He was no child. The things he had seen had made sure of that. Each day the constant reminder of war was there – the guns, the bombs, the blood – but still he clung to something from his past. So much had passed him by in so little time – the peacefulness – the blossoms on the trees – the birds in the sky, singing happily – he could barely remember any of them though it had been only months before since he had seen them. He missed these things, sadness overcoming him. He felt tears well in his eyes as the realization of it all came over him. Finally he realized he was young; he was young in both body and soul. His mother used to think he was a hope – the only hope – but it was only she that believed this. Smiling to himself of these memories of long ago, he wiped the drying tears from his cheeks. Suddenly he caught sight of his mother, and she was crying.
“Mother, why are you crying? Please stop. I’m sorry. I tried to protect you but they hurt me, just like they hurt you. Mother, don’t cry. I’ll protect you. I know I failed before, but I promise this time things will be different. Mother?”
His mother wasn’t moving and he was unsure why. He moved slowly towards her, sliding along the dirt road on his stomach, but she was too far away and he couldn’t reach her past the barb wire and land mine obstructions. He held his hand out towards her and called her name softly, fearful that a renegade soldier may jump out from under the nearby covering and shoot them both.
In desperation, his whisper became louder and louder, calling his mother’s name but still she did not respond. He extended his hand out further to reach her, but as he did the ground beneath him collapsed and he was in sudden darkness.
As he fell down through the darkness, he heard his voice calling out very loudly. He heard laughter and a boy’s voice say …
“Mummy’s darling didn’t get enough nigh-nigh’s last night, did he? Is that your alibi for letting your mother die?”
He heard a gun shot. It was close. It was too close.
The boy’s screams echoed through the tube through which he was falling. He tried to stop himself falling, but there was nothing to hold on to. He was in the tube that took people to hell and back, or so he had been told by those that had taken the fall and survived. They said that it made you confront things, or people from your past as well as your inner fears. The boy shut his eyes trying to clear his head of all evils. He felt a sudden pain shoot up his spine and tears began filling his eyes and trickling down his cheeks. His ride had been stopped abruptly, and without warning, as he hit the hard, cold object which was now causing him great pain. He screamed in agony, but the noise only echoed through the tube constantly reminding him of the pain.
It was here that he remembered his mother.
Unsure if it was his tears or the pain that made him remember, he quickly got up to walk around and clear his thoughts. The realizations of the extent of his pain hit him like a brick.
“I must be strong,” he thought to himself.
Wiping the drying tears from his cheeks, he again remembered his mother and how she had always said he was a fighter. He started to believe that he was his mother’s last hope and that his cowardliness had made him betray her confidence in him. Again he began to weep. In his heart he knew that his mother had been wrong. He was no fighter. He remembered the men, the large men he had let in to his mother’s house. They had beaten his mother badly and then taken her to a room. He wasn’t sure what had happened in there, but as he heard the screams he realized it was all his fault. His mother had told him not to let strange men in to the house, but he never listened. He always thought he knew best. He found out the hard way that he didn’t.
He lowered his head and tried to remember when he had a family. It was hard to recall his childhood, it seemed so long ago, when in fact it was only yesterday. He found it hard to remember his sister before her death. What had she looked like? Though once they had been so close, now he could barely picture her face.
Death, it seemed, had followed him and taken those he had loved most. It had become a turning point in his life along with all the destruction he had seen. Destruction was everywhere – in the town, in the people, even in himself. His sister had never been absorbed by the horror around her. She had been stronger, not like him. She tried to fight them off when they had come for her, but her strength failed her…as too did he.
Tear filled his eyes as he remembered the mutilated face of his once beautiful sister, but he quickly wiped it away. He must take a stand and be brave and cope with the hell that surrounded him. He must try to correct the past and answer for his mistakes. In the distance he heard a laugh and another gunshot. He tried to remember what it was like to hear peaceful sounds, like he had as a child.
