Despite the man lying dead before me, or may be because of that, I laugh at the thought, but there is no humour in the laugh, just disgust.
Yes. I have seen many people die; most of them far more gory and meaningless deaths. After all battles and wars never bode well for anyone, least of all those fighting them. That is why I think it would be very fair to say that death does not bother me at all, so long as I am not the one who is doing the dying.
Sudden flashes in the alleys of my mind.
Unbidden, unwanted memories intrude.
‘I don’t know anything sir.’
Clubbed down by the unforgiving butt of a rifle, the young boy is groveling in the dust He is barely into his teens. He looks so underfed that I am surprised the rifle blow has not killed him.
‘Please sir, I swear I don’t know anything.’
He has a jarring whiny tone and that typical Islander accent. He keeps saying ‘sar’ instead of ‘sir’.
That bugs me almost as much as the fact that I know the sniveling little cur is lying. He had to have known about the ambush. Those motherfuckers had laid in wait for us for at least an hour, if not longer. That much is obvious from the number of cigarette butts scattered around, especially near the windows where they must have hung around keeping an eye on the road in front of the school.
The cigarette butts lie intermingled with the plethora of expended cartridge cases scattered all around the classrooms and school courtyard. The sharp smell of cordite and gun smoke still lingers. It is faint, but there. Some of the bullets that had been housed in these empty cases on the floor have claimed the lives of my men. I know that I will be writing four condolence letters to their families when I return to the post this evening. It may even be more, if some of those wounded don’t make it. The thought drives a cold shaft of fury through me. I hate losing men. It makes me feel stupid and incompetent.
‘How could you not have known?’ I ask him. My tone is as cold as the ice I feel within.
Acting of their own accord my hands cock the pistol. It is a 9mm Beretta; a rock solid handgun. They say James Bond also uses it. I don’t know. I don’t even care. It is a standard Army issue weapon. I love the feel of it in my hands.
There is a cold metallic SNICK, as it gets ready to do what it has been created to do - destroy.
‘I will not ask you again.’ I hear myself tell him. I am still speaking softly, but there is a distinct warning evident in my tone. The finality comes through.
I can feel it.
The boy senses it too. I can see it in his face.
His groveling intensifies.
I am repulsed. And angry. His whining ratchets up my anger.
He is sniffing again and again. Tears flow unchecked down his dark, bony face. His nose is also running. The dust on his face is getting caked and streaked by the tears and the snot streaming out of his nostrils.
Parts of it spray through the air, mingled with mangled bits of bloody flesh, bone and brains, as the soft, blunt nosed slug shoots through him. They shower the walls and the ground as the gunshot echoes in the school courtyard.
The sound is low and flat. Totally unlike the Dolby enhanced sound you hear in the movies. Even so it ricochets through my mind, jolting me out of my reverie.