Arrow considers her unit commander’s office, a sparse room with little but a desk and a naked lightbulb. Arrow’s commander puts a hand on Arrow’s shoulder and the touch is comforting at first and then turns malevolent as Arrow remembers her close shave with death that morning. Her commander, Nermin Filipovic, congratulates Arrow on her impressive abilities. He is a career soldier, rare in the Sarajevo militia. Arrow is not even sure if she is recorded as a part of the army.
Arrow’s status as a weapon for the militia isolates her from feeling companionship even with those who are fighting alongside her to protect the city. Furthermore, Arrow is not officially part of any army, so she cannot have that camaraderie either. Being an instrument of violence in this civil war forces Arrow to be alone and cut-off from the rest of humanity.
Nermin has a special assignment for Arrow, something Arrow has expected for a while. She had arranged with Nermin when she first started working for the militia that she would be allowed to pick her own targets, to which Nermin agreed because he was an old friend of Arrow’s father. Arrow’s father had never wanted Arrow to be involved in the fighting, but Arrow’s skill with a gun is too valuable for her to sit out. After so long under siege, Arrow finds she cares less about her initial desire to only kill the guilty, but that very apathy frightens her so much that she is determined not to get her hands dirty. Still, Nermin assures her that this assignment will only be good.
Though Arrow desperately wants to protect her city, being a soldier is, in some ways, a betrayal of her past and her family. Arrow’s father did not want her to know the hatred and pain that come from being a weapon. Arrow has not yet crossed the boundaries she set for herself, but her proximity to violence and hatred have started to chip away at her moral code. For now, Arrow clings to her rules so that she does not have to consider what is right and wrong.
Nermin takes Arrow to a street in the heart of the city where a mortar shell destroyed a bakery and killed 22 people not long ago. Arrow sees a musician with an incredibly sad face walk out of a nearby apartment building holding a cello and a stool. Arrow is transfixed by the instrument, looking rich and warm against the gray of the pavement. The cellist sits and begins to play, and Arrow is transported to memories of joy and cheer in another time, mixed with the blood and violence of her life now.
In the gray of besieged Sarajevo—which represents the bleak monotony of wartime—the cellist’s colored instrument reminds Arrow of the past emotion and happiness of the city. The cellist’s music reawakens all of the emotions that Arrow has been trying to keep out, both good and bad.
The cellist stops playing and Arrow wills herself not to cry as the musician disappears back into his building. Nermin turns to Arrow, telling her that her new assignment is to keep the cellist alive. Nermin explains that the cellist has vowed to play here at 4 o clock for 22 days to commemorate the 22 deaths at the bakery. After eight days, the cellist has caught the attention of the world, and the attention of the men on the hill. Nermin believes the enemy wants to shoot the cellist as a statement, and it is Arrow’s job to kill any snipers who appear so that the cellist will survive.
Arrow does not want to reconnect with her past emotions, finding it easier to shut out all her feelings rather than risk getting hurt. In contrast, the cellist is risking his life to make an emotional statement. His playing is both a memorial for the dead and a powerful declaration that the Sarajevans will not forget their art, culture, or civilization.