The gun shots had taken their toll on his memory. They had made him older and wiser and, at this time and place, this was what he had to be. He couldn’t afford to cry. Not now. Not ever. He had to try and block out the past and its horror that had haunted him all these years. He could no longer afford to be a burden. There was no one left who cared, and this he knew. He had to be his mother’s hope and his sister’s vengeance, for he was all that was left. He raised his head and nodded in agreeance with his inner thoughts.
He stretched his legs. He had to get back up to the surface if he was to survive. He wondered around in the underground searching for something – anything – that would help him. He heard a blast. It was close…too close. Cautiously, he approached it. As he did so he remembered his father’s warning, but still he continued on his way, ignoring the voice in his head. His father had been a brave soldier, and unlike his son, knew what dangers to look for. The boy had not been given the privilege to choose whether to fight or not. He instead was forced in to the hell of the reality around him. The boy took a deep breath and decided he would either live or die by his own stupidity.
A gunshot was sounded again. Again it was close. The memories of his father came flowing back to him, embedding doubt in his mind. The boy had been wrong about so many things and this was his punishment. Standing still, he lit a cigarette and took a long hard drag from it. He held the tobacco stick in his thumb and forefinger and smiled as he remembered his mother nagging. He shook his head and threw the butt to the ground. He approached the tunnel, it was one in which he had played in as a child. He was cautious, for he knew what a good hiding place it was, but it also lead to the surface and it was this solid fact that persuaded him to travel through it. He entered hesitantly, taking quick breaths as he went. He saw a light appear in the not so far distance. He quickened his pace until he reached the light and exited the tube safely.
On the surface he glanced up to see the remains of what was once a house and he steadied his vision, looking at it with a certainty that only he had. This mass of rubble and destruction was all that was left of his home. He stopped and sat down on the dirt near the ruins. His mother had been murdered in this house, and his sister’s body found. It wasn’t a home to him anymore. It was just a ruin of hell containing haunting memories of his failures in life. He began to weep once more. It was his fault. It was all his fault. His father had been blamed but, in his heart, the boy knew he was to blame and that he was, and must continue to suffer through the punishment he was now suffering. Punishment for the death of his mother, for the death of his sister, and the total incarceration of his father. He must be, and was being punished for it all.
There was a rustle in the distance. The boy looked up and saw a soldier not so far away, aiming a gun at him. The boy smiled and lit another cigarette. The reason for the shot didn’t matter, as long as the aim was straight and good.
“BANG! BANG! BANG!”
A smile of relief appeared on the boys face as he fell from his previously sitting position, his cigarette falling from his hand. He looked at the bloody holes in his stomach, touching at the blood and rubbing it between his fingers. His smile had not vanished for he was ready to welcome death, be it long or short. For him, the horror of his life was at an end. As he lay back welcoming death, the gun fire continued around him as too did the screams that followed. Again the boy could fell the pain of the people around him and he began to wish that death would quicken its visit to him. He looked again at his wound which now, through his dying eyes, did not seem as fatally bad as before. In anguish, he looked around at the other bodies, looking for something, anything, to give him release. Not far from his eye sight was the dead body of the soldier who had shot him and still in his hand was his weapon. Using all his energy, he reached for it, finally locking it in his fingers. Again he began to smile.
Silence came over everything as the shot echoed over the murder field. Those that were still alive came to see what had happened. As they looked in the direction of the gunshot, screams rang out as they saw what had happened.
Before them, lying alone on the dirt floor, was the body of a small child who must have been no more then ten years old. His stomach contained three bullet holes, his head contained one.
Tears of grief flowed for the horror they had just seen and the survivors realized that the war was not so important to condone the death of a child so young and innocent. No religion, no government, and no law could ever justify the murder of this boy and this alone was why his sacrifice was not done in vain. Those that remained began peace talks and treaties that resulted in a more peaceful nation, at least for a while.
War can never be conquered for human greed pays to important a part in it, but still I have hope because if a ten year old boy could give himself death for the want of peace, I pray someday we too may have such courage and bring death to all the fighting so we might embrace our greatest reward…