The Helpless Soldier

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By Naseeb Zadran for VT

Folks have gathered in a large room, in a village, far away from the city. Most of whom, are young women & children. After spending many days together, they have became familiar with one another. Further, the cold winds of autumn have begun.

There is plenty of wood & they have started a fire. They are sitting in circle viewing the flames. Yet, there is also another fire, visible in a nearby mountain. It appears some people survived the epidemic in order to stay alive. They have wood for fire, but, what they are missing is food.

These days, there are cars, but no fuel. Cellphones, but no electricity & signal. The water begins to run out, though there are electric poles, none are powered.

None graze the bazaar due to fear. The children shed tears & adults are weakened. Their clothes are dirty & they are trying to find food for survival. Finally, two people are ready to visit the bazaar

One of whom is a retired soldier.

On their way, there is the stench of a human corpses. Both begin to worry as there is no other way to survive. They know if chosen otherwise, they will starve to death. They must do this until they & the others gathered in the room are saved.

As soon as they reach the bazaar, they begin searching for food shops. However, most of them were ransacked by the insurgents. The men continue, trying hard until they finally find some expired chocolate. Yet, they eat them for their appetite & to reduce their hunger.

As the men began to eat, their hunger diminishes. They ponder & ask, what shall we take for the rest?

Eventually, they find some food in the kitchen of a hotel which was littered among scattered brains. It was thought that the chef had fled in fear of the plague & all left behind was due to the turmoil.

They take the food & on their way back, they meet a young man, barely alive. He was coughing, & he gestured for water or food. Yet, the men ran away, they assumed the young man was infected with the plague, as he appeared weak. After a look of dismay appeared on both men’s faces, they continue their journey to the village.

The high rises of the city are empty & birds have made their nests in them. Shops are open , yet their locks broken. The insurgents have looted the food & left everything else on the floor. Luxury cars are parked on the roads, some have their doors left open as there is no fear that anyone will take them.

All the inhabitants of the city have been killed by the epidemic & those remaining, are searching for food to survive.

The young men are on their way back to their village. The weather is cold, yet birds are flying & other animals running around the city. Cats & dogs are running wild, as the men feel that animals are stronger than they are that day.

These are care free creatures. In time, the sun & the clouds begin to play as the yellow leaves fall & lay in piles. The face of the city is changing, the plastic bags & papers are blown by the winds, scattered. There are none to be seen anywhere.

There is fear that wild animals have come from the forests to the cities. The situation is very bad.

The corpses of the doctors are lying in white clothes near the hospital. Now the color of the clothes turn black & yellow. No one can stand in front of the hospital because of the stench. So they reflect on where the medicine will come from? How will the treatments be done?

The city is a picture of horror & fear.  The barking of dogs & the noise of birds, show that humans have been eaten & animals have taken over the city.

There are no doctors in the hospital, no children at school, no soldiers patrolling streets of the city, no shopkeepers in shops, no occupants in buildings & no motorists in cars.

One of the two, the soldier, reflects on his time in an Asian land when his military invaded, bombing weddings with drones & killing innocent folk. Those who came to aid the dead, were themselves targeted. The thoughts and visions occupied his mind.

He reflects, the Asian land has now become his land.

Same silence & horror where hospitals are bombed, where the wounded were being treated. He remembers where they dropped heavy bombs on that hospital & the doctors were lay dead. Their uniforms were not black & yellow, but red with blood.

A school where children were taught was bombed by the occupying forces.

They targeted students in that school, not caring that the students may have been poor. Their torn slippers & shoes were piled up after their deaths. Their clothes & shoes are now left on the streets by villagers, who died due to the epidemic.

He remembered the civilian car which they targeted when people were returning to a village from a picnic.

The car was full of people, as well as, livestock. All, the bodies laid there dead, similar to the bodies after the epidemic. There is no one to bury them & none left to cry for those killed by the epidemic.

Suddenly, the soldier awakens from his thoughts, his companion tells him to come quickly! The dogs of the city are no longer afraid of humans as they are used to eating their flesh & now, they are targeted.

The retired soldier returns to his thoughts & continues to reflect on the lack of wailing for the dead.

He realizes, there is no one to cry over him as well. There were villagers who hid their wounded & when the drones left, villagers would take the injured to the hospital.

Here, the epidemic even infects people left behind closed doors, in their homes, left to die. In that land, the families would bury their dead. Here the beasts of the city ate the bones of men.

The soldier speeds up, but finds it difficult to breathe. He couldn’t tell his friend about his conditions out of fear that he will be left behind. He spat a little, coughed a little, which hardened his breathing & finally he fell. He begins to fall onto the ground as his friend gazes from the corner of his eyes.

After falling, his friend snatches the food from him & runs away. He doesn’t wish the burden & risk of carrying him & being infected with the epidemic.

The soldier is lying helpless on the side of the main road, unable to walk. He doesn’t have backup, like he did, during his previous tours. Now, he can’t call for help, there are no jets & helicopters coming to rescue him.

In a distance, he hears the barking of dogs coming towards him. He wonders, will he be eaten alive or dead? Of death, he is certain . The dogs approach preying on him, but, he cannot do anything. He smiles, leaving himself to the mercy of circumstances & approaching death.

He reflects now as he lays there helpless, like the people who were helpless & injured by the drones. The villagers used to wait for the drones, to see if they would strike again. Despite some villagers getting injured, they couldn’t move out of fear & no one would come near.

Indeed, the villagers were frozen, laying helplessly. Now, the soldier realizes the pain of those villagers, as he is in the same helpless situation.

The dogs approach & the barking became louder. He now looks at himself helplessly & closes his eyes with his hands.

Once upon a time, he felt strong along with his country’s strength. They would say “we are a superpower” to themselves, and yet, now everything is gone.

Nature is the superpower now. The epidemic was revenge taken by nature & is now the new superpower.

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