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Short Story : Quietus

I can hear them chirping, the crickets. They have their own melody, even amidst that cacophony. Mother used to say they interpreted God’s messages.

Why did I have to join the army? Well, I guess this isn’t the right question. Or maybe it is. Maybe I should have been born in a different place, different state. What option did I have when there were no jobs? Actually, I did have options. I could have started coaching classes. Might not have earned much, but at least I’d have lived to do something.

But what would I have done? I’d have read that bestselling mythology series first. And I would have visited my grandmother. How cruel it was of me not to go to her place after that incident? What was the point of keeping lifelong grudges?

I guess that’s the point. We all have some guilt stored inside us. Guilt that makes us human. Saints can be sinners too, no?

I should turn to the right a bit more. This pain, awww.  How did they know we were coming? We climbed up this range through the night. Maybe the plan was leaked. Or someone had taken a dump at the wrong place and saw us. But how does that matter now? We are done, at least the ones among us who have fallen. That opening medley of gunfire and bombs, would I ever be free of those sounds, even in my grave?


The chirps were louder a few hours ago. Now they’re mild and mixed with the occasional screams of the soldiers, as if reminding us of the primacy of the jungle. This jungle, it has an aura of its own. I thought it looked good in the light. Now it is imposing, daring us to see through it, pass through the darkness and find light, if there is any. Asking us if we can spot the difference between the screams of men and the howls of nature.

The loneliness here, it is so very final, as if there’s nothing after this. At least I have the support of the soil beneath me, contoured to the shape of my body. That is far more than what I could say of my superiors. Why could the general not tell us whose war we’re fighting? Thousands of kids like me dead and it doesn’t even seem to be stopping. I don’t know how many survived from our division, and how much longer can they hold out. I wish I could have joined them in cutting down those pigs across the border. But I guess this is it for me, lying down in the dirt and bleeding to an unhurried death.

Would my parents be able to make peace with the truth? I hope they don’t feel ashamed in front of others that their kid died before he could make a substantial contribution to a battle. I know dead soldiers are celebrated as martyrs in our country irrespective of the circumstances of their demise. But I don’t want to be a cause of shame for my family, even in my death. If only I could live! I’d have embellished my story and added all those fancy elements of war to it. My story would have been recounted for generations. As it is now, no one will mourn me after a few years. The parents would have departed for their celestial abode, and without a dependent who carries my name, it’d be lost to time, not even a footnote in history.

My nose is blocked, though only partially as yet. Must be the soot from the grenades. I can’t feel the sweet, fresh smell of the grass anymore. If anything, it’s the gunpowder, it has even seeped in my clothes. It was so beautiful earlier in the day, so long as the sun was up. Now I can’t even see my own hand. And this tangy taste on my tongue, God, I hate it!

Let’s check the wound, then. Unh, the cotton bandage is drenched in blood. Thank God, it is a clean wound! Otherwise I might have been gone by now. Or maybe not. But I’d surely have passed out had that fellow not bandaged me. Who was it? Eh? Why can’t I remember his name? Lord!  I don’t even remember how many hours it’s been now. 10? 12? More?

I wish I had been more considerate of the sacrifices my parents have made all their life. Why couldn’t I see that they always loved me, irrespective of the situation? And I don’t even have a proper girlfriend yet. Heh. I’m looking death in the eye, and even here I can’t stop thinking of a woman. Credit to you, God. Credit to you.

The gunfire has died down. They’d be recovering from their losses. We gave them proper hell. The instructor had told us that we must kill 10 of them to every one of our soldiers killed. I cut down 15 myself. I’d pass the extra five to anyone who needs them in his credit book. Ha ha. Ouch!

The painkiller is wearing off. I should pop another. Better than writhing around. Would I see the sun again? Possibly no. Would I meet my mother again? Nope. But, but, do I know? Heck, no. How could I know? If I did, I’d not have been lying here. In fact, I wouldn’t have arrived here in the first place. Ha ha!

Unh, ummm, no no, don’t laugh, stupid. Stay still.

