(This is the first-hand account of another ordinary human being)
It was all calm and quiet (mostly because the orders were to stay inside and stay mum about our existence). The day was considered the enemy because it was not allowed to step outside, but the night became our friend. The nocturnal disguise helped us move around, shake our legs, meet with people and also discuss the next course of action. But where there is a reward, there is also a risk. A risk no one was privy of, only the guards who stood their posts knew.
One day, it just clicked, why not ask the guards, it was a daunting task. The elders had chosen me as their messenger and started prepping me for the adventure. Everything was set in order. Food, armour, camouflage, I was trained in the local speak to survive the harsh outside. The plan was set, I was about to become the rule breaker just because there were some questions to be asked and answers to be revealed. The path was tricky, but one that was necessary to take.
And so the Journey started, to the guard post. The first step was taken, the rules of safety no longer mattered to me. I still had to stay cautious as I had no clue what lay ahead, was it going to be the deadly spikes on every turn? Was it going to be a journey of solitude? Was I going to find new companions? it was all a mystery to me. Only my courage was with me and fear tried to creep in slowly.
The outside world was a very barren stretch of land, only the smell of death loitered around, with vultures up in the sky ready to chow down on anything that remained still. My journey consisted of three parts. First, I had to cross the treacherous mountains. Then, I had to cross the hot river of fire that flowed far away, and finally what the guards called “no man’s land”, only then I would reach the guard posts.
The mountains were a bit too spiky for my nimble feet, but a challenge is a challenge and this I shall complete. So slowly I trudged on, to cross the perilous path. Along the path, I discovered many things, some new plants, and some weird creatures. But along this trek, I felt something, it was a very harrowing thought that went through.
If I am finding this journey so hard, how many guards or other people might have been dead, or worse yet, devoured by the vultures. How many would survive this journey and come back just to become the harbinger of death? All this was running inside the brain, but the heart just kept on going and going further. Until the sun had decided to set himself down from space and bring the moon up for maintaining the balance of the sky.
I had to stop, take a break, and find a place to stay. It was becoming scary, the wolves were howling, bats were ready to drain out the blood, and I was there, all alone trying to light a fire. It was all safe and. sound, until I heard a loud rumble. There was a landslide nearby, and I was shocked. The mountains were as violent on close inspection as they look calm from far beyond. So, I decided to move along and find a better place for shelter. On walking a little further, I started seeing the bright yellow and orange hues of the river of fire.
Upon going closer, it felt, that the earth was angry with everyone. This yellow and orange fire was his wrath oozing out, ready to burn anyone who dared disturb him. I could see the places where his anger was less, as it turned black and grey over there but the heat was still deadly, and I had to cross it. All I could do was pray to the Gods above to bring some rain to calm the earth down. I sat at a safe distance and started chanting the local incantations that I had learned from the elders. Surprisingly, the gods answered my calls to calm, and it rained torrentially.
I could see the earth calming down, occasionally releasing a growl of ash here and there, but it became cold enough for me to walk. The wavy crust was trying to still consume me within its depths, but I managed to straddle across. And now, only one obstacle remained.
The “no man’s land” as it was called was a beautiful strip of sand. But it had its bag of tricks ready, it would explode anytime it wanted, anywhere it wanted. You could never tell when or where it was going boom, it was like I was walking on thin ice, ready to break anytime. I just stood there, figuring out a way to cross the explosive land. I could see the faint shadow of the guard posts but to reach there without any help is an adventure in itself. So, I had to cook up something before I could take the plunge.
I had an idea, why not pelt stones at the ground, and the place which breaks apart will be known to me. So, I started doing it. It was a very noisy affair but it was the only way for me to cross. I did manage to reach the guard posts but was surprised to see no one there, and then all I heard was a big thud and everything turned black.
Upon opening up my eyes, I could see men pointing their mighty guns at me. I thought I was done for and was scared that it will be the first and last time I see the outside world ever. The soldiers asked me plenty of questions about my background, where I was from and whatnot, they had assumed that I was an enemy spy that got caught in the crossfire. When I told them about the place I came from, they took me to their superior.
The Superior officer looked like a very wise old gentleman. But if looked closely, one could see the worries that were consuming him. He was curious, how did I manage to come this far, and why did I take this arduous journey, breaking all the rules. I needed answers now, so I asked him politely, why were we cut off from the world?
His reply was just three words.
“War changed everything”.
I tried to understand what he meant by this, he wouldn’t answer. I kept on poking him until I got my answers. Finally, he spoke, he told us, were the last batch of civilians left in this war raged world. If the war machine got to know about our existence, we would also be drafted into the ranks of hell, and they were trying to protect us by not revealing our existence. Our village was the sole point of finding peace. None of the soldiers could break their ranks due to their loyalty. Those who did are here standing guard against the threats just to make us survive.
I thought to myself, if we are surviving on this side of the line, there might be survivors on the other end too. Why not bring them all together and rebuild what we have lost, and this way we can provide and grow as well. I put forward this idea, the officer seemed to agree and said he would do what he can. But he urged me to go back to where I came from to avoid further trouble.
And so, with the answers ready, I began my return leg of the journey. Along the way, I wondered how it all would have been like in the past. Was the war that bad that we forgot our roots completely? What would have happened if the war never happened? What would it feel like to smell and breathe the fresh air of the flowers instead of rusted metal and rotting flesh? All these questions were ringing inside but I had no answer.
I reached back home safely, (or what I could call prison), told the elders everything and upon hearing this. They were delighted, that there might be a sign of life outside the walls as well, and it was a happy moment for all. For the first time, I saw smiling faces, instead of empty lifeless faces. Things started to look more vibrant.
Now, our village is a sprawling town, with people of many walks of life coming in sharing their experiences. The threat of war still looms over us, but we are well prepared now. I just thank the Officer at the guard post, for what he did for our survival. Sadly, the war consumed his soul, so I could only thank him in the prayers.
So, that’s how my adventure happened, and I’m just an ordinary human, like you.