"Welcome, ladies and gentlemen, to the Great War Memorial Building."

The chatter of human voices dies down. Their echoes take a while though.

"We have gathered here today to celebrate the first anniversary of the victory of our beloved nation in the Great War." I continue.

Applause!

Nothing left, but dust...

"Welcome, ladies and gentlemen, to the Great War Memorial Building."

The chatter of human voices dies down. Their echoes take a while though.

"We have gathered here today to celebrate the first anniversary of the victory of our beloved nation in the Great War." I continue.

Applause!

I look down from the podium across the hall. My eyes meet men of the military, standing unusually erect in their uniforms, high ranking government bureaucrats in their shining suits, major political figures and all their pretty ladies. Even the President and his wife are here eagerly waiting for my next words.

My gaze then, shifts to the gallery above. Sitting there, are many wide-eyed journalists and photographers with their lenses ready. Everything said and done in this building tonight is being transmitted live all over the world – or at least what’s left of it after the War. There is no room for error tonight.

"Exactly one year has passed since our great nation fulfilled a huge responsibility towards mankind. Our nation took upon itself the noble task of cleansing the earth of evil. For many years before and during the War, the heavens trembled at the cruelty and brutality that was unleashed upon man by the Enemy. But our nation, after many sacrifices, many failures, overcame the Enemy."

I pause for effect.

"And victory was ours, ladies and gentlemen."

Everyone in gathering raise their drinks into the air and lets out a cheer. Cameras flash wildly to capture defining moment.

I see the medals of war shine like stars on the chests of the men in uniform, the suits of politicians strain to contain their proud chests, and how the ladies’ faces light with joy.

"I was there, ladies and gentlemen; I was present at that very moment…"

Their faces show that they are proud of me.

I take a deep breath and continue, "…at the very moment that the War ended. When justice triumphed over sin, when virtue won against cruelty, when good overcame evil."

They cheer me on.

"But then, I think why did we win the War? Was it because we were good? Were we so righteous that we had to win?"

My audience is puzzled.

"I still remember that day. At 0300 hours, two comrades and I were ready for what we thought was a routine sortie, but the briefing changed it all. The wing-commander told us that we would be flying deep into enemy territory that day. We were to be accompanied by five other aircraft as cover."

"We were handed the coordinates of our target. It was the second biggest enemy city. City!!! Why were we flying over a city? But 'Theirs not to reason why, theirs but to do and die'. I was to drop a payload over the city. Then return back as soon as possible through another route. We were told that our mission would be the final mission in the War."

The crowd is listening intently. I keep a straight face.

"Our hearts raced as we approached the city. Its towers and skyscrapers were shining brightly in the night. I could see the ocean, glistening on its outskirts from the cockpit. It was time…"

Everyone in the hall is catching my every word.

"I pressed the red button. In a few seconds a shock wave shook our aircraft violently. I could feel the heat on my face. The sky was glowing red. That’s when we realised that our nation had gone nuclear. Within few hours the enemy surrendered unconditionally. It was all over… victory was ours."

Their faces show a hint of a proud smile as I finish those words.

"I was promoted within the Air Force; and also received the Nation's Heart, the highest honour that I could have dreamt of." I feel the medal on my chest as my heart thumps within.

"Later that year, after it was deemed safe, I visited the bombed city. It was the first group to visit that place after the War. I was very well prepared to hear cries for help, to see hands begging for mercy, bloodshot eyes oozing hatred, vilifying me..."

"But, ladies and gentlemen, all I saw was dust." My voice had grown dim and remote.

"But, our hands are not blood-stained…" I say forcing my voice to rise.

They all cheer; that is what they want to hear. They want to remain convinced that we were right in obliterating millions of innocent lives from the face of the earth.

I can feel the flashes of cameras hitting my skin.

"...not because we were righteous…" I interrupt.
"...there was no blood left to stain us."

"I went, ready for the smell of dead flesh; but there were no carcasses to welcome me. I went, prepared to be showered with hate but there were no skulls to glare at me in hatred. The ground was all rubble for miles and miles… I just stood there watching the destruction all around me. There was nothing left, but dust."

I am now gripping the podium with both hands. My hands are trembling. My entire body is sweating. My whole being is hot with rage… How could we have done this? How?

"I do believe in the Creator." I say slowly but clearly. "But if this is the task he set for us, for me… then I question His benevolence. How can the Almighty Lord see us massacre millions and yet let us live without any repercussions?"

I look up at the crowd. They are stunned. They didn’t come here to be told that they are murderers!

"We are not righteous…" I continue, nodding my head.

"You say that they didn’t deserve to live… Do we? Did we burn an entire city of innocent men, women and children, who didn’t even have the chance to see their death staring them in the face, to save the world from evil? Was it the command of God as we all believe?"

The President is glaring at me. Everyone wants me off the podium and the microphone but no one’s forced me yet. I’ll go on…

"I pressed the button that day; that I did… I’ll never forget that. But God doesn’t punish man for his deeds; man has to do that himself…I will have to press the button again today…"

The crowd stares at me bewildered as I put my left hand into my trouser pockets. They do not know what to make of my ramblings. They are just waiting for me to burst out laughing, as if this were some prank I was pulling. The entire world is watching me now, I know. I close my eyes and breathe deep.

"We don’t deserve to live…" and I press the button.

Within seconds the whole edifice of the nation’s 'victory' in war crumbles to the floor. No one survives…

There is nothing left, but dust…

2 Responses:

sathya said...

Nice one definitely had a peak before the climax. But,thats not repentance if thats wat u wanted.....

and wats wrong in obliterating a city when u can get away with the act

Phaedrus said...

It does not reflect my idea of repentance in any form. Its just about a man who does what he thinks he must do.

Be careful your last statement almost justifies suicide bombing. :)