Desert can kill; can hope save?
‘Very good. Very good. Now we don’t even know where on earth we are.’ Said man 1.
‘Ya at leas’ previ’sly we had known wea’ we a.’ Man 2 registered his reply.
‘What are we to do?’ Man 4 asked.
‘Maybe, an’ MAY BE we a’ starvin’ to death.’ Man 2 pressed harder the words “May Be.”
‘No it can’t be. We will find our way out. Here look at this note. All is well’ Man 3 produced a paper that is torn away and looked almost devoid of further lifetime. He held it out in belief that someone would take a look. Keeping the paper out of his body in his extended hand, he observed the stern looks emanating from his companions. The words “All is Well” is the cause for these weird looks. Technically, they were strangers before thirty minutes, but after finding the five of them being left alone in the middle of the desert, they were constrained to become companions. They were soldiers of country 2 being captured by country 1 and were being imprisoned in a local cantonment. The belligerents were so intense to devastate each other no matter what. The country 1 is in losing streak, and projections show that it would soon surrender to country 2.
‘Keep it inside. That note is not producin’ us nothin’.’ Opened his mouth Man 5.
He appeared to be the eldest among them. It was two days now that they had been captured by the soldiers of 1st country, who had tied them to poles in their base camp, along with many others. They had no idea of how they came here. When they opened their eyes from being unconscious, they found themselves being laid on the hot desert; As soon as they returned to sobriety, they raised to foot from lying in alacrity, feeling the heat burn their skins; They were assured that this is their punishment that even though should country 2 win, it should be never able to rescue them. They wondered how they survived the same heat in unconsciousness.
‘Our punishment is that we would die of dehydration.’ predicted the elderly.
‘But, shouldn’t we try finding our way out? Every desert must end at some point.’ Man 3 said.
‘Yes it ends somewhere. Somewhere three hundred kilometres ahead of here.’ Man 1 quipped these words – the statistics being just for namesake. A mere guessed random number. Quite a nice number isn’t it? Strangling to even hear him say!
‘An’ in a dess’at yo’ had 16 possib directions.’ Man 2 said, killing the elegance of the language rather than to kill their captors. He felt it safe to speak negative than to go out taking risk blindly.
‘Okay guys enough, let us try to find our way out. And we will find it okay. At least we will try and die. Which way?’ Man 5 asked followed by three index fingers point in three different directions. Another finger joined the other three reluctantly and shared the same direction finger 1 pointed in. The reluctant finger was being of Man 2’s.
‘Then we will follow this way.’ Joined Man 5’s finger – not extending longer as the other four did. It just groped into air for a split second and returned back to its previous position that pointed to hot sand – the hand being suspended. They all felt their skin getting burned by lack of clothes. They were stripped off their clothes save for their innerwear (only briefs and no vests) – the grace of the enemy. The grace that blessed them enjoy the gifts of sun. It would be a gift if they were indeed in the Caribbean for vacation and now the same gift appeared to them as punishment.
Man 3 spoke, ‘And thank goodness at least they had left our rugged boots. Had they removed it too, we can’t even stand here. That’s why I say “All is well”.’
‘Yes, he’s right.’ Conceded with him Man 1, and slowly muttered, ‘but all is not well.’
With Man 5, the elderly’s lead, they followed. (Man 2 came in reluctance). In order to keep the fleet in good spirits, Man 5 inquired all about them and learned a few facts. Man 1 has two children – both daughters. He’s quite a good father and a loving husband. He said there is no more to say about him.
Man 2 had never seen his dad. His mother died when he was twelve. He is living together with a girl whom he had planned to marry after the war ends. He felt that he never had been lucky throughout his life. Every time should an opportunity come, it always slipped through the other way. Even in this matter, he was first assigned to attack from north-bound team and was later changed to this team with “infidels” – as he said – and that he and his commander were the only men alive. He had no idea about what happened to his commander and he is least cared about it.
Man 3 had a beautiful family – A caring mom and dad, his little sister who was 10 and his elder brother who is going to get married in a month. He said he was only 19 and is currently in love.
Man 4 was generally a tight-lipped being. He was married but got divorced just after a month of married life. He had fought with his mom, parted with her, and is living in isolation for the past two years. He refused to disclose the reason for divorce as well as his parting with mom. “A little heart with millions of secrets” thought Man 5. As no one cared and asked about Man 5, he just sighed, and continued to walk.
The crew was not very vivid; though under the given circumstances it is difficult to be so, the elderly and Man 3 just pretended to be as such. They should have trekked about two kilometres when Man 2 shrieked, ‘Na na I, I can’t move anymo’. I wull remain ‘ere an’ may die. I’m sorry.’
Despite the numerous efforts to get him back, he was not to be moved. It is not wise to waste time on him. So, others went leaving him in the middle of nowhere. And fixing their destination to nowhere.
