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Casualties: A Short Story - Literature - Nairaland

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Casualties: A Short Story by rexxyjosh(m): 6:04pm On Feb 11
Hello Nairalanders, my name is Josh and I'm new here. An introduction, I'm a bibliophile with an unquenchable thirst for reading, a love for good writing and a lifelong romance with storytelling. I hope I can learn a lot from everyone here.

So, here's a short story of mine. Please pardon my limited skill! I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it. Comments are highly appreciated. That's enough talking now, here goes!

Casualties


Just for a moment, imagine you're sitting in a bus, staring out the window, the scenery streaming rapidly past as the vehicle surges forward. It is a majestic sight, hills towering oh so high above the arid flatlands. The areas straddling the asphalt expressway are covered with shrubbery. It is the middle of the dry season and the grasses are all painted brown. Trees of all shapes and sizes stand tall and proud and form a canopy, with the sun peering at you from time to time where a break in the foliage appears. But your thoughts are scattered like plastic bags disturbed by a tornado, too jumbled to enjoy this display of natural splendour. You've been having a hard time recently, your life has been upended by a cavalcade of turbulent developments. This is not the way you planned things and this thought fills you with disquiet and distress. People seem to have somehow noticed your dark mood, because the seat next to you lies empty.

Then a baby stands shakily up on his mother's lap and stares solemnly at you, the way only babies can. He holds your gaze levelly for a few seconds, then suddenly, he unleashes the most wondrous smile at you. It is the most captivatingly beautiful thing you ever saw, and it feels like the sudden endorphin rush after a hit, like a volcano erupting, like trapped waters bursting forth from a dam, like tortured lungs sucking in sweet air in small doses after being almost saturated with malevolent liquids. It reaches into the furthest, darkest recesses of your mind and illuminates it. You feel your heart creak to a start again. You wink and bobble your eyebrows at the child and the effect is marvelous. His smile spreads like golden sunlight across his cherubic face. He breaks out a chuckle and claps his little hands. You stretch a finger towards him and he grabs it with his hands, his touch like the gentle caress of a butterfly's wings, like the petals of a flower. With your other finger, you tickle his chin and he chuckles again and starts to gurgle joyfully at you. His mother smiles indulgently at you both, then goes back to her book. The child's sounds shatter your lachrymose state of mind and you can feel all the pain and sorrow, all the anger and frustration and disappointment draining away. You smile then, shakily at first. His answering smile engulfs your heart and renews it and you can feel it pounding. It is exhilarating. It feels like you've finally been shorn of a heavy burden. When you next smile at the little miracle in front of you, your smile is a lot more radiant. He has redeemed you, reanimated you. Like the Gabriel Okara poem, he has taught you how to smile again.

The bus slows to a shuddering stop and five men appear at the driver's side. After a few seconds of deliberation, they order him to open the vehicle's door and he complies. The men are brandishing guns and are dressed in full military uniform, except for shoes; they are wearing bathroom slippers. It takes a while for this fact to register at the back of your mind and your spine tingles in alarm, but you tell yourself that all is well. These were men of service, weren't they? Sworn to protect and defend from threats, both internal and external, right? Oh, how utterly, catastrophically wrong you are.

The men assail the bus like a particularly malevolent tsunami before anyone has a chance to cower for safety. They take aim at the driver and his head explodes like a pumpkin squashed with a sledgehammer. You can almost taste the coppery tang of the hot blood as it streams out like a fountain. The two front passengers soon become statistics. The bus windscreen looks like a glass canvas covered in crimson paint, and somehow the wipers have been turned on and are swishing back and forth, back and forth ineffectually across the glass. You stare at the twin hands of the automaton, petrified with shock, your brain unable to process the grisly scene you just witnessed. Then suddenly, you're peering down the grim barrel of brutal oblivion. Your chest goes into spontaneous, painful spasms and you hear yourself repeating some words over and over like a mantra. You hear yourself uttering these words over the riotous din of plaintive wailing and desperate invocations produced by other passengers in the bus. The terror and revulsion is tangible and the windows are fogged up by the kindling emotions. Somehow, your frenzied warbling induces a stay of execution and the gunmen move on to the next victims, the woman with the remarkable child and you think no, please no! The child is dragged away from her and her scream is cut mid length, ending in a wet gulp, by bullets in her bosom. She crumples to the floor slowly, like a sack of oranges, the blood forming rivulets around her blindly staring eyes and mouth. The baby emits a heartrending, piteous wail. The man-ghoul holding the baby produces an evil looking knife from his fatigues and before your horrified eyes, plunges it into the baby's chest again and again, each downstroke accentuated by the baby's spurting blood. You cannot hold back the bile rising up your throat and you collapse in a convulsing heap to the floor, retching until you think you must heave up your innards.

