More time passed. The theatre was beginning to seem much smaller than it did before any of this happened. I desperately needed to escape this oppression. No one spoke. They were all waiting. Waiting for it to end. Whether they were waiting to be rescued or waiting to die, it did not matter.
During this whole nightmare, I had a lot of time to think. So I thought about my family. I thought about where they were in that moment. My son, Nikolai, was staying at a friend’s house for the night. He was still at that tender age of seven, when sleepovers among young boys were still common and socially acceptable. My wife, Anya, was at home sick. I remember her giving me the theatre ticket earlier that week.
“Go, Dmitri,” she had urged. “You should go.” I didn’t want to go alone, but she had admitted to leaving her ticket at a café by accident. Before I left for the theatre, she had pushed my ticket into my coat pocket and given me a kiss on the cheek. “Tomorrow you can tell me all about it.” At that moment I was sure I would wake up beside her in the morning. After being taken hostage by the Chechens, I wasn’t so sure.
The following night a man appeared in the auditorium, not unlike the woman from before.
“I’ve come to fetch my eight year old son,” he said. The gunmen brought him to the front of the stage. They whispered to the intruder and turned to the audience.
“Roma, stand up. Your father is here.” There was silence. No one answered.
One of the gunmen turned to him and said, “There is no son, is there?”
“I guess there isn’t,” said the man. His face was a pale grey, his expression unreadable. They took him outside. There was a shot. Then another. Then a few more. And then the gunmen returned to the auditorium just like before, closing the doors behind them and resuming their posts. They were completely unaffected by the ordeal. It was sickening.
The second shooting was somewhat of an anomaly to me. I wondered about the man who was shot. Was he a civilian or was he actually a spy as the Chechens thought him to be? After all this wondering, I was confused. Confused and frightened. I hadn’t known how much I feared death until I was faced head on with the striking possibility.