By Muzammil Padiyar
The day was asking forgiveness, clouds were gazing through the top covering the whole world except horizon where the sun just began to gleam, birds were flying in a crowd approaching the sun, and cracking sound came in an interval within 5 to 6 minutes. Eric was walking down the road through an under passage. The silence was everywhere on the road. F-22 raptor, one of the best American jets was flying in the sky through the clouds. Eric heard its voice once but the voice became louder and louder for a moment when it passes just above him and diminished at the next when passed away.
October 2, 2004 (Washington)
A silence spreads out in the whole room where Eric was standing as a victim, his father as a prosecutor and the mother as a listener. There was no defense lawyer to protect him. Eric’s father wants him to join accounts work but his field of interest, pulling him down to the journalism.
The word journalism whenever do appear, the only thought came in, the hard and nuisance job for any graduate student. The wage too was not well. Eric resisted a lot not to say anything but a moment arrived when he had to. He broke the silence in the room and told his father that whatever and however the worst interest he had, he will pursue it.
July 24th, 2016 (Aleppo, a city in Syria)
Eric arrived in Syria to cover important news about the war statistics and its effect on the lives of the natives of Syria. A cameraperson and an assistant were the only companions with him in the most horrible report covering. Eric was not ignorant of the death of more than 153 journalists there but the only thing felt courageous was that he did not want to accept his father’s decision and want to prove him wrong.
Although, clouds were everywhere the day was hot. Eric walked down the road for a few minutes. The place appeared not unlike graveyard with just a single difference,
“Exposed dead bodies”
He got horrified when saw a number of dead bodies, dull, burned, and broken. The corpse of old lads, woman, and children among many was less than 6 years.
Their bodies got rotten, smelling so badly that before reaching closer to them, the assistant vomit. Cameraperson was trying hard to take the pictures. The scenario engraved guilt and lost humanity.
Birds were biting their skin; much of it already gets off from their bodies. Insects were crawling all over them. Eric took out his handkerchief, put it around the nose, and try to get near them. It took time and enormous effort to reach closer the dead body of a child seems like 5 years old.
He didn’t have an eye, maybe picked off by some animal, hairs filled with mud, the bone down from the elbow could be seen easily, the whole flesh from there chewed entirely and the legs folded like a mattress. Eric imagined the boy’s face before the bomb dropped by US- Russian alliance mistakenly.
Their statement of dropping a bomb by a mistake might seem ‘just a mistake’ for the people living far away from there, sitting on some chair or sofas, either reading the newspaper or watching television. The city but ended with 89 innocent killings.
Eric touched the forehead of kid, the much of which already sunk inside. The fierce and calm hand of Eric trembled first time in his career. He asked himself,
“What is the mistake of this poor little kid?”
“Who is responsible for his death?”
“If someone is still finding him, watching from the window, waiting for his arrival”
“Why am I here instead of someplace where I couldn’t ask myself such trouble making questions?”
Eric was writing his notes about the condition of the place; cameraperson was taking photos of those rotten, half-eaten, flesh exposed bodies and the assistant was sitting far away from the bodies on a rock. It was hard to describe every piece of information because the face of the dead child came in front of Eric and flickered through tears. Eric pulled a cigarette out of his pocket and smoked it. After acquiring no relief but more stress, he decided to get back the place where he was staying from the last day. Cameraperson and assistant were more delighted to get out of the place than Eric was.
The day went with nothing more but just a few pictures of dead bodies by a bomb, which was usual in Syria those days. Although Eric knew, such thing went there every day, but could not stop him not to think about them anymore. They were staying in an old camp of US military.
It was hard for Eric to sleep that night but still, a little nap helped him to begin the next day, work positively.
They left base camp at 10:00 am. Lieutenant asked to send a soldier or two with them but Eric denied. Passing a few blocks, they entered the city area. Houses were all down like never stood before.
Militants already shifted the remaining alive people to Damascus, the capital of Syria. Eric walked here and there, sometimes inside broken houses and sometimes outside the empty streets, crying from inside.
Paul, the cameraperson was busy taking pictures of some broken pieces of the window and the assistant, Rick, the only fellow who did not even know what reason brought him there was sitting on a table, looking at the painting, down his legs.
The day was less hot than the previous one with the low voice of sirens and jets.
Suddenly, a voice of coughing approaches from an old wall. Eric terrified for a moment but then tried to get near saying,
“Is there anyone”
A boy started running. Eric chased him when deducting that the boy seems not more than 12 years old. Time did not allow him to call the rest of two but he assured himself about them would hear the footsteps on the silent path and will follow him. Eric’s whole attention was on the boy wearing long kurta and pajama.