The gruesome, gruelling encounter lasts only a few minutes. Abruptly, there is silence. But this silence feels unnatural and ominous and is soon shattered by a soul-piercing keen. Belatedly, you realize that you're the source of the shrill wail. You stand gingerly up to your feet, peer down the aisle and try to see through the carnage. There are two other survivors and you suddenly become conscious of the fact that this bloodbath, while perpetuated by men with a morbid fondness for gorefests, was not completely evacuated of motives. It was too methodical, too callously casual to be without an agenda. It strikes you that you and the other two passengers were only spared because you were dressed and you spoke a certain way. You look at the bodies frozen in various postures as if posing for especially grotesque pictures and they stare back at you, with ashen faces and fixed expressions of horror, of shock and pain. You glance at the survivors, a man of about forty, and a matronly middle aged woman and you think Are we really still alive? Really alive? Did any of us really survive this? Can we travel through life the same way? The woman sits disconsolately on the floor of the bus, silently sobbing her heart out with huge heaving sobs. The man stares straight ahead with vacuous, haunted eyes, and you know the answer to your questions. Then slowly, he gets up and stumbles out of the vehicle and his erratic schlepp reminds you of the undead in The Walking Dead.

You sit down and peer out the window at the hills, shrubbery and woods again and a small shudder runs down your spine. The forest used to make you feel safe and peaceful, now it reminds you of sinister forces and unspeakable abominations and you wonder if you will ever feel safe anywhere ever again. It registers at the back of your mind that this is a heavy burden to carry throughout life. The murderers have ensured that you'll pay a hefty premium in exchange for your life. Because you know. Without the shadow of a doubt you know that you'll always hear the screams of the fallen as their lives were snuffed out like a fire trampled underfoot, you'll forever be confronted with the sight of the bloody windscreen and the mangled baby whenever you close your eyes, and anything you ever eat will be tainted with the taste and smell of blood. As the tears finally stream out, you realise that the gunmen left no survivors, only a comprehensive array of casualties.

3 Likes

Re: Casualties: A Short Story by rexxyjosh(m): 6:39pm On Feb 11
Thanks for your time, ladies and gentlemen. Please leave me a comment, so I can know areas where I need to improve. Thanks again.

1 Like

Re: Casualties: A Short Story by useful4us(m): 9:24pm On Feb 11
nice write up, if I didn't read this, I would have been a casualty (of missing a fabulous prose like this)

1 Like

Re: Casualties: A Short Story by rexxyjosh(m): 11:12pm On Feb 11
useful4us:
nice write up, if I didn't read this, I would have been a casualty (of missing a fabulous prose like this)


grin Thanks for the encouragement sir! Much appreciated.
Re: Casualties: A Short Story by Legitdimple(f): 12:18am On Feb 14
Hey rexxyjosh, I like your story line I must say it sent chills down my spine. Residing in the north and experiencing several religious riot especially with the constant kidnap cases on our roads,I really can get a vivid picture of these. Nice work!!!

1 Like

Re: Casualties: A Short Story by rexxyjosh(m): 4:18pm On Feb 14
Legitdimple:
Hey rexxyjosh, I like your story line I must say it sent chills down my spine. Residing in the north and experiencing several religious riot especially with the constant kidnap cases on our roads,I really can get a vivid picture of these. Nice work!!!


Those were the exact emotions I was hoping to evoke, and terrorism is a major theme. Thanks for your time and kind words. I'm glad you liked it.
Re: Casualties: A Short Story by Legitdimple(f): 4:23pm On Feb 14
rexxyjosh:



Those were the exact emotions I was hoping to evoke, and terrorism is a major theme. Thanks for your time and kind words. I'm glad you liked it.
You're welcome!!!

1 Like

Re: Casualties: A Short Story by Timmy2265: 6:34pm On Feb 14
Short and profound ........love it

1 Like

Re: Casualties: A Short Story by rexxyjosh(m): 6:35pm On Feb 14
Timmy2265:
Short and profound ........love it


Thanks and God bless you sir!

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