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Call of Duty

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They had grown up together. In the bustling city of Berlin, 1926, two seven year old boys had found solace in each other’s company; in a world where no one had time for each other. Oskar and Kohain. The former, a native and the latter, a devout follower of Judaism; they were indifferent to the cultural prejudices of their time. You would never find one without the other, like two slippery peas in a pod, they only needed each other to grow, to learn, to play, to be happy.

Thirteen years down the line, their friendship was invaded. By the callous dictator in reign, Adolph Hitler. Oskar timidly knocked on Kohain’s door, a grim expression etched on his face.
‘’I know that face, Oskar. What’s the matter?’’
‘’I’ve enlisted.’’
‘’When will you be back?’’
Oskar shrugged, ‘’Might be a while…’’
Kohain knew. No objection would hold Oskar back, so he said, ‘’You have to come see me, at least once, and that’s an order, soldier.’’
‘’I promise. I’m heading out tomorrow.’’
And with that, Oskar departed and Kohain knew he’d never see him again. Or so he thought.

War did a lot of things to Oskar. It strengthened him yet pulled him further and further away from humanity. Surrounded by harsh, German brutes, he had become part of the cruelty and bloodshed that was war. “The British are our enemies and so are the Jews!” “Down with the Jews!” This was what he had become a major part of.

Bright, sunny mornings were rare in Berlin. On one such ”bright” morning, Amon, the nastiest soldier to have been recruited, approached Oskar with news from the Fuhrer.
“Seems like some Jews have been getting out of line and we’ve got the pleasurable task of silencing them,” Amon said, with a leer.
“Where to now?” Oskar asked, mechanically.
Amon slipped him a paper with the address. Something about it hit Oskar square in the middle. It seemed uneasily familiar.

They set out, Amon as cool as ever, excited at the prospect of another ”assignment”. Oskar, however, was a little disgruntled at the familiarity of the address, the place. He’d seen all this before. As they approached the house, the children playing in the front yard stared with horror and bolted in to warn their parents. Amon, with a smug grin, got the kerosene bottle, “sprinkling” the house as if it were a bride being showered with confetti.
That was when Oskar saw him. At the window. That was why everything seemed to hit him, hurt him. It was Kohain, only much older and haggard. Something played inside Oskar. He had been trained to feel nothing; to feel no sympathy, no empathy, no pity. Yet now, that part of him that he had shut away, the sensitive part of him, hurt relentlessly. He had a duty, but… It was his friend.

They stared at each other for what seemed like forever. Not one of them wavered. All Oskar could hear was Amon singing away to glory and the shrill cries evoking from the house.
“You going to burn this place down or do I have to?” Amon asked, looking at him impatiently, devilish delight evident in his cold eyes.
Oskar took out the lighter, contemplating. He gave Amon a strong look of contempt. Guilt and Duty were raising hell inside him, each side getting stronger and stronger with every step he took forward.
‘I kept your promise’, he thought, staring at Kohain and threw the lighter in the direction of the house.




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