It was not that much hard to chase the boy, merely took less than two minutes to grip his hand, and turned him around. No doubt, Eric was panting heavily but the hold on boy’s fist was enough not to let him escape.
Bright teen face, blue eyes, which have rarely seen in such region, small cut below nose gets already coagulated, maybe no one paid attention to the injury.
The more, the time was passing, the impact of the negative impression attained peak between people of one section and the whole world. The zone where Eric stood was the most beautiful place in its time. A split took place between government and people, and the part declared a war zone. The boy was looking peaceful and innocent just like the children who should never see what the boy was living and feeling.
The boy tried to lose his hand from Eric’s grip by allowing his next hand to press effort but the little innocence in him was unaware of the ‘power of adults’. The power which allows such a thing happening.
“Listen, I am not hurting you”
Before Eric could finish, the boy said something in the Arabic language, which was impossible for Eric to interpret.
“Don’t worry; I am here not to hurt you, just need your help. What’s your name?”
Eric was trying to convince him but the boy was just reciting similar words in Arabic. Terror was all in his eyes.
When the boy started crying and begging, Eric loses his hands, sat down on the knees, put his hands on the boy’s waist, and tried to figure out how to tell him.
“Emotions are the best stories written, needs no language to show.
God knows who wrote them but a human knows how to read although.”
Eric sweeps down his tears, which might build some of his trust in him. The boy did not stop reciting those Arabic words. Meanwhile, Paul and Rick came along breathing heavily.
“Who is that boy?” Paul asked panting heavily. Rick too was looking at Eric for an answer.
“I don’t know”
Eric said with regret.
“What is he saying?” Paul asked.
“Do not kill me,” Rick said without looking at Paul and Eric. Both of them were unaware if Eric would become a meaningful person in their investigation.
“Everyone is best building his own talent shrine,
No one can prove it until and unless except time”
Rick after listening to the boy, looked at Eric and Paul, said with the low tone,
“He is begging us not to kill him. He did nothing. He was just protecting himself. He doesn’t want to die”
The three remained silent under the cloud approaching towards west. A big jet flew above them. Maybe people could hear the boy, maybe that could change their mind and maybe that could end up all this. Rick went with some Arabic conversation. Paul stood with the camera pointing towards the earth. Maybe situation faded him too, tired him to make any video.
Rick translated what the boy said. Every word of Rick pinched Eric’s head. Eric’s body temperature rose and fever captured him.
Eric needed medicine the most. He started remembering his mother when the boy was defining his. The small boy was less talking and more sobbing with fear. All three watched each other’s face. All they could see was hopeless, cruel, and terrorizing humanity. Suddenly, a voice of sirens and jets starts approaching them. After passes over, at a few distances, another sound came,
Another bomb dropped. The boy stood in front of Rick, sat down, and lowered his head. Eric watched the boy. Before he could lift his eye from the boy, another voice came,
The boy ran towards Eric and grasped him tightly. Eric was in an utter confusion and so were Paul and Rick. The suspicion of saving the kids life came on saving their own. Rick tried to calm the boy. It took time but before some more time, a bunch of militaries approached them. Eric heard them saying,
“Get down on your knees”
He sat down. Rick and Paul too followed him but the boy felt more comforts behind Eric and he concealed there. The military came closer. Eric, Rick, and Paul showed them their ID’s. One of them ordered Eric and his fellows to stand. The same one asked Eric,
“Who is this boy?”
Eric looked at the boy grasping his shirt tightly and said,
“A child, I guess. I think he lost here”
A militant-held the boy from his arm and pulled him. The weak grasp of Eric’s shirt went away. He said,
“Don’t worry. We will take care of him. You all need to get out of the place right now. The situation is no more okay here”
A militant handed the boy to one of his friends and asked him to leave. He was crying loud, saying something in the Arabic language. Eric did not ask Rick because he knew the emotions of that kid.
28th July 2016 (Washington)
It was nearly dark with just a single lamp brightening the whole room. Eric was sitting on a sofa, writing a story of the boy he met with. He was describing the innocence of the kid, wanted to show the people the extreme reality of Syria. Somehow, his belief in humanity existed. A voice came,
It was a sound of the fax machine. Eric put down the notes and pulled the paper out of the machine to read,
“From Rick Schwinger,
We should not leave the boy. The kid was right when they were taking him away. He is dead. They killed him.”
The paper fell down from Eric’s hand and so did humanity.
About the Author: Muzammil Padiyar is the writer of a novel ‘Worst to Write’. He is 22 years old and considers himself a passionate storyteller.