“Isn’t she a beauty, my friend?” He asked with his gaze transfixed. Without waiting for a reply, he continued, “Bet you will see anything more beautiful.” He gave a weak smile as he put back his personal custom-made revolver inside his inner jacket pocket.
“Brought it all the way from my home cabinet.” He continued still smiling weakly. It was night time, they didn’t know what time of the day it was but the sun had set and all were exhausted from their long journey, so naturally they concluded it was well past 2200 hours.
They were the 13th platoon and consisted of a six, two-man squad and a commanding officer, making them thirteen all together. They had walked the entire day and got to where they were.
It was no use denying the fact that they had already entered a war zone. The town they had passed early in the day was deserted or at least there was not a single soul in sight, only a few stray dogs scavenging through trashcans testing their luck to survive. The streets were vacant and more empty were the homes.
Supplies were scarce due to the encounter with an enemy platoon a few hours after they had left the town. Most of their supplies were lost in the confusion when the enemy ambushed from an abandoned building right in the middle of nowhere. They were outnumbered and the commander made a quick decision that the best thing would be for them to make a run for it instead of making a stand and sacrificing themselves for the sake of bravery and courage. So, they ran leaving most of their supplies and killing a few enemies that tried to stop them along the way. Surprisingly enough, they were not pursued and all had calmed down in a couple of hours.
Now, it was almost night time and most were exhausted while all were out of supplies including food, medicine and water.
“Okay you war machines!” shouted the commander from the front of the line. “I think you all scoundrels should know this but all that we have are ten bottles of water left. Scavenge what you can eat for dinner and I strongly stand against cannibalism.” he exclaimed and signaled for them to make tent for the night near a huge tree. They could not see the town behind them nor anything for that matter. It was pitch dark and they were in a vulnerable spot if the enemy decided to attack with nothing to shelter them except for a huge old tree.
The group, in pairs, started to move around to find themselves a comfortable spot to pass the night.
“Have you ever slept on an empty stomach, my friend?” he asked as he sat down near the tree and signaled for his comrade to sit down beside him.
“I am afraid I haven’t Sully.” He replied as he sat down next to him letting out a sigh of exhaustion. Sully was the first person he talked to the day he enrolled in the army. Since then they always stuck together and covered each other’s back.
“Well you are in for a long night then, Hard.” said Sully and gave his signature weak and tired smirk as he yet again began to take out his revolver.
Hard looked up towards the many criss-crossed branches and numerous leaves swaying in the silent cool breeze and closed his eyes for a brief moment.
“Don’t you have a brother…” Sully began as he was cut short and gave a nudge on Hard’s stomach with his elbow. Hard forcibly opened his eyes slowly and looked towards the bush where Sully was signalling with his chin. When his eyes finally began to adjust and he regained his focus, he saw a pair of eyes looking back at him from the darkness.
24 hours earlier, 500 miles away:
“Everybody take your seats and we will begin shortly.” whispered the teacher despite the large audience he was addressing.
Some hurried back to their designated desk while others shuffled their way back but all were in their place in an instant.
“Today’s topic is ‘Peace’ and how you people will play a vital role in achieving it.” He gestured towards the young audience.
He paused for a moment and began, “Can anyone tell me what the word peace means?” the teacher questioned giving a quick sweep of the students.
Most of the students were twelve years of age and most of them looked away from his gaze every time any question was asked, out of habit.
“Peace is when Amy stops talking about her new makeup kit all the time.” shouted Gabriel from the last seat of the class. Gabriel was the “bad boy” of the class and was often termed as mischievous by his teachers just because he would speak his mind without any concern of the environment he was in. Due to this behaviour he was given “Most probable to bring a revolution” title that one time in class.
The teacher gave a stern look and immediately he felt silent while looking down at the tiled floor.
“We will ignore his remark as usual,” said the teacher and looked at Amy who was still in shock by what she heard. “Anyone else?” the teacher asked and seeing no interest from his students, he continued, “Peace is lack of conflict and when everyone can do whatever they want,” he paused for a bit. “As long as it’s within the law of course.” He remarked as he gave a wide smile and expected the crowd to do the same but no one even let out a grin.
“Peace is when two human beings know how each other feel, when they share mutual happiness and sadness. When tranquility exists and wars are only talked about in history classes.”
“But I heard my brother say once that it would still take hundreds of years before we can achieve peace across the globe.” interrupted Gabriel but this time there was no hint of mischief in his tone.