In another considerable distance, ‘Maybe this is what they wanted. I can’t go anymore.’ Man 1 said and stood at the same place. The same kind of placatory measures ensued in nothing. He added to the eldest, ‘Chief, I just can’t anymore. If you find water somewhere at a closer distance please bring me some.’
Unable to reach to a conclusion, the other three bid him adieu and started going. They even forgot that they didn’t have anything to bring water to him except for their innerwear, should they were able to get water and would intend to save the dying man. The group is reduced from five to three. They were almost sure of their death too, in the ravishing claws of the scorching sun. It is the determination of the oldest guy that kept them moving. They went without speaking a single word. Man 5 followed by Man 4 followed by Man 3. In descending order!
‘Cowards. Purely cowards. Unfit to live.’ Said Man 5 in general, which the other two having no interest to engage in a conversation didn’t inquire further. But both were sure that it is referred to the other confidence-less two.
‘It should be around 12.’ Man 4 said feeling the sun at its peak efficiency. They didn’t reply.
They had no idea how much expanse had they covered when Man 3 shrieked, ‘Hey! Hey!’ Agitated, Man 5 took turned about to find Man 4 plunged into the desert’s heat. He ran to his rescue, whose head is been held up by Man 3 in his arms. He tried to get the fainted man back to liveliness, and nothing yielded. ‘Leave him just here if you want to live.’ He said and started moving away like a monster without a wet heart.
Man 3 saw him cover a few feet ahead of him and being cornered to choose between his own life and the other’s, he decided to save his own first. And that is saneness. Like “charity begins at home”, to save others’ lives you first must be full of vitality. Letting the head slide itself from his palms, and watching it fall into the sand, he observed the sand forming a cavity that formed a haven for the falling down head. He sighed, and feeling the heat play home runs on his almost nude body, he followed behind Man 5.
Within a few foot, he saw the elderly collapse. He sprinted to catch the dropping figure. But before could he reach, the man fell. Man 3 squatted and placing the other head on his plain nude thigh, he tried to wake him up by juddering him, stroking his chin and decided that Man 5 would have been dead. For a second he lost his mind which wandered to Hollywood, that he fantasized himself to be the lonely survivor – the hero, and realising where his clumsy mind is getting him to, he snapped back to reality. He placed his left hand close to the other man’s nostrils and found the play of vacuum. He is dead! Man 3 wanted to shriek and wail. But he didn’t.
Leaving the head, being unsure of the life it may have (He’d hopes that he maybe alive still), to open ground, he decided to continue. When he was about to go, he felt a strange feeling spread throughout his body. It appeared to him that it originated in the groin and ascended to his chests, not caring much about shoulders, directly made its way to his head and encamped there. He was unsure of what the thing that is, but felt that it paralysed his movement. Maybe this is Death! He was shaken off his roots. He felt his heart’s pound leap over 72s a minute the moment the word Death came to life in his brain. I will survive. I must survive. I sure will.
It took him not much time to realise that it is the warning symbol that some organ of his body is sending to his brain to indicate dehydration level. He understood it. A man without formal schooling understood it!
He ignored the warnings and started to trek his way. The desert storm kept blowing constantly – as he thought it to be. But it indeed was not so strong to be qualified as a storm, it stood very short to be even called as a moderate gale but what it indeed did is, it gave flight to the desert sand. It pushed those hot sands into his eyes. Only the sand kept blowing faster and it’s not a storm or something as his grey matter named it.
He displayed an insatiable thirst to live, which helped him overcome every hurdle. He motioned slowly in the same direction with the assistance of eyelids, which though blocked his vision, stood as a bulwark to his retina. He didn’t know how much distance did his bare body with boots alone had traversed, but when he opened his eyes after the sandy desert wind gave in, he found a small mole ahead of him. A mole of sand. He said to himself that once this is crossed, a village will surely come and he would survive. All is well. All is well.
With utmost difficulty he walked up the mole, draining away completely his already drained body. He, just before reaching the peak point, said to himself, “All is Well. On the other side lies the glorious heaven.” When he was just a foot closer, he felt something block his vision. It appeared like the whole place is covered with infinite number of black and white and green dots fill up the place. In no time he understood that he is feeling dizzy. He with full effort placed one more foot to reach the peak.
The moment he stepped onto the peak, he felt something strike his head internally. Like his nervous system being crippled. Without the slightest delay, his legs failed him and he was rolling on the other side of the steep slope of the mole. Though almost out of sobriety, he felt his roll and the hotness the desert sand is injecting into his bare body. He rolled, rolled, rolled and settled at the foot of the mole.
He was now lying prostrate. He felt something heavenly touch his chin. He opened his eyes with struggle and found that it is a pool of water. He looked further ahead to find an oasis.
A/N: please feel free to correct me. Yes, I agree, compared with my other two short stories, this is not that much good, but anyway... Comments welcome. Should you be able to isolate the errors and give me suggestions and correct usage, I will be feeling very thankful. Thanks to all...
(and I don't have much knowledge about genres. How to determine the genre of our writing? If anyone can explain the basics of genre, pls...)