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There are sights I’ll remember for the rest of my life – dry wind rushing over the feet of towering bronze statues, a cold floor on the wrong side of a steel grate, the endless grey and fences of my latter childhood, a familiar body lying lifeless – brutally executed in front of my eyes. 
But nothing is imprinted deeper into my memory than a small concrete room, in one of many uniform high-rises on the outskirts of Pyongyang– threadbare curtains, cheap government-issued furniture, a wall with nothing but the picture of a man we were conditioned to adore. Lying next to the bed is a tattered schoolbag, a pair of shoes three sizes too small, and a frayed propaganda poster. Like the portrait on the wall, it no longer has any place in this house. The façade has fallen; the need for pretence is over. I didn’t know this at the time, of course. I was ten.
The flat is still, the silence louder than it should be. My parents, not saying a word – although they don’t have to. The woman is naked outside our door – her throat cut, hanging from a hook embedded in the tiled wall. They know what’s going to happen. We all do. It’s simply a question of waiting. 
Our meagre possessions, already ransacked and searched, lie strewn across the floor. Appa is preoccupied – blankly staring at the wall as Mama cries and screams at him all at once – and so unnoticed, I start picking through the items, towards the door.  
I recognise the young woman hanging outside – a part time secretary, she came over every so often to help my father with paperwork. That was the idea, I guess – the people who killed her wanted us to recognise her. They wanted us to be afraid. 
Her face is slack and bloodless, brown, decaying arterial blood running down her body, her head angled in a way heads normally aren’t. I look at her then, outside the door, a gaze only a child can have – a child trying desperately to understand something immoral.

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