The dawn descended, the skies were brilliantly painted contrary to my feelings that was gloom and the sunset like always brought memories of my little daughter back home playing in my arms, the melancholy left me wounded in strands. The border that was 50 meters away from the other country stood with all its pride mocking my memories while I, in the military attire guarded the barbed fence. The nature had cast a spell of its charm on me, the snow covered hills had the toppings of a piece of heaven and the green patches tucked in the folds of the hills looked mesmerizing,the fatigue of guarding the border all alone was diminishing in a natural pace and the orange smeared skies spoke of peace and lovely normal lives my people were leading back home. It reminded me of my duty here, saving lives from tyranny, the gory wars and to lead their lives with green pastures and lovely families but the sacrifice was a burden with my very own family as they had their loved one in an unknown part of the countryside just alongside the border that was guarded for ages with many others alike, even they had their share of the morose longing feelings for their share of happiness but still beamed with pride of patriotism. Yes our purpose fueled our mission
But there was another soul like me just a few meters away from the very border on the other side, his country ,it was my own reflection in his eyes ,he must have been looking at his wallet ,his eyes had a sparkle ,that of serene sense and a wince of happy reminiscence. He was so much like me ,just the way we all ,the soldiers of all the nations had a moment for ourselves.
Involuntarily my fingers slipped into my pockets where my heart lay ,my worn out wallet had the photograph, the sides were crumbled but the photo was treasured without a scratch, it was of my family, the family whom I had left behind, stood in front of the them far away to protect them, the photo looked a bit old, yes it had been such a long time since I had left, two very long years, days and hour that paced painfully slow in the chilled space, my only companion was a dog that that scavenged on my leftovers which was scanty enough to fill my appetite, still there was a sense of duty to be done, the weather was not always on my side.
Across the border ,in another country divided by a single line ,was that person with whom I had occasional eye-contacts that lasted for a few seconds, he stayed in the military tent, mine was better but it never made a difference, the clouds turned grey ,the icicles had formed in a threatening manner above the trees, there was too much of shade and a scanty sunlight if the skies were clear, I didn’t know my stand ,it was always cold and breezy, the cold fog brought the ghostly presence around me, a sense of fear always prevailed ,the war could break anytime soon and I may fail and If I fail I’ll never get to see my family again, the thought was paramount and vigilant became my senses ,I never gave a slight wrong go unnoticed. But there was also another human in front of me, he went through the same emotions as I did, the icy floor brought cold memories of war and the constant training of our platoon at a radio’s difference brought the fear of what might happen in the future, the governments had their share of decisions.
One signed the nuclear pact, the other didn’t, the exports stopped suddenly, the imports were not genuine. The illegal materials spread, anything could become a reason to open that fire from my rifle. Like always the weather didn’t play safe either, I was bound to its ways. The storms left me vulnerable but I still guarded there, my feet could freeze and my legs would be cut but still I stood there, strong and bold just to save my people.
He also stood there to guard his family, his people, to do that he had to kill me and I him, this was an never ending game but the superior hands and rules had us into this ,creating a situation to kill people, kill soldiers, they were the same but it never mattered ,I had hunted down a few lives ,I had thrown grenades and ripped people apart and had saved myself from it too.
It was the eleventh month and winter had us on our heels, the radio sounded of platoons getting ready, the rifles, the tanks, the helicopters and bombs, it had started again.
The war, I inched forward to look beyond the mist waiting for the orders, I looked at him for one last time and all the pictures sided by again, I never knew him but I could sense what he felt, the fear in our hearts grew, but patriotism still ran in our veins, I stood with all integrity and respect to my land.
He took the wallet from his purse and kissed it emotionally, I gave a tiny wince, his family was going to lose him, he whom I had seen fight for a morsel and a piece of blanket on the storms, he who had run for shelters when the snow fall ripped his tent, he who had scars of the battle, just like me!
The orders came in and I was backed up with my army, it was this moment which would decide our future.
That future of staying alive or sleeping in the casket with the national flag on us, I took aim, an order was given and the firing began, the army was vigilant and bravery enlightened all of us, it was saving people and protecting them. It was about a better future of the country, my motherland.
I looked at the skies smeared with bullets and bombs, the black grenades all over, the snow helped us less and many of my friends from the camp were shattered to pieces in front of my eyes, I ran for a safe shield, it was getting more misty and I couldn’t tell from where the enemy came and before I knew I was surrounded by the enemy camp, four of them pointing right into my head, I had to escape, I couldn’t breathe and I knew I had to stay alive for my country, for my dear daughter, I had to stop them and my lucky stars shone, the mist helped me escape but with a bullet in my chest.
“Granpa!Granpa!!….”a little voice woke me up, I was startled from my sleep.
I strained to open my drained wrinkled eyes and to find my six year old grand-daughter standing in front of me clutching on to her pink teddy bear. She resembled my daughter who had suffered an agonizing death in an accident while I was fighting with chapped lips, freezing cold and firing bullets in the war, she was six year old then, the picture I dearly hold onto, whose memories helped me stay alive was of hers. I had mourned her death a great deal gnawing at the depth of my heart until my son was born diminishing the pain, seeing her in front of me as my grand-daughter brought back those memories, I smiled at her, I was lucky to have her again in my life.
“Yes my dear, why are you out of bed?”I managed to speak without the intervention of the fits of cough that held my breath and twisted my lungs.