The teacher felt silent as if in a deep thought. “Peace doesn’t start with a P,” the teacher finally spoke as few of the students let out a chuckle hearing the teacher say pee. “It starts with you.” The teacher gave a long dramatic pause as if proud of the Oscar-worthy dialogue he spoke while the whole class felt silent.
“JESUS CHRIST!” yelled Hard as he immediately reached for his rifle which he had rested beside him.
Both of them scrambled to their feet, rifles in hand and ready to fire, out of habit.
“Don’t do anything foolish now.” Hard commanded the guy in the bush as well as to Sully. “Slowly come out of the shadows and we will not harm you in any manner.”
There was a focused look on Sully’s face and he knew either he was going to kill or be killed right now.
Slowly the mysterious figure crept out of the shadows and then only did they realize it was just a small girl blessed with a pair of eyes that could compete with that of an angel.
The muscles in their hand relaxed and Hard put his gun down again. He started to move towards the girl who seemed scared and hungry. She was just wearing a dirty rag which covered her entire body and it looked like she went without food for at least a couple of days.
“Come here girl,” said Hard as softly as he could and reached out his arms. “You look hungry, we have food.” He continued but was interrupted by Sully’s intentional coughing. Hard immediately realized they also didn’t have any food. He searched his inner pockets and pulled out a small packet of biscuits. “Here, you can have this.” He said with a weak smile as he put out the small packet.
Seeing the sight of the biscuit, the girl ran towards him in seconds and started to open it. He slowly grabbed her and put her in his arms. “You are safe with us girl.” He remarked with a sigh of relief. The girl was busy struggling to open the packet.
“I don’t like it.” exclaimed Sully finally. “We don’t even have enough food for ourselves and now you are picking up orphans along the way.”
“She reminds me of my little brother.” replied Hard. “Despite being quite the opposite from him. My little brother just doesn’t know when to shut up and when to speak.” He laughed reminiscing and patted the little girl’s hair who was now struggling to fit whole of a biscuit in her mouth.
Both reported their finding to the commander and Hard insisted on taking her with him. After pursuing him for quite a bit and a long debate, the commander finally agreed given that Hard would be the sole responsible for her and would have to feed her out of his share which he agreed upon readily.
The night was long and sleeping on an empty stomach didn’t help. Most were awake for most of the night as footsteps could be heard throughout the night; some pacing, some exercising to fall asleep while some keeping watch.
The little girl clung onto Hard as he wrapped her around his jacket.
“I don’t get it.” said Sully sometime during the night. “How can you be so kind to someone you just met. I know she is just a little girl but I was never brought up with teachings to be kind to every little girl you find, share your food despite having barely enough for yourself.” He intended the last comment towards Hard.
“I once told a lie to my brother before.” Hard replied blankly looking at the stars while the girl fell asleep silently on his arms. “It is kind of a big deal because he looks up to me and believes everything I tell him. Sometimes even memorizes each word I spurt out.” He laughed probably remembering an incident.
“What was the lie?” asked Sully impatiently because as long as he had known Hard, he would have bet his life that Hard would never tell a single lie throughout his entire life if someone had asked him if he was an honest guy.
“He asked me just before I was about to be deployed that what was I fighting for. Naturally, I replied to bring peace in the world and he further questioned if I would be successful in finding peace. I told him that it would still take hundreds of years more to achieve peace globally.” He paused and the little girl’s rhythmic breathing was all that could be heard in the silence of the night. “I gave him a false hope, but at that moment I thought I was doing the right thing. Giving him hope that the future he had could be without any conflicts, no more wars and violence, one where everything was, I don’t know, this.” He said softly as he look down at the girl.
A long silence followed which was finally broken by Sully, “Well, I think false hope is necessary sometimes. Life is unpredictable, there is no guarantee that false hope will remain false to the very end.” He said as he let out his signature weak smile. “I think you did the right thing. There has never been an easy way to anything.”
That was the only conversation they had and the next morning the sun shone its brightest as the platoon got ready to depart.
“Conserve food and more conserve your energy.” shouted the commander as they began their journey.
The little girl walked alongside Hard at the beginning but after an hour you could find her to be piggybacking on Hard. After walking for another hour, the platoon finally came across a bridge.
“We are almost out of water and that stream over there looks drinkable. But we can’t say for certain that there are no enemies nearby. So I want three pairs to scout the area while the rest will wait until the signal is clear. We go in fill water and cross the river from under the bridge. Is that clear?” demanded the commander.
Three pairs left for the scouting trip while the rest waited behind an abandoned car nearby. After waiting for half an hour, they heard some people conversing in a different language on the bridge. They were three people walking across the bridge, guns in their hand.