People told me death is scary. Right now, all I can feel is tired eyes and legs, and a strong desire to sleep. Should I give in? After all, I am going to die here, at this remote outpost covered with trees all around. What could go wrong if I loosened my limbs and rested my eyes? The muscles are already in a state of spasm. If this remained so, I’d be dead meat soon.

Even clicking lips is producing no sound now. Where’s the water? Yes, take out the water pot. I need to gulp it. I might drift off permanently in a few moments if I don’t do something. The instructor said we should control our breathing in these types of cases, to control the panic. But I’m not panicking, am I? No, no, no, no. This is natural, the way I am dealing with the pain and the injury. I’m not even worrying about the stale, salty smell of sweat that is emanating from my body and clothes. If there’s a problem, it is that I’m too blank now. I can’t even think straight. I’m seeing doves, flying down to me. Where would doves come from in this darkness, that too in this thick foliage?

Doves? No, these are angels. Very well, then, if my time is up. Maybe I’d have another chance at this thing called life. I hope I’d do better then. I’ve always been a slow starter, after all.

Take his feet. Yeah, get him in the tray.

Okay, time to send him home.

You’re going home now, kid. You’re gonna be okay. You’re a hero, you know.

Eh, a hero? What was that about?

—–

The End.

Kindly share your precious feedback. I’d love to have your thoughts on this.

Image credit : Deviantart.

Thanks for reading.

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7 thoughts on “Short Story : Quietus

  1. Wow! I think this is your best short story so far… at least from the ones that I’ve read (I confess to not having read everything on your blog). I felt the pathos in this story. The pain, the regrets, the wry humor, everything was so deftly handled that it didn’t look out of place in a scenario such as this. I mean a soldier who’s gonna die soon, and alone, what else can he think of? Not heroism, not his country, not valor, but not being able to see his loved ones again and the regrets he’d take away. You also brought an element of reality into the story when you talked about how this was only a job to him. I think to most soldiers, after they’ve faced one war at least, that is all that keeps them in the armed forces – the money. Valor and courage can go take a hike! That last twist you gave, him having hope of being alive still, made me whoop with joy. Brilliant work, Ajit, just brilliant!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for the appreciation, I have such a broad smile on my face now. πŸ˜€πŸ˜€
      No problem if you haven’t read everything. Its not like standing up for the national song. The day when you have some spare time, you can click on the categories (to the right in the homepage) and read to your heart’s contentment. πŸ˜‹πŸ˜‹
      I also think that soldiers take this as a job. They are mindful of the pride and the responsibility that comes with it, but to think they boast of it, especially amongst themselves, looks unlikely to me. And like any other person, someone dying would also think of his most cherished memories and people.
      War, well, maybe one day I’d (or we would?) like to do a story on the ways war changes people.
      Regards that ending, are you sure he was alive? Or was he dreaming just before death? πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚
      Thanks again. BTW, I’d be much obliged if you could mention some shortcomings too. Thanks in advance. πŸ˜€πŸ˜€

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I will be sure to mention the shortcomings when I see some. Because this was so cleverly worded, that I thought every word was just right at it’s place. I think you should pat yourself on the back πŸ™‚

        Oh! So he did and was only dreaming of being saved? In my opinion you worded it in a way where the reader can take it either way. I took it in the more positive sense that he got saved. But you’re the author, so your opinion rules. πŸ˜€ πŸ˜€

        War changes people, yes. Transforms them is more like it. A while back I stumbled across a few notes and pictures showing the atrocities of war. Thought for days on how war is useless but ingrined in our natures. I was depressed about it for days. I wrote about it too, and here’s the link if you would ever like to read about it
        https://thepraditachronicles.com/2017/06/27/deconstructing-the-word-human/

        Regarding your other works, I will return to your blog soon to read the rest of your works. When I can’t say, but I eventually always come back πŸ˜€ πŸ˜€

        Have a great weekend

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Patting done. πŸ˜€πŸ˜€

          I won’t say that he was dreaming. It’s just that I wanted to put that thought in your mind and see how you feel, confused or not? πŸ˜€πŸ˜€

          I’ll check that post of yours out.

          And yes, there is no need for a fixed timeline. You can read at your leisure. 😊

          Wish you have a great weekend too.πŸ˜€

          Liked by 1 person

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