“Granpa, there are monshters under my bed! mama and dada have gone to a party” she blinked with eyes laden with unknown fear.
Amused by her innocent talks, I smiled a bit more
“ha, there are no monsters dear, only people, like you and me” I found her innocent fear adorable.
“like you and me?”she pondered for a while turning the toy in her hands upside down.
“Do you want to sleep with me?” I took all the courage and strength in my body to hurl myself to the left of my bed to make space for my angel ,she so reminded me of my first born, my daughter.
“Tell me a story Granpa, where there are guns, hats and wars”
I winced and coughed lightly for I had to muster up enough oxygen intake for the small talk, she enjoyed my stories unlike my son who preferred a lullaby at bed-time, I had visions of him becoming a soldier and serving our country but it turned out that he chose a stream that was safe and few pounds of money flourished my family .
I painfully looked around ,the medical expenses to treat me, an old writhing soldier with a hole in his heart, a damaged kidney and an amputed leg was immense, he had paid to keep me alive and my nurse who was appointed had left early today, my dear angel was all mine, none to order her not to be around, she loved my stories and I would narrate her one today.
“Granpa!” she nudged me coaxing me to start.
“WHO was your grandpa” I raised my gruff voice to motivate her.
She smiled and sat upright next to me
“The highest ranked commando with the shtars” she gleed and pointed an invincible gun at me.
“Yes after years of serving as a soldier, your Grandpa were respected, brave and proud” I spoke like a kid to her.
“yes war, that dark night where the sky was lighted with explosives, the ones that could blow people up and shatter them to pieces, people hated people and soldiers had to kill each other, some were good and some were not. Among the good ones was your grandpa standing tall ,stolid while there were cries of pain, I pulled my fellow soldier under a rotten bark, we had to run dear and we ran faster than bullets into the mist”
My sentence was followed my a panicking explosive of couph, my chest had a wrenching pain and struggled. My dear rubbed my back to ease me
“Granpa??were there lower pots too”
I smiled at her innocence; I wanted her to be brave.
“Yes BIG ones, and your grandpa was brave, never feared for flower pots or the bombs, it was my duty to safeguard and I had vowed my life into it and that is what I did all these years, and while the war broke and I had run into the mist ,the war dear, we had to win so that I could protect dreams of little pretty girls like you” a tear had finally dropped after many years, I missed my daughter, that little girl..
“Monshters!!” her eyes grew wider
“Yes people are the only monsters dear, in the mist, my eyes went blind, I toppled over a stone and fell to the ground and when I stood up, there were four! How many?”
“FOUR” she gestured the number four with her pretty hands
“yes four guns pointed at me, to kill your grandpa”
“haahh” she gasped aloud.
“but grandpa was a brave man, I escaped under their noses and fought but dear, there is a hole in Grandpa’s heart”
“Does it pain Granpa?” she traversed the cut on my chest that was visible from underneath my white jubba.
“nah, no pain for grandpa”
I hugged her with much difficulty with the glucose pricked into my veins, I still moved her curls off her face. I heard the glass shatter in the hall way, it was a loud thud of the door.
It was a break-in and with my expertise I sensed the presence of the burglars in my house.
“what was that Granpa..?” she clutched my arms with fear
“Listen , dear. Whose grand-daughter are you?” I placed her in front of me while pain radiated throughout my arms.
“Of the brave commando” she whispered with an inspired shivered voice.
“Who never fears” I completed her sentence, she nodded.
“Now go quickly and hide in my closet” I tucked the toy into her hands, pulled her closer and kissed her cheeks with much love and coaxed her to move.
The dark shadows were quick in their moves, I could see two silhouettes nearing my lightly lit room.
At first they froze at my presence, they didn’t expect anyone to be at home, I could read them better.
“Go away” I screamed which was followed by fits of cough, there was a pricking pain in my chest.
The once tensed faces of the strangers calmed down and with a loud laugh started to grab anything that looked expensive to their eyes, I kept quite to gather in some oxygen, I needed the oxygen mask which I grabbed onto with pain, I knew my end was a few foot away.
“Hey there is a girl here” one of them pulled my dear out of the closet.
“Granpa” her shrill cry gave me strength to sit upright.
“Leave her alone and go away, do you know who I am?” I picked up the tumbler and shot at them, my target was precise.
“Hey lets take her along” the buglers pushed me back on my bed ,my bones twisted in pain,my body withered ,still I tried to stand on one leg, my dear reminded of my daughter, I had lost her once,I wouldn’t lose her again.
The balance was ill-kept and distraught, the oxygen mask was still intact and the pain had spread throughout my chest, an heart-attack I knew.
I pulled the oxygen tank and hurled it out of the window to awake my neighbors, I found the medicine bottles, the plates, the tumblers all that could make some noise and threw it out with all the strength I was left with.
I sensed a few neighborhood lights switching on ,the burglars agitated and provoked my already fragile seventy year old body and even dodged a lamp at my head before they left and my body fell with a thud on the floor, at that moment I experienced excruciating pain, my daughter came running towards me in the form of my dear, I heard them run and my dear was crying beside me, I heard a few footsteps climbing the stairs, yes she was safe now, my dear was safe ,my duty was done, my purpose was fulfilled, I had served my country till now, today I had served my family, a sense of satisfaction floated on my face and my eyes closed ,never to open again.