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Through the Shadow Across The Sky
We could clearly hear gunshots everywhere. The patriots were marching down to the village gathering soldiers and medics for the war they were planning. I could sense how increasingly intense it became as they knocked on each door. They were preparing a huge army to fight off the British. According to my helpers who bring my medical supplies, the head of the patriots are using young teenagers as soldiers. They were spreading rumors that they, the younger ones, could succeed where older fighters had failed to achieve the goal; a goal to create America as an independent country. I shouldn't have chosen to be a medic. I never believed I would fix the injured ones to prepare them to fight once again.
Knock, Knock, Knock. There was a loud banging on the door. The American soldiers got impatient as people resisted them. Now I learned not to argue with them. They forced neighbors to move but I was not going to be their underdog. With a fake smile upon my face, I opened the door quickly on the third knock, and asked, “How are you doing, sirs?”
The one who seemed the oldest replied with a grunt, “I heard that you were a good doctor and in this war we need doctors to fix up the injured!” There was a hesitation in me. I knew if I said I didn't want to go they would force me to, but I didn't want to volunteer. I didn't want to be labeled as the American's side nor the British. I just didn't want to be part of this war. As my mind was whirling around crazily with agitation, the old man screeched with his bony finger pointing at me saying, “We don't have all day! Get your things!”
“I will go. I will help the Americans,” my voice came out rather strong and calmer than I thought it would be.
“Then get out of there and ride that cart you see there,” he was pointing across the street.
“Yes that one! The one with the two horses pulling it.” With that, they left me. Trying to figure out what had happened few seconds earlier, I stared blankly at my hands. I heard the harsh men do the same to my neighbor. My heart, bit by bit, started pounding as I heard little children crying, “Daddy don't go! Daddy no!” I was glad I had no young ones of my own. It would be terrible to rip their hearts apart by leaving.
Before long, I bolted right up to my room that I might never see again. I gathered my tools and medicine, snatched my pen and pencil, my bag, and stuffed my clothing into a duffle bag as quickly as I could. Then I was back at the door of my house.
In the cart there were faces that I recognized. There was the baker, there was the architect who built most of the things for the village, and there were a few women, too. But most were the doctors that I knew from before. The well-educated people, who were all forced to help in war, were talking about the abuse of power of the American army.
As I was helplessly agonized with figuring out what would happen, my ears were awakened by a piercing shriek coming from the very edge of our village. It was where a family lived. They were trying to take underaged youths to the war. How disgusting! However to my surprise, it wasn't the boy crying and holding back, not wanting to go, it was his mother.
“No! You are not taking my baby!” His mother screeched with irrepressible tears coming down her face.
It was that incident that shocked me the most. The boy hollered back at his mother, “Shut up!” His cheeks were burning red as amber as he staggered a little bit, and trembling, took a step toward the soldiers. His mother stared with her face quivering with shock at her boy. He sturdily walked passed her. The soldiers coldly held back the mother as she vulnerably reached for her son. My fist was trembling with anger as he came up on the cart. I had to control my impulse to teach the kid about showing respect for his mother. What is that? Is that a tear coming out of his eyes? And yes I was right. Indeed the boy was crying. I couldn't stop myself from walking up to him and calming him down, telling him that everything would go the way it should. What made me approach this boy even more was that I could relate my feelings with him. I felt the same pain when I had to witness my mom leave for heaven. I made a promise to myself that I would protect this boy, no matter what.
“It's going to be a long ride. It will take us four days to reach our destination,” informed the soldier. By his action, sucking his finger with grease all over his mouth, it seemed as if he had been eating chicken or a meat of some sort. We had been starving since the beginning of the trip. No food, just water was allowed. My mouth watered with saliva as I pictured myself eating chicken. Time flew by, no it would be more accurate to say that I had no consciousness to keep track of time. I asked my fellow doctor beside me, where we were. He opened his mouth to reply, when the high and clear sound of a bugle horn blew. The stampede of galloping horses that rushed toward us with full speed was very close to getting us. Only lit with moonlight, we couldn't even figure out who was coming.
“We are under attack! Prepare to fight! Take your muskets out! Kneel in a position from which you can shoot easily! Fire when I signal!”
A sudden panic ran between all of us. It was like being stuck by glue on the ground. Everyone was paralyzed.
“Wake up!” Roared the commander.
With that, the soldiers did what they were told. They jumped off the cart and created a thick wall of muskets. The enemy stampede decelerated forming a large construction of army. Everyone was just waiting for the commander to say something. The commander walked up to the leader of the army and talked to him. I guess he was asking what the problem was. I knew that we would be sabotaged in no time by this immense army. If I were the commander I would just give up. Then I saw this huge fatherly grin that the commander had on his face.
