It was dark all around me. Wherever I ran my eyes, darkness prevailed. I didn’t know where I was? I don’t remember how I came here. The only thing I remember that it was dark, darker than the night of eclipse and as silent as the dead.
Was I in some parallel universe or were my senses playing with me? I remained fixed at my place, but the more I thought, the more entangled I felt. The state of anxiety started clutching me; I was afraid and aghast at the same time and emptiness started enveloping me. I wanted to cry, but my tears refused to shed out and I felt choked, and my voice denied coordinating. Confused and exhausted, I lay down on my spot, gripped and pulled my knees towards my chest just like an unborn baby in mother’s womb; the only difference was I was restless.
I don’t remember for how long I stayed in that pose, I guess, I would have felt asleep. When I got up, it wasn’t dark, but kind of – gloomy. Though it was still hazy, but not that frightening.
I tried to collect myself up, my legs felt feeble and numb. It was cold, bone-chilling cold. Trying to recollect how I came here, I pushed myself up with a loud moan and tried to read what surrounded me. The visibility was still blurred, but I tried, I tried hard to throw my sight as far as I could with my tired eyes.
After some moments of excruciating exercise, I noticed something at a distance, something like a shadow. I was not sure what it was, it appeared diminutive, but I was certain that I saw a human figure. Suddenly, I felt a gush of warmth flowing through my veins, and I found myself leaping and hoping in that direction. The figure that I saw, was my only hope here, it was meant to rescue me – at least in my perception.
It was quite some time I was advancing in the direction of my hope. The sky lit a little now, it was shady and wherever I ran my sight, it was white sand and big rocks.
I don’t know for how long I was on the march, but it felt like an eternity. My walk lost all the excitement and was unbearably exhausted, but I was still moving. My legs felt heavy, but kept forcing myself ahead. ‘Can’t give up now, can’t stop’, I told myself and kept pushing my faith and my burned-out body.
After a few more weak steps, a shooting pain struck my thighs and I collapsed facing the cold white sand. It felt as if my lower body had been crumbled. My breathing was heavy; I stayed in the same position for some moments and let my lungs gasp some air, and then crawled towards my savior. I tried gripping stones and sand and tried to pull myself. But wait. This isn’t sand, it’s snow! The land which I considered to be covered by white sand was actually snow.
As a person, I have always admired the beauty of snowy lands and valleys, but here I was – trying not to die. ‘Am I in the heaven?’ I said this to myself and tried to smile, but my face felt paralyzed. Actually, it didn’t feel anything; I guess it was cold bitten.
‘…and you still have the audacity to joke around’, a voice in my head echoed. That was my logical brain, I guess. Or has the negativity started enveloping me?
“At least I am not in some wasteland”, I retorted to the voice inside me “and you are not fucking helping!” I let in a deep breath, pushing upper body with my elbows, I stretched my neck up. My savior was not far now, I saw him. It was a big-whitish figure. It resembled a bear. Suddenly, the iconic scene of the Oscar-winning Hollywood flick – the Revenant, flashed before my eyes where Leonardo DiCaprio was ripped by a bear. “Either way, I have to die” I consoled myself; “let’s take a chance”.
“Help…me…hel..p ple..se”, my words struggled to come out, I was choking. I already felt shattered, all I wished at the moment was to stop and let the destiny take over. Just then, the optimistic part of my brain did what it usually do in such circumstances, it asked me the reason for this long tussle. All of a sudden I found myself drawing in as much breath as I can, and with all the might of my lungs I yelled “HELLLP… HELP ME!” I sensed him reacting. He heard me, “OVER HERE…” I shouted again and tried to wave my hand, but I lost my balance and it was dark again.
Next, when I woke up, the bear was leaning over and was pouring something into my mouth. I started coughing abruptly. It was a pungent substance, might be some potent liquor. And my savior wasn’t a bear, he was a human. He was wearing a white-chunky coat and a white monkey cap. Some sort of eye-gear overlapped his cap and a big gun was suspended near his chest, some sort of assault firearm it was. And a badge on his white-colored garment proudly announced INDIAN ARMY.
