Civilians In Wartime







Ezra Azra
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© Copyright 2024 by Ezra Azra
Photo by Mario Mendez on Unsplash
Photo by Mario Mendez on Unsplash
 
 Identical twins young adult sisters, were foraging through the forest for wild fruit and other foods. They did this regularly ever since the war began three years ago. Because of the war, there was a shortage of everything, especially this far away from the front lines. Their small baskets were far from full. They spoke in near-whispers, a first instinctive choice of everybody because of the war.

Strange.

What?

We have come here more than once. So why does everything seem new to me. To you?

I do not know what you are talking about. It is the war. This constant fear in me is causing me to see just about everything differently every time.

It doesn't look as if this place has ever been a battlefield. There are more berries than I remember. We will not be hungry for days. But let us not stay long.

Where are all the animals? We have not seen even a rodent.

No birds is a bad sign.

Could those enemy soldiers be killing them for food?

No animals is not all bad. The last animal we saw was that wild cat in the trees. And it looked like it was stalking us to eat us.

Yeah, I remember. So sad. I thought it looked cute. Sometimes.

We should stop foraging this far. Now that our Prince has been ambushed and killed by civilians, enemy soldiers will dare to venture far and wide to dance in joy to murder civilians like us.

The death of our Prince has nothing to do with it. The enemy soldiers, fighting thousands of miles away from home, must be hungrier than we are, most of the time. Let's rest a little.

Curious.

What?

The vegetation. I've not seen this kind around here.

What kind? Isn't all vegetation supposed to be green? Itís all been here forever.

Shhhhh! Creep closer.

Who are they? So many.

Moving so silently, and quickly.

Are they ours?

They must be. This far inside our country. You see uniforms? I donít.

No.

Stay still until they have gone.

I hate it that we forgot to bring our swords.

We do not have to wait. They are going the other way. Letís go now.

Hear that?

Singing?

Our national anthem?

Which one? We have more than one.

Sounds like the one thatís more of a hymn.

Coming this way.

Should we kneel?

Why?

It's the anthem.

Anthems are for standing tall; kneeling reduces us to less than what we should aim to be. Anyway, whichever one it is, we are safe.

Only one person singing it.

Who is she?

Should we show ourselves?

No.

She is so sad.

We cannot afford to get involved. We have nothing to share. Let us go.

Which way? She is in our way.

We wait.

A long wait. She is sitting.

Perhaps we should follow that group. We will find a way around her.

She is praying.

She is not our problem. We have to go.

You go. I will be along.

I cannot go without you. Dad and Mom said we should never separate.

Dad and Mom would have tried to help her.

Dad and Mom would still be alive had they not been so willing to help strangers.

Okay. Okay. We will help by waiting here. We go to her if she needs help, which she does not need right now. Hear that?

Yes.

Voices. People are coming.

Fast. From behind her. Down. Get down.

Sounds as if they know her.

Sounds as if they are happy they found her. Can you make out if they are ours?

They have to be. She was singing our anthem. We should show ourselves.

No. Letís follow them for awhile. They are going our way. Theyíre civilians.

Okay. Come on.

If they are on our way, why havenít we seen them in all these war years?

Perhaps they have fled this far away from the war from somewhere very far away.

We are in serious trouble if they have already found that shack of ours.

What trouble? We found it by accident. Thereís nothing of value of ours there. If they have found it, weíll just leave it to them and move on.

With our swords in it?

I forgot.

To come this way, they must have passed the shack.

Not necessarily. You are forgetting that we did not come here directly from the shack.

What do you mean?

That dried-up river bed. Remember?

Of course I remember. We walked along it in search for water.

Did we get there straight from the shack?

Oh. Okay. I remember.

If they, like us, came here by walking along that dried-up river bed, then it will be a frightening coincidance if they turn to walk a little way up that mountain and go to the other side where the shack is.

So, we have to stay behind them to find out.

No other choice.

And if they make that turn where we came down off the mountain?

We just keep walking along the bed.

I half-wish they make that turn.

You donít want to return to the shack?

Not really, but I have grown so attached to it.

Weird. We are identical, and yet to me that shack is just another one of those pointless wartime take-it-or-leave-it choices.

Hold it; I think they are stopping.

Retreat slowly. We donít have weapons.

You go. I will stay to see if they are coming back.

What happened?

They rested, and then turned left, and went away.

Could you tell why they turned? When we came this way, there was no better turning anywhere along the way.

I could not tell.

Could they have seen something better?

Or something worse coming this way?

I think we should make a silent dash for the river bed. When I was back there beyond the trees, I saw rain clouds coming.

Letís go.

Rain might bring back water to the river. We might not be able to cross over back to the shack.

Epecially since we will be walking up river to get to that mountain.

Why can I not remember just where in the shack we left our swords?

Hear that? Something big is coming here.

Turn left. 


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