An entry in The Crocodile Prize
People’s Award for Short Stories
“DIN! Din! Oh my god! Din, please talk to me! Talk to me please! Say something! Come on man, say something!”
“It’s no use sergeant, he is gone, we lost him,” came the comforting voice of the soldier standing at my side.
“No! We did not lose him,” I said, hoisting the body onto my shoulder and heading for the chopper.
That morning, although the sun was gold in colour with lots of promise ahead, I woke up with the fear that this day could be my last.
Lying in bed, I thought of mum, how she’d be standing at the airport craning her neck over the crowd to see was disembarking from the PNG Defence force Hercules.
A kick on my butt brought me back to sense.
“Wake up, sleepy head, you don’t have all this time to dream about your beauty queen.”
That was my elder brother’s playful voice. Din and I are in the force together. Mum disagreed on our choice of profession and wanted me to take up another career but I loved and admired my elder brother so much I wanted to be with him.
So I signed up. Mum had no choice but to accept. All she said was, so long as you and Din are safe and sound I am happy.
“Come on now, on the double,” said Din and he threw my helmet to me. I caught it. “There you go!” he said and tapped me on the shoulder and walked away.
I put on my helmet, picked up the M16 and walked to where the other platoon members were standing.
“All present?” came my elder brother’s check call. We echoed in unison, “Yes, sir!”
“Then here are the orders for….”
There was a loud bang and a bullet hit one of our guys in the head.
We fell to the ground and slipped along on our bellies to the nearest cover.
There were some minutes of silence before we spotted the enemy moving towards us through tall elephant grass. These rebels had been fighting each other over the copper mine.
We were deployed into their territory to maintain peace and to see that the outsiders working on the island were safely evacuated.
The civilians and outsiders appreciated our presence but not so the rebels. We had lost a few of our men already in the name of peace and harmony.
We aimed our guns and fired in the rebels’ direction. They responded with a hand grenade which landed in front of us.
“Grenade!” Din called, stretching for the explosive to throw it back. The grenade detonated.
“No!” I screamed, but it was too late.
“God help him,” I prayed and called his name.
Every time we returned from duty, we would be met at the airport with a welcoming band and eager families aching to see their sons, dads and husbands.
This time it was different. We were on an emergency. As the chopper whirled down to land, I could see the ambulance.
On the ground, the medical orderlies ran to the chopper with a stretcher. I ran after the orderlies as they wheeled Din to the waiting ambulance.
I was stopped abruptly by the doctor. “We will take him from here soldier,” he ordered.
Helpless, I stood and watched my brother‘s body on the stretcher hauled into the ambulance.
“Back to the base!”