ON WRITING

“It’s very easy to quit during the first ten years of writing. Nobody cares whether you write or not, and it’s very hard to write when nobody cares one way or the other. You can’t get fired if you don’t write, and most of the time you don’t get rewarded if you do. But don’t quit.” Andre Dubus

JOIN YOLANDA RENEE ON HER BLOG TOUR!

Tuesday, 25 March 2014

Through the eyes of a child - my story for the March WEP challenge.


There are many children in the world whose lives are far from optimal. Some experience various types of abuse on a daily basis, some are trafficked for sex, some are used as beggars…and the horror goes on. In warzones, children are often stolen from their families and trained as child soldiers, trained to kill. Others remain with their families, but whole families seethe with hatred against the enemy...who don't always understand they're the enemy.

My story is creative fiction - partly true...partly fictional...


The Child
                                                   

The Muslim call to prayer rang across the Baluchi Valley, punctuating the silence with staccato bursts.

The dogs began to bark. The child gentled them with a light tap on each head.

He slid behind a rock on the mountain side. The desert spread below him, a dark blanket. He strained to watch the procession snake along the path.

Hate seethed through every pore of his grimy body. Filthy infidels! His fingers closed around a rock.

The patrol moved close by; he could see each soldier struggle through the cool sand. They were like cockroaches as they wriggled along. How stupid they were in their great big boots. He looked at his bare feet and smirked.

Then his smirk turned to alarm. There was a woman amongst the men. Infidel, he spat.

***
Elvira fought the exhaustion ripping her body apart. The lead soldiers were obviously fitter than she, a newly-arrived recruit. Her knees screamed, her thighs burned, her lungs were on fire.

This place was hell.

She was in another universe, a universe where nothing was as it appeared.

Who was friend?

Who was foe?


Elvira was on covert foot patrol with Australian and Afghan soldiers.  They were outside the wire; they scaled rocky hills and walked through exposed valleys under the pressing weight of body armour and supplies. She hadn’t yet acclimatized to the blistering temperatures. The altitude was another unwelcome foe. Everyone had mastered the elements…except her.

She lost sight of the soldier in front of her. A rock lobbed nearby, narrowly missing her helmet. She tripped and fell onto her knees, groping blindly in the darkness.

She felt the eyes, but couldn’t see more than a shape jump behind a rock. Not Taliban. Too small. But aren't the Taliban just kids?

No one stopped to help. In uniform she was just one of the guys.

She forced one leg to follow the other while she prayed for sunrise.

***

Captain Broadhurst signalled with a soft whistle. The desert revealed the shapes of the Bedouin Kuchi camps. Too close. The order for complete silence came down the line.

Silently they moved on towards morning.

A police checkpoint. 

They had nothing to hide, but checkpoints could be tricky. Best avoided.

No one even breathed as the patrol crouched and duck-walked close to the ground, swinging their weapons from side to side, holding tight.

Then it happened.

A screech soared through the darkness; a huge spotlight shone down, bathing the party in blinding white light.

‘Drescht!’ They froze like hunted animals, clutching weapons to their heaving chests.

Two policemen yelled orders. Elvira didn’t understand the language but there was no doubt what they wanted. They motioned for the soldiers to stand where they were. They stood statue still and identified themselves, all the while knowing they could be shot right where they stood.

Someone yelled ‘Australians!’ The police muttered to each other, nodded their heads, then motioned them on.

Further into the desert.

‘They were skittish because yesterday they had a firefight with insurgents in Kakarak across the river,’ whispered Private Esperance, the soldier directly behind Elvira. ‘Thanks,’ she whispered back, but she didn’t feel any better. Now her eyes saw insurgents behind the rocks, across the river, into the hills.

She was weak with the terror of what had happened - her first taste of danger since arriving in Afghanistan. 

Another rock. This time it hit her in the knee.

She lurched forward on legs that would no longer hold her up. Her knees were screaming, so she fell out of line and sat down in a dry patch, sucking huge gulps of air. Not for long. She was terrified of being left behind in this unfriendly terrain.

She trudged on. I’m here to help these people. I can’t give up.

***


The sun broke through the mountains into the valley and lit up the shock of green land they were heading towards, the green belt.


Something flickered in Elvira’s peripheral vision. She swung round and saw a small boy, no more than six years old, shepherding his family’s goats through the green fields. He’s the one I saw earlier, she thought. More children in brown tunics peeped from doorways of rammed-earth homes, motionless, watching the patrol file past. No, it could be him...or him...

Over walls and through aqueducts, they waded towards the village of Sorkh Morghab. Here coalition forces had built a school, market and medical centre, yet it remained a hostile village.

They wandered through the market, apparently casually, weapons held across their chests. Men and young boys indicated their shops and tried to sell Elvira a burqa. She was just a woman to them after all, one who should cover herself.

***

A little boy approached Elvira, hand outstretched. He was only a child, about six years old, but when she looked into his eyes she saw an angry man. Was he the one who'd been throwing rocks?  She shivered. 

Private Esperance pulled her back. She pushed him away. 'I've got this!' she hissed.

She reached into her pocket and pulled out a chocolate bar.

He smiled a toothy smile but it didn’t reach his old man eyes.

He watched her, eyes flickering over her desert camouflage.

The child reached into his pocket and pulled out a large apple. Elvira smiled at him. No words needed. Children were so innocent; how the children suffered in wartime.
 