The little girl immediately recognized one of them. Hard saw that she recognized one of them but before he could grab her, she slipped away and broke into a run. She went straight towards the bridge while Hard too broke in a run after her, leaving his gun behind in hurry.
“Fool!” shouted the commander but before he could complete what he was saying, they were already near the bridge.
Right when they were only a few meters away from the bridge, the three men saw them coming. They took their guns in hand, out of habit. The man in the middle, who seemed like the commander of the squad, recognized the girl and signalled the other two to put down their arms. A sudden burst of joy overcame his face as he welcomed her with open arms.
Hard started to decelerate as he saw the sight and guessed he must be a relative to the girl. But right then, shots were fired from both sides of the bridge and at the three men who were on it, who died in an instant. He could not believe what he was seeing and looked at who was firing, it was two of the three scouting squads. The little girl stopped now and kept staring at the fallen bodies. Hard finally came to his sense as he took a few quick steps towards the girl when something landed right where he was standing just a moment ago.
“SNIPER!” someone shouted as the little girl finally turned towards him.
23:30 hours earlier, 500 miles away
“You might have heard it a million times before but I’ll say it again here. You are the future.” said the teacher giving emphasis on the last sentence. “Peace can seem like a far-off context, one which seems impossible to achieve. You might even wonder how everyone will have a similar opinion and interest when even you can’t decide which flavour of ice-cream you want to order. But not everything is not truly unattainable. I have failed, we have failed in this matter so we are trusting you guys with the same ideal that we were unable to bring to practise.” The teacher cleared his throat and continued, “That is, there will be peace one day and everyone will live in harmony.” The teacher smiled and everyone knew he was going to add a lame joke. “Like Newton said, “An object at rest, stays in rest or an object in motion stays in motion unless acted upon by an unbalanced external force.” We have set the world in motion on the path of war and violence, now maybe the only thing that can make all of humanity work together is when there is an external force like an alien invasion.” He laughed at his own joke while some let out a few chuckle.
“So moving on..” he was interrupted by a huge explosion outside followed by loud screaming. Gabriel was the first to the window and all he could see were planes, military grade, that filled up the sky and were dropping dozens, hundreds of what seemed like missiles as chaos started to spread slowly.
“Everybody get down.” shouted the commander at top of his lungs. Gun shots were exchanged as more enemy squads started to appear at the other side of the bridge. “Get out of there Hard!” the commander shouted again.
Hard stood in place as he lost track of everything. The little girl was running towards him and he just stood there patiently waiting for her amidst the gunshot and screaming. The girl reached him and held his hand as tightly as she could.
Just when the enemy squad, who were now on the bridge, started shooting at him, someone tackled him to the ground and finally he snapped back to reality.
“Ain’t you a slow one, my friend.” remarked the person on the ground beside them. Hard looked towards him as he saw Sully who was now bleeding at least from three bullet holes at his back. The reflexive action from all the training kicked into action as he immediately dragged Sully by one hand and held the little girl’s hand on the other behind a car.
“You are not dying on me Sully.” Hard began to say as he was signalled to stay silent. There was blood everywhere and Hard didn’t know which wound to put pressure on first. Sully slowly reached inside his jacket and pulled out his revolver and took one last glance at it. “Survive,” he gave it his all to speak as he looked at Hard and then at the little girl. “Both of you.” He reached out for the girl’s face as he whispered, “Isn’t she a beauty, my friend?”
Samyam Shrestha Receiving his certificate and prize from Sudha Subedi, CEO of Youth Legend
Question and Answer with Samyam
1.What do you feel after being one of the winners of Wordism Final?
–> Being a winner is a great feeling in itself but being a winner at something you love to do is on another level all together. Competing with others who share the same passion as me was thrilling to say the least.
2.What do you think about wordism competition?
–> Wordism competition is a great platform for upcoming writers and it has helped me grow, in both, my writing skills and confidence wise. I wish for it to continue so that it could and, more likely, would affect other writers and help them unleash their potential as well as polish their discovered trait. It is a great initiative and the youth legend team has my heartfelt gratitude for coming up with it.
3.Anything you want to say to those reading this?
–> Birds of the same feather flock together? Competitions like these don’t only bring people of the same mindset together but also helps you better yourself and at what you do. There are only 26 letters but the things we can say are endless. The more letters you choose from, the more words you can from. Don’t hesitate to send your story to competitions thinking it’s not good enough, who knows, your story could inspire generations.
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