The border was pretty quiet…. Not a gunshot for the past one hour…. Not a sign of any light, any movement whatsoever….
“Are they asleep…?” he asked to his fellow comrade… “May be they are…. It is tiresome and they might know by now that they are fighting a losing battle…” he said to himself…
It has been a long one month since the tension started… He searched for the small picture he had kept in his pocket….. It was damp… it had been showering in the morning…. the darkness did not show him much of what he got out of the pocket…. He held it in his hand and stared into the darkness that stood between his eyes and the picture…. He did not really have to see it…. Every bit of it was in his memory, etched in his mind, he and his wife holding their one year old….
The difference between seeing a picture in real and in the mind is that in the mind the characters move… it gives a visual of the events before and after the picture was taken… he could see his mom, dad, brother, sister and relatives and neighbors all in his mind… they were not in the view of the camera but now he could see them…. Everyone was trying hard to make their one year old smile….
His parents were playing pranks with their watery eyes… His wife, she was forcing the smile on her while holding his hand tight…. Every time his wife held his hand tight without other people noticing, he knew that it was her way to tell him how much she loved him….. He was smiling, he had managed that trick for a long time…. Leaving someone home and returning to the front was not the first time and he has learned to keep calm over the years… when they got married, and now when his son was one year old….
This was his first visit after they got married…. He had told himself that it was not fair for him or her…. He could not make it when their baby was born… he tried but he could not make it.. and now he had to leave…. He barely had five days with them…. it is never fair…. His wife had held his hand tight when he left after their marriage… but he did not have a picture of that, though she had mentioned her love in every letter she wrote to him… His son looked exactly like him, everyone one in the village had told him that…. his mind rested on that little face for a few moments….
He also saw his childhood friend who was still back home and always asking him to help him join the troops.. He had discouraged for which his friend was not that happy…. But this time when he left he came over and told him that he did not want to join…. That he will be in the village… he too had a son who was three years old… He probably saw how tough it was to leave one’s own and travel far….
But he knew his duty…. he was not sad… serving the country was what his family had always done, and he was proud of it… but beyond all that there is an individual who in his loneliness looks into the dark and feels bad… the bloodshed, the fight for territories, supremacy, power… he never understood everything, but he knew he had a role in some unscripted play that he had no idea how it would end… He looked around and saw all the known faces in the village before his house, bidding him farewell…
“Are they sleeping…” He asked again “Or are you sleeping he asked…?”
He moved slightly towards his comrade who was a few steps away… He stretched his arm and felt him…. He tapped on him… “Dude.. wake up… we can’t sleep… they might still be there, planning their next move…”
He took back his hand and moved closer…. It took a few more seconds for him to realize the lifelessness of his comrade reach out to him… He was now alone…. Probably the enemy is advancing thinking they are all finished…. He put his hand into his friend’s pocket and pulled out a folded paper, probably a picture…. He looked at it again in the blindness of the dark night…. But his imagination could only see a blurry picture, his comrade with his parents… unmarried and young; he was a new recruit….
He could not remember the face of his parents…. Nor did he have any knowledge of the events before and after the picture was taken… he did not even know when and where that picture was taken…. He had only seen it twice… once when he met his comrade first time and next when his Dad had expired…. He knew nothing more about the picture that he could picture more in his mind….
He folded and kept it back… he moved closer and gave a hug, he had never hugged him before, they had always maintained a respectful distance, but he reminded him always of his younger brother….
He knew he had to put on his fight alone now… He took guard for any sign, any movement that could give him an indication… He tried hard to forget that his comrade was no more…. He asked in a low voice that only he could hear “Dude, They might be advancing, let us get ready….”