The Last Man Rescued
The Last Man Rescued8 mins 456 8 mins 456
Almost all the villagers had gone. I could watch them crossing the road and gathering around there. The army truck was standing there on the road beyond the last farm of the village. Soldiers were helping the old people climbing in the truck as well as bundling their belongings and putting it in the truck. The overloaded truck passed and left the rest of the crowd to wait for their turn. In a while, the second truck arrived and people rushed into it. As that truck had gone carrying people and their stuff, another truck came. This cycle had been running at the foothill in front of my eyes for the last seven hours.
We have vacated four villages and this one was the last one.
I had orders to stand on the roadside and kept an eye on the people until all of them would have gone. We were standing there with guns in our frozen hands as if we were also got frozen like rocks. All day, Sun was showering solace over us but was now exhausted and wanted to hide behind the great mountains.
After the terror attack occurred last night, it took a whole day to vacate the village inhabited deep in the Valley. In the bone-shattering winter of December, Even standing there still wasn't an easy task. We had orders that the whole village should be vacated in a single day. And we proudly had completed the task by the evening.
And then, I and my companions had been sent to search for the last time.
I kept the pointy end of my gun right in front of my nose and we passed bending our backs right next to the rugged stone walls. It was our duty not to leave any villager behind. Many dark places in the abandoned village could have bombs hidden beneath landmines and many Armed-adults could be there as well since many of them had conspired with terrorist organizations. Therefore, being on guard was necessary. The whole village should have been evacuated before another terrorist attack took place.
Those deserted houses were no longer belong to anyone. The village looked like it had lost its soul. Many people had left their goats and hens behind which were now bleating and clucking at our back in the fear of death and trying to wake up the dead walls of houses. The cold winds now started grasping our throats and jaws. We were vapouring the steam out of our mouth as we gasped while climbing uphill.
We had searched half the village and finally came to the ravaged part where the blast took place last night. It was a seminary where they hid the bomb. It was almost collapsed but some Urdu letters were still standing strong with the wall. A hundrend villagers were killed and some of the bodies might have buried under debris.
Walking on the debris and perhaps their bodies, we've reached the last stone-wall of the village. There were also houses at the downhill, other side of the wall.
Instead, going ahead, I decided to look through rifle-scope. As I put my eye on the telescope, I saw a man. He was sitting against the clay wall of the cottage. He was staring at the sky with his closed eyes. By his clothes, he looked like a villager but I didn't want to take any risk. We have already lost many of our brave soldiers.
I gave a signal to my companion and decided to go to the old man, separately. I sent a soldier to the right, and two to the left and I moved forward. If he was any danger, It was better to cluster him around.
But the captivated old eyes couldn't even realize that the tip of my gun had collided to his neck. He opened the eyes, unconcerned and turned right. His red face was covered with chicken-pokes and looked so terrible.
"Who are you ?" I shouted popping my eyes out.
He just stared at me without giving any answer.
"Do you live here ?"
He didn't even respond this time, he kept glaring at me as if his eyes were stuck on my face. A terrorist after finding us around with guns couldn't stay still like this. Perhaps, he could have attacked us till now. But he did not look like other herdsmen. Yes, something was going on behind those red eyes. I had faced many dreaded enemies but for the first time, I was afraid of someone's eyes.
"Do you belong here ?" I brought my confidence back.
"Yes !" He gasped.
"Hands up !" I should have given this order before, but my year's old experience shooked in front of those hollowed eyes covered in flabby flesh. They were telling the sad story of some destruction.
"Both hands!" I commanded.
He frowned, there was no fear found in his eyes. First time ever, I found my gun so powerless. But after a moment he raised his right hand. "Are you deaf? both hands I said."
He just ignored me. There could be a gun in his left hand so I moved two steps pointing my gun to his head and I peeped ahead. There was no gun. In fact, his left hand was badly wounded and bloodstained. I dropped the jaw and put my gun down, smiling at him while other soldiers were guarding us.
"You have been shot. Why didn't you go with other villagers?"
"Look at me. Who'd carry me there ?" He said. "They all left me here to die."
"Don't you have your own family ?"
"Family?" He laughed and stopped, coughing as it ached to do so. "What is it ?"
"Your wife, your son ?"
"No wife but I had three sons."
"Where are they, They left you behind ?"
"They've left me long ago." He said.
"What do you mean ?"
"My eldest son, who had been bribed and driven by his greed, got along with those outsiders. I heard, a soldier like you shot him dead. The other son was good one, clever though. He prefers to become a messenger of your soldiers, Ashfaq was his name. Six months ago, those barbarian outsiders pierced him with bullets."
I gulped. "And the third?"
"Oh, I am a father. how can I lose him? I instructed him that you'll neither take bribe from outsiders and nor to be got paid by soldiers for spying for them."
"And what happened to him ?"
"He also left me." The old man let out his pain with breath and pointed to the front. In the last corner of the croft where the lonely pickets stood. There was a corpse of a child about thirteen, lying in its own blood. And the blood was dried over the ground, yet, the body was not stinking. He must have been killed last night in the blast. For a while, I couldn't take off my eyes from the corpse.
In the last few months, even after seeing hundreds of corpses, There was something strange in that dead body that seeing it quickened my heartbeat. As I hinted, A soldier quickly ran to the body.
"Stop ...!" The old shouted. "Let it be so."
"You can not stay here. This place is not out of danger, yet." I tried to explain.
"You guys go away from here ... ... leave us alone ."
I turned and glanced at my companions and sat down on the knee, next to him. Grabbing his right hand which was still shivering, I said: "Come with us.. to the Army camp, we will cure you and we will fulfill your last rites your son's soul deserves."
"And why should I trust you?"
"We are not terrorists, we are soldiers."
"What's the difference between you and them ?" The old man said glaring at my uniform and the gun. "You come ... they come .. we do not call anyone, you fight .. they fight .. you fire the bullets, they throw the bombs and our sons...." He breathed in, looking at his son's body. "Our Sons die."
For a moment, I kept looking into his eyes. I could explain to him what the difference was. Maybe I could give him the right answer or maybe I could tell him the history of these territories and terrorists. Perhaps, I could. I have all those answers which I've heard a thousand times. I could tell him that we came here to save you and those monsters will kill you anyway. But he was dead with his son. Even by saving his old life... He could not be alive again.
No matter what, I couldn't see him bleeding...
I handed my gun to one of my companions. then, gripped the old man's back and lifted him over the shoulder and began to walk. My fellows were walking around us holding guns. Guarding us. As we were going out of the village, I felt like the burden on my shoulder lightened.
After all, we crossed the hill, safely. The sun had gone. The white mountains now began to appear black giants. There was a truck standing down there and In the headlight of the truck, a soldier was waving his hand in the air. There was no villager left. All of them had gone. Just me and my companions who were desperate to go to the camp.
But the old man, lying on my shoulders, was still looking at his devastated village. I was glad that I brought him along with us alive, but I was scared too ... I don't know why .. maybe because I brought something dangerous along with him .... many unasked questions and many unstated answers.