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It's the children that suffer...

An excerpt from my book, Twilight Visitor, illustrates the effects of war upon the innocent.

It was a beautiful sunny morning with fleecy clouds floating on the air currents high above.

The sun was an incandescent ball of yellow, hanging torpidly in the otherwise deep blue sky.

Sitting idly under a vagrant tree, six-year-old, Vahid, and his three-year-old sister, Sahar, were quietly passing the time. Around them stretched the semi-arid and vacant land which they called home.

Vahid glanced up at their house, a one-level stone and clay structure which shimmered in the distance as the morning sun heated up the desert sands, causing the air to ripple and undulate.

They lived on the tip of the Great Salt Desert, the Dasht-e Kavr. Their small settlement was located twenty kilometers southwest of Javadubad, a remote outpost from which his father commuted every day, to his place of work - an oil refinery in the middle of nowhere.

Vahid’s eyes panned over the expanse of arid land to the south, listening as he did to the moaning shrill of the wind which effused them. His senses were tuned to the nuances of his world – having grown up on the edge of the desert itself. The subtle sounds of creatures were as sensible to him as the beating of his own heart. A rabbit scurrying away, its legs thudding into the dirt; the pronounced cry of a hawk or the howl of a wild dog, all of them were part of his very nature and he knew them all.

It was the wind which he loved most – for it spoke to him in a myriad of voices. There was the angry wind, the torrent of truculent air which charged across the vast domain, threatening, powerful and yet beautiful. Then there was the soft musing of a calm and gentle zephyr which caressed the land, like the soothing touch of his mother’s hand. The wind was more than wind to him, it was nature’s music, sometimes a low lamenting wail which seemed sad and aching; other times it came as a high-pitched whistle which conveyed challenge and threat and stirred the adrenaline within him.

He loved the desert, and he loved the land despite his relative desolation, and someday, he would stand proudly alongside his father and help to milk the Earth of the black crude which it abundantly provided.

Vahid’s mother had admonished him to watch over his younger sister and to never let her wander off alone. The land was large and empty, and there were predators here and there. Even as he sat tapering the end of his newfound stick with his small pen knife, hoping to mold it into a spear or a weapon of sorts, Vahid maintained a watchful eye over his sister who played nearby.

The endless silence, except that of the occasional warm gust, or the squawk of a bird passing high above, was subtly broken by a noise he had not known before now.

His ears were suddenly alert. He listened while his sister continued to mold sand into indistinct heaps. She looked up at him with large brown eyes and a slight upward curve of her lips and then resumed her play.

The discordant sound came again, only this time there was a slight tremor which shook the ground.

Vahid stood and walked from under the tree, his eyes searching the nearby hills and the distant desert sands, and again it came, this time like an ominous and muted roar, more distinct and more disturbingly invasive.

As he scanned the horizon his eyes fell upon a sight which shocked him, as strange machines and a wave of men suddenly crested a distant hill and charged downward in the very direction where he stood.

Behind him, he heard a scream. He turned to see his mother waving frantically at him. Bearing down on the very spot where she stood was yet another wave of machines and men coming from the other direction.

Suddenly the terrifying thunder was upon them.

The explosions erupted with such a shock wave that Vahid was thrown to the ground.

Batteries of shells and bullets screamed above him, cascading into the ranks of men and machines in both directions - with a violence which blistered his ears.

Frantically, he crawled, then got to his feet and ran back to his sister, her small form standing erect as she stared wide-eyed in abject terror at the raging battle.

Vahid dove for her, knocking her to the ground just as a volley of high caliber slugs scorched the air where she had just stood.

The rumble and roar of cannons, and the overwhelming concussion of endless rounds of shells echoed and filled the otherwise silent desert, turning a once calm and peaceful land into a pure and living hell.

When the battle between the Persian forces from the north, and the approaching Chinese from the south, had halted, the explosive thunder could still be heard as it rumbled down the corridors of that empty land.

Tanks lay smoldering, as did other artillery, and all about, in the wake of that short encounter, lay the decimation of broken bodies.

The Chinese commander stepped from his armored vehicle and quickly assessed the carnage. The small Iranian force had been quickly dispatched, but he knew that more would soon follow.

As he called for reinforcements, his eyes fell upon the two small bodies, clustered together under a nearby tree; their forms entwined in a desperate attempt to survive the fury which had struck their home; a young boy and his sister lay dead.

The Commander sighed. It was not his proudest moment. But as always, his only defense against the humanity which screamed at him from within - was that the innocent were always the unfortunate victims of any war.

Réal Laplaine

Author of Break Out Books


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