Mahender covered his nose with his handkerchief and squinted his eyes as he panned the entire field. Rotting corpses and mutilated limbs lay in hundreds strewn everywhere inside the blood stained grassy field. He almost puked at the overbearing scent that hung in the air. The thought of so many soldiers being burnt alive by an explosion of that sort made him cringe to the bones. The enemy had literally singed the troops with cluster bombs dropped from aeroplanes. It was a matter of concern how they landed up with the information of so many soldiers involved in the assault. Certainly some insider had to be involved in trading information with the enemy. The big question was, that person had to be with the troops to be able to forecast the accurate location, and if he did so, he also had to be among the dead for sure.
Mechanically trudging forward looking for any sign of life among the dead, before the whole field had to be set alight in the most bizarre form of cremation ever, he had to sneak a peep at each and every body that seemed to have some signs of life still in it. He wasn’t alone though. Several groups had been engaged in the arduous task and he was leading one of them. It had been more than an hour that he had been at the site. So, he turned back seemingly certain that no one with any hope of survival lay among the dead before being assigned to the flames. That’s when he detected some movement beneath a dense bush in a corner of his right eye. He looked intensely and saw the body. He ran towards the bush to take a closer look. The soldier was bleeding profusely from his wounds but was still breathing. Mahender blew the whistle for his team to arrive immediately. Within minutes they were on the job, extricating the body from the thorny bush and packing it off towards the ambulance. Mahender ran along with the stretcher, his heart still pounding at the thought that he had almost missed a life.
Mahender followed the ambulance on his bike as it drove along the treacherous road to the medical facility. As soon as the ambulance stopped, he rushed towards it erecting his bike on its stand. He was upset as none of the four attendants inside the vehicle opened the door by the time he reached there. Disgusted at their unethical approach, he pulled the latch open. His blood froze as he discovered the scene inside. All the four attendants lay dead frothing from the mouth and the wounded soldier lay motionless on the floor of the vehicle. He immediately called the persons posted at the facility for help. Just as they were pulling out the bodies the wounded soldier turned, the oxygen mask fitted on his face. Mahender drew his gun, but it was too late. In the heat of the moment he had missed hearing the air raid siren. People were scurrying for cover when he last saw them. He was thrown off as the bomb exploded behind him. He blacked out.
When Mahender opened his eyes next, he found himself in a hospital bandaged from head to feet. A nurse looked at him. At first he couldn’t open his mouth, the lips were shut tight. When he finally spoke, his words were mere babbles. The nurse put a finger on her lips. He kept mum for some time, but soon curiosity took over. The nurse was nowhere to be seen. He closed his eyes and drifted off to sleep as the sedatives started working.
When he woke up next, it was night. A different nurse was rushing around some new soldiers. Mahender sat up on the bed with some effort. Seeing him the nurse came forward and asked, “Are you O.K.?”
“Quite much!” he replied.
“Good enough!” she said.
“What about my friends?”
“Most of them are dead,” she replied.
Mahender shuddered to think of them. Then he asked, “What about the man we brought in the ambulance?”
“Woman, not man!” she said.
“What?” Mahender almost fell from the sky.
“Yes! That’s what I heard. She was a local agent of the enemy.”
Mahender was aghast on hearing this. He again said, “Can I speak to her?”
“She has already been taken by the sergeant,” she replied.
“I want to meet him,” Mahender said.
“I will tell him,” she replied.
“Please do it fast!”
She went off immediately.
Mahender was admitted into a long hall in the medical facility. The girl was seated across a large table where the sergeant was conducting the interrogation along with several other officers. The girl showed no sign of weakness. When the interrogators got exhausted in their efforts Mahender was asked to continue.
He questioned her immediately, “How did you kill the attendants in the ambulance?”
“I filled their lungs with a gas.” She smiled as she said. Her totally indifferent approach to the interrogation made the task rather difficult.
“Do you want to see that yourself?”
She just made a gesture with her hand and a hissing sound ensued from somewhere inside her. Very soon the interrogators started feeling giddy.
“Open the doors immediately!” the sergeant shouted.
Somebody from the end of the hall opened up the doors. All of them ran out. The gas was absolutely venomous. Mahender went out of the door and looked behind. What he saw next froze his blood. The girl stood up from the chair and pulled at her hand cuffs. The hand cuffs gave in to the pressure. Then she kicked both her legs. They came off the shackles. She then ran towards Mahendra. He could hear the sound of metal clanking as she raced along the floor.
“She is not a human being!” shouted Mahender.
“Yeah! I guessed so,” the sergeant said.