražen, you are not kid anymore. Look!”, said the First Judge, and in a flash they were in a room he did not know. In there was a family standing near fireplace, wearing black clothes. Above fireplace was a family picture in color, but the man in the middle was black and white.

“Did I kill him?”, asked Dražen, who wanted to cry.

“Yes, you did,” the First Judge said.

“But even if I don’t shoot them, they will die anyway,” said Dražen. To himself, he thought, “It does not help them, if I do not shoot.”

“Yes,” said the First Judge, who could hear his thoughts, “but now you did this. That’s your fault. Everyone knows that was you.”

When Dražen heard this argument, he decided not to kill anyone. But he also wanted to stay alive. While Dražen was thinking about staying alive, the room disappeared, and he was back in the forest. The First Judge disappeared. 

Time was still stopped, and there appeared another judge, but different from the first. The Second Judge was an adult woman with red hair and black clothes. 

The Second Judge said, “Kill yourself? That’s so stupid. Why would you want to do that? These 100 people, they are bad people. They did very bad things. And, if you don’t kill them, someone else will. So kill them!” The Second Judge made it sound easy to decide.

“I don’t want kill anybody,” Dražen said, remembering that this sentence was very good. 

In a flash, the forest disappeared, and the stood in front of a big house.

“This is yours,” said the Second Judge. “That is your dream house, right? Nobody in the army thought you could kill people, they thought you were too weak. But now, after you killed them, everybody respects you. Don’t you want this? Think carefully,” the Second Judge said. 

Before, the choice for Dražen was obvious. But now, he did not know. He was tempted by the rich house. He wished that time would stop here, forever. Instead, he found himself back in the forest. Second Judge disappeared, but time was still stopped. 

“What next?” Dražen thinks. 

Another judge appeared. This time, it was a teenage girl with hair that was half mint colored, and half pink, like a candy. The Third Judge looked kinder than first and second judges. She said, “I’m really sorry for you, Dražen. This must be so hard. But the world is not only red and green, but there are also colors in between, like mint and pink. Why do you listen to the other judges? You must think for yourself,” and Dražen was very confused.

“But I have two options,” he told the Third Judge, “to kill them, or to be killed.”

Dražen looked at the Third Judge, and she closed her eyes, and Dražen thought that they would appear in a different place, with a new lesson, and he would have an even bigger mess in his head. Instead, they still in the dark forest, but he felt something in his hand. He looked down, and he saw a rope with hook in his hand. He threw the hook into the trees, pulled himself up and away, and escaped through trees, until he hit his head on a branch, and everything went dark.”

When he opened his eyes, he was standing exactly where had been, when time stopped, and the officer was looking him. The officer said, “Well, Dražen, what will you do?”