He helped me sit and from the wooden flask in his hands, he poured the same pungent-potion in a metal mug and handed me. “Drink” he said, “this will prevent your blood from freezing.” I silently obliged. “How did you come here and why aren’t you wearing any wool?” he asked. I looked at myself. I was in my pajamas and had no idea how I came in the midst of a snowy terrain. I was trying to choose my words carefully, he had an assault gun, just shrugging and crying for succor won’t do. But before I could utter a word, he got up, extended his hand and said: “let’s get you to a warmer place, friend”.
He helped me get on my feet, but suddenly he released me and stepped back. Precisely, two steps; bent one knee and took a defensive position. I saw an alarming expression on his face, then his brows tensed and eyes went red. He gripped his firearm in a jiffy and pointed on me. I was completely baffled, and my heart pounded as if it would just jump off my chest ripping it any sooner. “I..please..no..” I was stammering; my throat dried out and words refused to come out. “Get on the ground. Now.” He commanded before I could speak anymore. My hands automatically went up in the air and I closed my eyes. Teardrops escaped my eyes and my knees trembled. I started getting down slowly, but before I could touch the ground, I heard a gunshot.
Silence. The only sound that greeted me now was the moans of the wind. I was expecting to see the death God any moment now, was ready to meet my creator. Maybe, He could tell me how I reached this place? But the chain of my thoughts was interrupted by other consecutive gunshots. But it didn’t felt like someone next to me fired all of them, some shots sounded to be fired a distance. I opened my eyes in an instant and saw the army man in the same position before me. He was not targeting me, but someone behind me. My hands were still over my head; I lifted my neck and twisted my upper body to peep and find what’s happening. I saw some men draped in black, their faces half covered and they too were using big-deadly firearms. I decked instantly, that was the smartest thing I could think of. That crossfire continued for a couple of minutes, followed by a long silence.
“Let’s move, it’s done” it was the soldier again. He was standing next to me now but was still gripping his gun firmly with one hand and was helping me get up with another, while his gaze was still fixed in the direction of the recent strike. While I was trying to get on my feet, I heard some people shouting and cursing! I looked around trying to find the source of that bawls. However, I saw no one nearby, but I managed to locate the source of that clamor. It was a window, a wide opening up in the sky. I saw some people standing there. I recognized some faces, they were already quite popular. I have seen some of them in television; movies and news channels maybe, some even resembled our politicians. Though they looked elite, they were yelling quite wildly. I was unable to understand what they want, but I got some words from their hoots, like “isolate”, “human-rights”, “killers”, and some swear words. However, my savior appeared quite unaffected. He seemed calm and ignorant like those voices were inaudible to him.
He supported me on his left shoulder; we turned around and began walking. We would have advanced only a few steps; I heard a gunshot again and both of us, me and the soldier, fell down. Actually, he took me down, because I felt as if he lost his control. He was partially over me and was quite heavy; we were facing the snowy earth. After few moments, I collected myself and managed to remove me from army man’s grasp. I was trying to get up again and noticed that those bawling sounds have vanished. Also, I noticed blood on soldier’s back. A bullet had pierced into the rear of his waist. I tried to shake him up, but he did not move. He was still breathing, but unconscious. I looked around for help but found no one in the vicinity. I looked above at the window, but no one was there. I cried for help hoping that someone from the window would look down and send us some aid, but nothing happened.
The wounded soldier lay before me and I wasn’t yet sure what to do. Suddenly, I heard something. A noise, a gushing sound that was constantly proceeding towards us. I turned my head in the direction of that sound and terror struck me again. A wild stream of water was rushing towards us. Before I could react, it washed us both, me and the soldier.
The current felt strong and kept pushing me down. I kept kicking water vigorously trying not to drown but kept drifting down. I was out of breath and couldn’t hold it for long. Finally, I gave up the scuffle and let water get inside me. But unexpectedly, someone got hold of my hand and pulled me up.
