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Death-touched Pleas

By Carolina Franco
Edition by Matilde Freitas

War is not kind to the weak.

Actually, rectify that.

War is not kind to anyone. Not to the people fighting it, not to the people watching on the sidelines, not even to the people who decided to start it in the first place. War is unforgiving.

She knew all of this. Yet, when the time came, she still signed up to serve on the front lines as an Army Doctor. “I can make a change, I can help people,” she thought. Protecting her nation, her country - that was her goal.

So, the question she is asking herself at this exact moment is… When did things go sideways?

She lays alone on a crowded battlefield that seems eerily still.

The silence does not last long because soon enough the ringing in her ears gives way to the worst noise of all - death.

The sound of death can come in many ways: in a last breath, in whispered words in the ear of your favourite child, in a suicide letter where the words agonizingly slip through the lips of the unfortunate soul who found it, or in the reading of your testament.

Today it comes perhaps in one of the worst possible forms: despair.

All she could hear were screams. Screams of pain, screams of “retreat!”, screams of “save me!”; cries for a God that seemed to have given up on them long ago, pleas of begging souls that know they’ll be gone soon.

On the battlefield, death is a close acquaintance, always lingering around. Some beg for it, some urge it away. She takes them all, uncaring of their desires. She takes their souls and leaves their corpses as a trading coin, bleeding and burning and dead.

Death is a doctor’s nemesis, most of the time. They are destined to fight a forever war, as brutal as the Armageddon but one could argue there is no “good” or “evil”. The words she had previously roared with unwavering confidence suddenly felt stupid.

“Fight!” she screamed moments before the bomb hit. “Fight for your mothers waiting at home.”

Her words felt like “a ray of sunshine in a grey sky”, a soldier (a father, a husband - so much more than just a soldier) had told her in the dark of the night as she patched up his ruined leg. Another soldier (a son, a boyfriend) had told her she gave him hope. She could not muster up the courage to tell him he probably would not make it back.

“Today we live,” their commander hollered the night before. “If we die tomorrow, we will part with honour!”

Maybe he called it - it is not that hard to guess what happens in a war. Maybe he knew they would be turned into pigs in a slaughterhouse, human rights be damned. Perhaps, it was her fault for holding onto foolish hopes of a better future.

Nevertheless, she did not have time to throw herself a pity party, not when death-touched pleas sounded from all around her in a crude symphony of cries and pain. She rises to her feet and picks up her fallen gun from under an unrecognisable corpse - she did not dare look for more than a second, afraid she would find a friend. She buries the grief, the fear and the guilt.

War is unforgiving but so is she.

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