She reached for the apple, then saw it was black with age. It looked rough and mouldy. It could be mistaken for a - it couldn’t be - he was only a child…

Nooooooooooo…!’ someone yelled, a voice full of pain and regret. 

Private Esperance.

Elvira felt the sting of fire on her lips.

She tasted the fire as it burned down her throat, slithering to her belly.

She heard the screams, the staccato bursts of gunfire.

She heard the cry of a child…





WORDS: 986


 Please click on the names in my sidebar to read more on this prompt, or you can visit Write...Edit...Publish.


44 comments:

  1. Powerful piece, Denise. Awesome opening sentence, just sucks you into the landscape. I loved the tension and conflict throughout. Very sad subject matter, very real. Thank you.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Hi Denise .. as Jenny above - something we don't understand at all - so well written ... and something I couldn't do I know. The thought of fighting ..

    Yet the 'wars' here .. the young girls are being made to carry weapons and drugs for criminal gangs - as young as six ... around England .. what is the world coming to ..

    I could feel I was with Elivira as she patrolled through the desert - very well written ... cheers Hilary

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes, the world is a sad place for too many...

      Delete
  3. Your excerpt completely took me there into that world. Didn't really feel like reading or fiction. Very hard hitting piece, Denise.

    All too familiar these conflicts and the hostility, and children drawn into these situations, completely losing their childhood. Beyond terrible.

    I also found your use of the word staccato in the context of the azaan intriguing.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes, Nila, I imagine you've more of an understanding than I have.

      Delete
    2. Back for the second read, and as always, read and understood more than the first. In a way this feels like a kind of mirror-image antithesis to the Eden story, the arid terrain, the apple motif, the male offering the fruit to the female, instead of the other way round. Fascinating.

      Delete
    3. You are exceptionally clever Nilanjana. I'm glad you picked that up. We know how that first story ended...or began...

      Delete
  4. I like the description of the child's bitter, resentment in this piece interspersed with indications of why he should feel so.

    ReplyDelete
  5. I felt so bad for the child here...what a powerful piece...

    ReplyDelete
  6. Very evocative, Denise. Showing the fear on both sides that makes us consider someone else our enemy. We forget that not everyone grows up the same.
    Hope to see you tomorrow when I post my entry. . .

    ReplyDelete
  7. Unreasoning hatred is the true enemy. There are no children in war -- just victims -- if their bodies survive, their innocence does not. Great entry.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes Roland. War forces children to grow up fast.

      Delete
  8. It's a sad, sad world we live in - and you illustrated that all too well. Great job, Denise!

    ReplyDelete
  9. I really enjoyed reading this, Denise. As someone who lives in a third-world and Muslim country, I have special insight into how they view "invaders," and why they see humanitarianism as bullying and covert imperialism. "Abandon your ways, be like us, or we'll force you." Westerners can't understand third-world people who refuse to be "enlightened." All I'm sure of is violence isn't the answer.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes Lexa, you're right. And western motives are often suspect.

      Delete
  10. Wow. How powerful. This really woke me up this morning!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. A bit of a heart starter...thanks for visiting.

      Delete
  11. Wow, I think this is one of your best pieces yet on this blog. You had me right away and the way you showed the diverse points of view so seamlessly was very well done.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Lisa. I've been playing with it for a while. Inserting a child's POV has made it more interesting I think.

      Delete
  12. Wow, that piece hits the heart, and morality. World view can be so myopic, especially through the children.

    ....dhole

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Donna. All too easy to judge right and wrong in these conflicts.

      Delete
  13. A very powerful piece of writing. The last few sentences had my fingers going to my mouth as I gasped out loud!

    ReplyDelete
  14. Oh, no. So much in such a small piece. I'm still shivering...

    ReplyDelete
  15. What a powerful and well-written post. Such emotion in it.

    ReplyDelete
  16. Very strong imagery and emotions with this piece, well done Denise!

    ReplyDelete
  17. So sad, and sadly realistic. Excellent writing!
    Sorry I've not participated, but other things have taken precedence, hopefully I'll get back into the grove soon!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Have missed your WEP posts Yolanda, but hopefully your schedule will allow some more soon!

      Delete
  18. Hi Denise,

    Powerful and painfully poignant. Through the eyes of a child. So much sad truth amongst your fiction.

    Gary

    ReplyDelete
  19. Whoa, Denise,

    This really hits you with a powerful blow. Well done. Such a emotional piece. Your writing is really taking on world issues with a sensitivity and urgency.

    SO nice to visit and read again. The eye problem kept me aways for so long. Hope to visit regularly again...

    I'Ve SOOOO missed out chats.

    I finished the finals on BG... which is no longer BG... Had to change the title. It's new name is Portrait of a Teenage Military Brat. It's come a LONG way....

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I've so missed your chats too Michael. I liked Blinded Gardener, but the new title will probably be better for catching the eye of the target audience.

      Delete
  20. Well done, Denise. Won't be forgetting this one anytime soon.

    ReplyDelete
  21. Sorry I haven't been participating in any of your prompts recently. I've been too busy with writing and my blog seems to be extra full these days. Call me crazy, but I did sign up for the A to Z Challenge.

    Your post is so sad. Memorable, but sad. Good job! And I hope to participate in WEP again soon...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Chris, I understand busy. Anytime you can, you're welcome to post for WEP.

      Delete
  22. Very powerful. I think it's easy to turn a blind eye to this sort of thing and pretend life is rosy for children everywhere. The truth is really startling. Great writing!

    ReplyDelete

Please take the time to share! I love hearing from you! Hit me with your wisdom!