Game Show

It is 1992, and in a Bosnian town a small family cowers in their basement. The Serbian militia is coming - an assorted rabble of malcontents given authority by a uniform and inflamed by the idea that they’re owed something, big-time, and the Bosnians are going to pay. When they get to the town they will ransack the houses, round up the men and rape the women. Who’s to stop them? Who’s to accuse them? Who will be left, to tell the tale?
Meanwhile, in a nondescript northern UK town a group of contestants make their way to the TV studios to take part in a radical new Game Show. There’s money to be won, and fun to be had. They’ll be able to throw off their inhibitions and do what they want because they’ll all be in disguise and no-one will ever know.
In a disturbing denouement, war and game meld into each other as action and consequence are divided, the words ‘blame’ and ‘fault’ have no meaning and impunity reigns .
Game Show asks whether the situation which fostered the Bosnian war, the genocide in Rwanda, the rise of so-called Islamic State in Syria and the ethnic cleansing in Myanmar could ever happen in the West. The answer will shock you.

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The Bosnian sections of Game Show are related through the eyes of a ten year old Bosnian boy, but I thought it was important to give an insight into the self-styled Serbian militia who were roaming the countryside exacting terrible atrocities upon the Bosnian Muslims. What was their motivation? How could they justify what they were doing?
A Bosnian woman is in a wooded area when she comes across a group of Serbian militia. She conceals herself in a pile of leaves and listens to the soldiers’ conversation.
One of the soldiers, fairly young, with a distinctive accent which distinguished him as coming from a far region of the country, seemed to be taking objection to the way the others had behaved at the farm.
‘She would have given us the chicken,’ he said. ‘You didn’t have to shoot her.’
‘Shoot ‘em or fuck ‘em, that’s our policy,’ replied an older soldier. ‘And I didn’t fancy the old cunt.’
They all laughed.
‘You’re doing that wrong,’ another voice said, through the mirth. ‘You’re supposed to get the guts out before you cook it.’
‘Bugger that,’ the older soldier replied. ‘Pass the grog over.’
‘She was harmless,’ the young voice began.
‘She is now!’ another voice put in.
‘A civilian,’ the provincial soldier went on. ‘It’s the men we’re supposed to be looking for. Even in war, there are rules.’
‘There aren’t any rules,’ the older man snapped. ‘That’s the point. They never played by any rules. Those bastards have walked roughshod over us for generations. Time they got a taste of their own medicine.’
‘She never did you any harm,’ the young man remonstrated.
‘That’s true,’ another voice agreed, quietly.
‘Jesus Christ! Now there’s two of you at it!’ the older man shouted. He got up from his position, presumably close to the fire, and walked a few paces across the clearing to a spot about three feet from the woman hidden in the undergrowth. He fumbled through his clothing; she could hear him breathing heavily, then the spatter and hiss of hot urine on frosted leaves and its distinctive smell mingled with the acrid smell of wood smoke. She kept her eyes closed. She held her breath. Her heart beat like a mad thing.
‘Don’t we have to… report back?’ the younger man asked, quietly, addressing one of the other soldiers. ‘Aren’t we… answerable?’
‘Who to?’ shouted the soldier, with derision, over his shoulder. ‘You going to write a report, are you? Fill in a form? Who you going to send it to? No-one’s interested, lad!’
‘We answer to each other,’ another voice said. ‘Pass that bottle, will you?’
The older soldier finished urinating and returned to the fire. He must have settled close to the younger man. She could hear the crackle of the leaves and the snap of a twig as he sat on them. She guessed him to be of large build. When he spoke, his voice was lower, but, in its decreased volume, had increased vehemence. ‘Look, lad. What we do is this: we take the opportunity, see? It’s only what’s been denied us for years and years. It’s only fair. Opportunities come and we take them. This chicken here, it was there in her yard and we took it - too good an opportunity to pass up on, see? You’ll think so, in a bit, when you’ve eaten it, believe me!’
‘Yes, about the chicken, I agree, but…’
‘We signed nothing, we promised nothing. We’re what they call self-styled, self-regulated troops. We do what we want, take what we want. But we do it together. These lads here and me, we’ve been together months, and, believe me, we’ve taken every opportunity that’s been offered, haven’t we lads?’ Guffaws of agreement echoed around the clearing. ‘But we’ve done it together.’ 
‘We can’t stand in front of a herd of bastard Turks and start arguing about whether we should shoot ‘em or cut their dicks off or poke their eyes out or take them out to dinner! Time we’ve finished arguing about it they’d have wrung our necks with their bare hands and raped our mothers. That’s what they’re like!’ interjected one of the other soldiers. ‘You haven’t been with us long but you’ll soon find out. They’d stab you in the back soon as look at you!’
‘That’s always been our problem in the past,’ put in another voice. ‘You just look at your history. We’ve always been too busy arguing amongst ourselves and that’s why we’ve always been the underdogs. It’s always made us weak.’ He stopped to light a cigarette. The woman heard the spurt of flame and the crackle of the tobacco as it smouldered. In a juxtaposition of emotion, it reminded her of her husband, an action and a scent so characteristic of him in her memory. ‘Now we’re working together, it’s made us more powerful than them. The boot’s on the other foot, now. We’re the conquerors. And it feels good.’
‘That’s right,’ the older man went on. ‘We do what has to be done. We look each other in the eye and we keep our mouths shut. We don’t ask questions, we don’t worry about the issues, we don’t think about the consequences. They’re nothing to do with us. And we’re not going to start. D’you hear what I’m saying?’ He lowered his voice even further, but in the deadly stillness of the windless winter woodland, every word carried. ‘Soon as you start having doubts, that’s when you wind up dead. ‘Specially if you start spreading them about. You get me?’
‘I suppose…’
‘You mustn’t worry. Do what you like, take what you want. Some of the women are quite pretty, really, and they don’t put up much of a fight.’
‘Sometimes they do!’ sniggered one of the men.
‘No-one will ever know. That’s the point, see? Except us. And we’re not telling, are we lads?’ Snorts of lascivious laughter accompanied their shared denials.
‘That chicken cooked yet?’ The old soldier got up and approached the fire. ‘Nearly,’ he said, after inspection. ‘You can have a breast, lad. Like that, will you? Or a thigh?’
‘Finger-lickin’ good,’ tittered one of the men.

About Allie Cresswell
I have been writing stories since I could hold a pencil and by the time I was in Junior School I was writing copiously and sometimes almost legibly.
I did, however, manage a BA in English and Drama from Birmingham University and an MA in English from Queen Mary College, London. Marriage and motherhood put my writing career on hold for some years until 1992 when I began work on Game Show.
In the meantime I worked as a production manager for an educational publishing company, an educational resources copywriter, a bookkeeper for a small printing firm, and was the landlady of a country pub in Yorkshire, a small guest house in Cheshire and the proprietor of a group of boutique holiday cottages in Cumbria. Most recently I taught English Literature to Lifelong learners.

Nowadays I write as full time as three grandchildren, a husband, two Cockapoos and a large garden will permit.