When I gained my senses, I was coughing beserkly and someone was rubbing my back to ease the affliction. I turned to see a man in the army uniform. I looked around and found that I was not alone. However, I was not in the same deserted-snowy land now, but it was still cold. It looked like a town, a well-inhabited neighborhood. Floods would have washed me here. There were many army men nearby trying to rescue and revive people like me, drenched and distressed. I looked up at the sky, that wide window was still there and some faces too, but none of them were looking at us. They were busy in either sipping something in stemware glasses or pouting and taking selfies with each other.
I turned a little and asked the man attending me in a low voice, “What is happening?”
“Floods” He answered me in a word in a steady voice.
“Bloody nature” escaped my lips with a frown.
All of the sudden, a mob came running towards us and from some distance; they started pelting stones on the soldiers who just helped us. Their faces were covered and they were shouting “Azadi… Azadi…” some of them even carried a green-rectangular piece of cloth with a star and new-moon drawn on it, which resembled the flag of our neighboring country. All of the sudden, some women and little kids came forward, and it seemed like they were leading the crowd. Although women were clad in burqas, I can gauge their panic-stricken gesture, while the kids appeared clueless. From the other side, some policeman came rushing. They had transparent shields and canes in their hands, charged and tried pushing the mob, but they appeared failing. The rioters were in hundreds, whereas policemen, who were already trifling, seemed to be a minority. Some unarmed soldiers too joined in, but no avail, they were still ineffective. The crowd kept hurling stones, and the cops and army soldiers kept falling and getting roughed up, finally they backed.
A few minutes later, some police personnel came forward carrying firearms that appeared like some fancy shotguns we watch in the movies, aimed the crowd and fired. It did not make any sound or recoiled, I doubt if it was even real, but the mob which appeared unquenchable and frantic little back, suddenly started running and escaping in opposite direction. Immediately following this event, the curses and hoots from the same wide opening in the sky stole my attention again. I looked up, the window appeared to be completely packed by now, and this time, they had some cameras too. They were yelling the same old rants, “human-rights” and “killers” etc. however some words sounded new this time, “pellet guns”, “innocents”, and “no jobs” were some of them.
I was kind of confused, unable to perceive that what these ‘window people’ want. Why were they creating a scene? They did not respond, didn’t even cared to twist their neck when I called for help when a soldier was shot by a ruffian. They were busy in partying and in their glittering lifestyles when people here were in trouble, when a disaster took over the land. And now, when these uniformed men were trying to help, are being attacked by an ungrateful wild-crowd and they are telling them to drop their defenses, lower their guards. They are preaching – no, demanding pacifism.
When a soldier was martyred, when people were suffering, they did not even care to show up. And now they have the audacity to question the forces, to prosecute them?!
Like always, their rants couldn’t set the troops back. But the constant bawling was frustrating me; their hypocrisy was making my blood boil. All of a sudden, I lost it. I stood up and started screaming. It was so loud that everything around me turned towards me and paused. The hooligans, the defenders, occupants of the window, the flood water – everyone and everything froze. While I was still screaming, an earthquake took over abruptly. The quake was so strong that it felt like the world would end any moment. SNAP! It was dark again.
I saw slayers, I saw saviors, and I saw prejudice. I saw bravery, I saw misery, and I saw hypocrisy. I saw bloodshed, I saw tragedy, and now another calamity. Was this the doomsday?
It was dark. Wherever I ran my eyes, darkness prevailed. But not for too long. A bright white light blinded me for a moment, I felt as if someone has poured something my eyes and it burned. While my hands covered my face and my eyes were still tightly shut, a voice addressed me. It sounded familiar, it belonged to my mom. “Son… son… what happened?” she asked repeatedly while shaking me. Moments later, when my eyes had well-adjusted to the glare of tube-light over me. I opened my eyes to find me in my bedroom, and my mother was sitting beside me. She appeared horror struck. “What happened son?” she asked and continued, “why were you screaming and… and why are cold?”
I was drenched in sweat and my bed was completely soiled. I was still in the state of shock and hadn’t had a drop of an idea to how to answer her questions. Maybe, she understood my condition. She obviously is a mother, hugged me gently and said: “don’t worry son; that was just a bad dream…”
“That wasn’t a dream ma, that wasen’t just a dream…” I said in a low voice while still in her embrace.