The Yellow House

This is a fictionalized account of real events. The link to the real events is at the bottom of this story. I apologize if anyone is offended or hurt by this account – I mean it to cause attention for the issue, not to harm those involved.

It was 1998. A Saturday. 3am. An overdose of caffeine kept me awake. My legs shivered as I stood at the window with my eyes onto the street. I stood only half in the window, my head slanted towards the side. I hoped the darkness of my room would keep me hidden.

It was not the first time that I watched the street. My eyes were on the yellow house with the basement window that was never light during the day but always lit at night.

A car stopped. A badly done white paintjob, the left rear light was broken. Two men got out. Between them staggered a woman. Drunk? Drugged? I never knew.

Her legs tumbled forward, too slow for the two men. The light yellow dress was blown up by the wind. The men walked steadily, without any stagger. None of them tried to keep the dress down.

The woman’s arms were on the men’s shoulders and both men had her arms around the woman. Her left leg got caught on the boardwalk. Her left arm slipped. One of the men cursed. The man on her right quickly grabbed her and pulled her up. Her other arm kept hanging down.

The man on her left freed his arm. He unlocked the door, looked around and quickly led the other two inside. Just before he closed the door I felt as if he had seen my window.

I called the police. Anonymously, as always.

I heard her screams. They were first loud and panicked, then faint, then stopped.

Two cars came, one shortly after the other. One car held two men, the other a man and a woman. The two men sat in their car while the couple left theirs. The woman walked carefully and glanced around. She had a black bag that she held with both her hands. The man held his stomach. He looked weak. They knocked on the front door. A few moments later they said something I could not hear.

It took nearly a minute until the front door was opened. A woman inside the house took the woman’s bag and closed the door. About half a minute later the door was opened again. The woman outside took two black plastic bags from someone inside the house that I could not see. She walked quickly back to the car. The man followed her, slowly.

The two other men got out of their car. They carried large bags. They knocked and were let in.

I saw shadows moving in the small but brightly lit basement window.

Half an hour later they left. The black plastic was well filled. They had many bags. They had to walk back to the house two times to collect all of them.

The woman inside the house kissed one of them on the cheek. To the other one, he was already in the car, she just waved.

Soon after the basement light went off.

At 7am the police arrived. Two officers. They walked up to the door without as much as a glance to the sides. They knocked. They were let in.

The lights in the living room went on, then the lights in the kitchen. The light in the basement did not.

The police left not even ten minutes later. The officers held small plastic bags in their hands. They looked happy.

Twice a week, sometimes thrice. Some nights I slept – it might have been more.

Sometimes I wondered when they would discover me.

The calls to the police didn’t help. Neither did the letters to the major.

Once, after a letter I sent to the local garrisons, two military trucks came in the morning.

At about 1am the yellow house had swallowed a young man, likely not even eighteen. Maybe not even sixteen. He didn’t stagger between the two men, his legs were limp. There was blood on his shirt. They pulled him quickly into the house, his feet dragging through the soil. His screams began not much later.

1:40am. I still heard his screams. The trucks, covered in green and brown camouflage, stopped in front of my house. I hid between mattress and bed.

Five minutes later there still was no noise except for his muffled screams.

I dared to glance out from between the mattress, then out of the window. Four young soldiers stood on the street, each a rifle in their hands. I ducked back behind the window.

Someone shouted an order. I glanced outside.

An older man in uniform, a star on his cap, walked out of the house. He held a large black bag. Two young men with rifles followed him out of the house. The woman waved, then the door was shut.

They stood on the street and glanced around. Two flashlights moved from window to window. I ducked just in time.

Two diesel engines roared. The trucks moved away.

By then the man’s screams had grown faint.

I read in a newspaper that the harvesting needed to be done with the donor alive.

No cars came.

At some point his screams, already hoarse and dry, stopped.

During the day it was quiet. At one point the woman left the house. She walked with her blue and white dress swinging with the wind and a basket swinging from her arm.

She returned in the afternoon. Her basket was filled. I saw milk and bread. When she entered the house I realized that I had forgotten what milk tastes like.

Around midnight I heard his scream again. Just for a moment. A loud “Help” followed by a fainter “No.”

His screams stopped. Soon after the cars arrived. First came one with only a driver. He drove up and down the street four times, slowly, before he stopped.

He knocked, handed his bag over, and waited. The door opened again. The woman passed him three small bags. He carried them carefully back to his car. Just when he left the other car arrived, the one that always came.

Two men got out. They were let in without words. Half an hour later they left with their many heavy bags.

For two months I called the police every time I saw another being pulled into the house. Mostly young women, sometimes young men. Rarely older women. A few times just children.

The police always came at 7am. Predictable. They always left happy and with small bags, usually paper bags. After those two months, on a Wednesday morning, the police came around 5am. The two cars had already been there. The police stopped in front of the yellow house.

The officers knocked. The door opened but they were not let in. The woman passed them a larger paper bag.

The officers placed the bag in their car. Then they went to the house to the right of the yellow house.

They knocked and waited. Then they knocked again and shouted something.

A light went on. The house owner opened his door. They beat him. Hiding behind the window I heard his screams and those of his wife.

The officers led them both to their car. The man was cursing. The woman was pleading to let them go.

The police car drove off.

I ran downstairs.

Just before I opened my front door I saw them through the kitchen window.

The two men left the yellow house. They went over to the house to the right of the yellow house. They entered through the open door.

Five minutes later they came back out. One of the men held the one year old boy in his arms. The other pulled the seven year old girl outside.

The girl was screaming. They slapped her until she stopped. They took the children into the yellow house.

Later that night, from inside the house, I heard the girl scream again. It lasted just for a few seconds.

Early in the morning another car came. A young couple. They took the one year old boy, he screamed while they carried him to their car.

That Wednesday was the only day that the men with their plastic bags came a second time. They left with heavy bags.

After an hour of search I found the five year old. It was hard to be quiet and at the same time let the boy know that he could come out. I couldn’t blame him for being scared.

I never found his family. It was too dangerous to ask questions.

He lives with my parents in the village. I call him my brother. My parents tried to raise him as their own. He says he doesn’t remember much of his childhood but I think that night is still in his head. He is twenty now and still he wakes up with nightmares.

That’s why I stopped calling the police.

In 1999 the war ended. They stopped two months later.

In 2001 there was a newspaper article that mentioned a yellow house.

The same afternoon there were many people at the house. They painted it white. They carried many things out in black plastic bags.

In 2002 the UN came. They found dried blood and IV bags. Not enough to prove a thing.

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