It’s a cold autumn morning, early in May, and we were making our way into a rural township some five klicks from the nearest checkpoint. Just the five of us trekking through a treeline and making haste for a derelict well. One of the guys fixed eyes on a silhouette sat beside a bucket; they were within speaking distance:
“Hello there. Can you hear me?”
The silhouette remained still. We surrounded them from both flanks as I moved forward and approached them. It was a girl no older than nine, wearing a mossy green overcoat and gumboots, with her hands bound together — an ANZAC poppy sat neatly on her lapel. A single laceration across her neck told us all we needed to know about how she’d ended up here.
Looking down the cobblestone path, the bodies of two adults lied motionless near a wrecked and ransacked sedan. All evidence pointed towards this being an attack by road bandits. Removing the cord from her wrists and fashioning shrouds from storefront drapes, we covered and placed the family of three behind the book store — time constraints did not permit for a proper burial. Using the licence we found in the male’s pocket, I erected a single cross for the fallen:
Hours had passed, we’d been attacked by a well-organised group of bandits using police vehicles who’d tried to make this town their own. Each of them fell to our trained rifles and machine gun, one after the other. Darkness eventually came and the remainder of them deciding to bug-out while they still could. Carrying only my sidearm, I defended the local chapel as staunchly as I could. The rest of my group took up positions in the “Hunting & Fishing” store only 100 metres from where I was; an overturned tanker blocked off the rest of the street.
My radio sparked with life as the corporal informed me that they were headed back to the chapel. Peering through the hedges, I saw each of the four men exit the building and cross the street. One of the bodies lying on the ground moved as a loud exclamation echoed; with a single spark before an enormous detonation.
They were dead in the blink of an eye.
And then there was one. After an endless summer of revolution and destruction, where countless lives were lost in a struggle that even the milit’ry failed to understand, here I stood as the last remaining member of my unit. Earlier that day I’d decorated my helmet with the poppy from the Vickers girl; a fitting tribute for a soul whom life had stole much too early. It stood out against the background of camouflage, but that was the whole point — not just as a target, but an act of defiance.
…Onward unto this nightmare did I continue.
Damn dreams of mine… I told that one to my trick cyclist earlier this year and her eyes were wide with concern. Still, it beats the dream where I was stabbed to death by my great-grandfather.
Anyway… Have a good day, folks.