The rain felt like stones pelting down from above. The two kids, who, a second ago had been frolicking in the puddles interspersed with the long brown grass of Jankaha, could now be seen scampering toward the battered outpost, their only source of shelter for miles together, a dilapidated tin roof giving them the hope of safety and comfort, in a world where neither was granted or even understood.
The kids were unperturbed however, the joy of the morning undiminished on their faces. Failing in their attempts to cover their heads against the downpour, the kids were still smiling when they reached the outpost, the cry of the rain turning from the patter on the soil to the gunfire against the roof. They cast their eyes towards the blackened sky through the tears in the roof and gazed at in awe, as if it were a sight to behold and not a forewarning of approaching danger.
Then, bored, they cast their attention to other interesting things around, within the confines of the outpost of course, collecting souvenirs as they found them: a shell-stone, broken colored glass, a piece of string. The outpost had no walls, whether by design or by accident, the kids couldn’t tell. However, the concrete lining at the floor was irregular, so it was likely that it was the latter. One of the kids kicked it, and a portion of the remains just slid off, probably made weak with time. The kid raised his eyes to look beyond; he could see the vast fields of Jankaha as far as his eyes could take him, the tall brown grass looking dull and muddy through the veil of misty white of the rain. There was not another soul in sight. They were all in hiding. In fear, he had been told, and had nodded in comprehension, although the thought had been alien to him.
War was a word he heard often along with bombings. Jankaha was part of the country Carane, he had been told and the enemy was drawing closer by the day. Inquisitively he had asked “Why war?”, but the elders never had a common answer. Each told him a different story, often contradicting what someone else had told him already. His mother had told him that they did not want him concerned with this, and hence they invented a story each time – but the kid was confused and had started to feel skeptical, although he wouldn’t have been able to define what he felt.
However, if there was something that the all the elders agreed upon, it was the Sovereign. This word was uttered most throughout the day, the kid had observed, much more than war. He could see his mother’s face light up when they got the latest news about the Sovereign. He was their only provider of rations after all, taking care of the people of Jankaha who had been driven away from their homes. The kid glanced at the square piece of wood covering the tunnel that the Jankahans had used, leading to his new home.
Deep, deep, deep it goes, his mother had told him, like a maze, taking us to many worlds. Ours being only one of them. Carane was full of this maze, the kid had been told, if you knew where to look. Not many did, of course. The kid now looked anxiously at his friend as he noted the passing time. The rain was starting to slow down again. The bird was late today. Still, it would be several more minutes before the droning noise of the bird would thunder in the now forlorn sky. The kids looked at the metallic body with awe as the bird slowed down, hovering just above the outpost, miles out of anybody’s reach of course. The kids waited expectantly, understanding the task at hand, and yet dreaming just a bit bigger, of driving such a bird when they were older. The elders would often smile sadly at these ingenuous beliefs, having dreamed and lost. The kids knew not of loss however and so they dreamed boundless, of piloting the planes, flying above the lands, the world beneath them. Interestingly, while at it, they thought not of the war that these planes were built for. Pristine or naïve, one would wonder – and remain wondering.
As if almost on cue, the plane was accompanied with another noise, this one being a loud blaring noise from the pole near the outpost: rhythmic, systemic, dangerous. The kids exchanged a quick glance. Time was running out. The bombing would start any minute now. The bird would be attempted to be taken down.
The plane dropped the supplies near the outpost, and the kids went hurriedly and picked them up. “Long live the Sovereign”, the pilot spoke as he gazed at the kids from above, while they pulled the rations inside the outpost and pushed it down the food chute. “Long live the Sovereign”, the kids repeated, down on the ground below, oblivious to the pilot’s words. They watched the plane disappear almost instantaneously, cracking a lightning of its own across the sky. “Look what I found”, said the other kid said to his companion, gesturing at his closed palm. Upon opening it, the kid gave a yelp of joy. It was a beautiful object – oval, metallic, small yet heavy. It was the best souvenir they had found so far. Giddy with joy, they decided to show it to the elders, descending down the tunnel and into safety as the loud blaring outside continued, not understanding how ironical the souvenir was.
Copyright 2016, Vaibhav Thombre.