Introductions are not of the essence for we will both cross paths one day, I will be there when you breathe your last breath and the light in your eyes is extinguished and it will be I who carries you away.
I was called upon once again to the city of Peter on a winters morning, where the Bronze Horseman once stood and I claimed the souls of a thousand serfs just two centuries ago. The city was bathed in a blanket of polar white snow and milky skies watched over it, the howl and wail of the wind the night before had died, leaving in its place a sense of terrible calmness.
A chorus of voices erupted, “God, save the Tsar!” they sung followed by the loud crunch of snow as hundreds and hundreds of people marched through the streets of St Petersburg. “Strong, sovereign” the song grew louder as the crowd drew nearer to me. Portraits of Tsar Nicholas II accompanied by crosses towered amidst the marching crowd, “reign for glory, for our glory!” they chanted through chattering teeth as the freezing cold struck them. The people bestowed their faith in their Tsar and marched tall and proud, singing from the heart, “reign to foes’ fear, Orthodox tsar.” I watched them as they marched straight past me and I was left unnoticed, not a single eye was on me. “God, save the Tsar!” echoed through the streets.
Frustration, fury and years of hardship characterised their faces, their leader, a priest, carried a petition outlining the injustices they endured. They marched on to the Winter Palace in hopes of delivering the petition to the tsar himself. Nicholas, their Father, appointed by God himself, will help them they thought. Again, I stood there and they marched straight on, taking no notice of me.
With open doors the Navra Gate was once a welcoming place, but now stood rows and rows of expressionless figures wielding rifles. From their ranks emerged a pompous officer waving his arms about with a sense of self-importance at the approaching crowd. “Turn back, turn back!” he commanded at the priest and his followers. The hymns grew louder and the crowd were not discouraged, they pressed on, growing more determined every step and with it, the shouts of the officer grew.
Suddenly, the rifle-wielding figures moved and a volley of bullets was hurled at the crowd. And so, my work began. Bodies dropped like logs of wood as the bullets pierced men, women and children. Songs of praise had now died and instead, screams of terror and horror filled the atmosphere. Bullets whizzed through the air and with it more lives were put to a violent end. I gently carried the fallen away, one after the other. Like thunder and lightning, more rifles sounded off and more blood followed.
Then the ground trembled and a horde of Cossacks emerged from the smoke left by the gunfire, like a stampede they descended on to the crowd. Slashing and hacking at the fleeing peasants, they showed no mercy and slaughtered them like cattle. The innocent were trampled by the horses, not a single soul was safe and hundreds perished. The portraits of their Tsar lie drenched in blood among the dead, Nicholas, their father, had not come.
Amidst all the chaos the priest cried to the heavens “we no longer have a Tsar!”