“Stop everyone! Put down your muskets!” Our general told the soldiers to put down their weapons and explained the situation. I was confused and relieved because everyone was laughing. I couldn't wait to hear the news. After a few minutes the news spread quickly among the soldiers and at last, to the very back of the line of carts, where we were. “The reinforcements arrived! We're blessed, thank the lord!” People yelled out and some prayed to God to thank him for bringing reinforcements. But me? I was thanking him that they were part of us because if they weren't I probably would have died right then.
We approached the war ground a few days later, as the commander told us we would. Deep in to the sandy ground, our feet went and as we looked around the place, there was no life that could survive the condition. The ground shook harder and harder and the tension grew bigger and bigger as the British approached. The commander calmly arranged the soldiers row by row, and smiled triumphantly as he gave encouragements.
“Hey, come here,” a doctor from the tent whispered from the back. All the doctors were already gathered up underneath a large tent, deciding who would take care of what. I announced, “I will take care of the stitching and giving ointments.”
“Fire!” with one word, the commander reshaped the whole atmosphere into a white piece of paper with red paint all over it.
In the hospital, there was a profusion of deadly hurt soldiers ranging from those who had a scar to those who had passed out from pain. I held up my tools in the slight sunlight and helped the people, then looked up at the sky and realized it was already full of stars. Precious time was running away from me. I choked on the air I was breathing in when I saw the poor boy I promised to protect. He had his whole left side of his body grossly cut open. One of the eyes had been stabbed, and was bleeding uncontrollably. He was luckily carried by another soldier as soon as he got stabbed. The boy was unconscious. I got this weird tingling feeling that I never got when I was curing other boys. This kid felt like he was part of my family or something. With this uncertain feeling inside me, it was hard to concentrate but I wanted this boy to go back to his mother alive. I had to rescue this boy. I had to. With all the other doctors' help, we brought the boy back to life. Sadly he was paralyzed from his waist down and we would have to put him in a wheel chair. He also had to see the beautiful world with only one eye.
This unmanageable boiling rage and hatred was inside me. I hated all the people who caused this war. I hated people who brought young boys into this war. It was not only ruining the boys' lives but their families. Day by day the boy's cut was reopening and his immune system was failing. The boy's health worsened every day. The day came when the boy breathed his last breath. During this rowdy show of killing, the boy went to sleep even before the show ended. Forever. I decided to fight for him. What could a weak doctor, who had been even forced to come against his will do? But I found the only way to spread the word about this never-ending tragedy, to fight for myself was to write down how sad it was. So I chose to stay and fight and keep a journal.
The army divided into two. The civilian patriots without uniform marched up and the well-trained American soldiers stayed behind the gigantic hill.
“Shoulders, march!” commanded the civilian leader, the army yelled back, “Shoulders, march!” They arranged their muskets on their shoulders, and made their steps closer to the British. I was one of the brave soldiers who was part of the civilian army. We could hear the thudding footsteps of the British marching towards us. The soldiers marched up about 50 meters. The commander yelled,
“Patriots!” and soldiers copied back, “Patriots!”
“Halt!” They stopped and watched the massive British soldiers approach. The armies faced each other. The American soldiers shot first.
“Take it!” yelled the civilian commander. Everyone pointed their musket towards the British.
In a second many of the British soldiers fell defenseless. Unclear with all the gunpowder flying in front of soldiers, everyone was staggering for a while. Soon, the bullets flew out of nowhere and soldiers on both sides fell to the ground. As there were twice as many more soldiers in the British army, twice as many more people fell to the ground on our side. We continued this until they saw the British Cavalry all the sudden.
“Charge!” they yelled. The ground shook as if there was an earthquake. It galloped towards us. There was no hope for us to win this war.
The commander yelled “retreat!” The whole army started running down the hill. The triumphant faces of the British soldiers were too proud and bright to even glimpse at. They slashed down the patriots with their swords as if they were stroking small tree branches. However when they reached the bottom, the well-trained soldiers who remained behind prepared their muskets. The civilian army that was fighting with the British up the hill slid down and ducked underneath the muskets of the uniformed patriots. The bullets flew over them. Not British bullets, but patriots'. It was a trap that the American army had made. One of the patriots was waving the flag high and proudly ran across the field. The soldiers were so determined to save our country. They ran into the muskets of the British so that the person behind could shoot safely. How could they do that? It made me think deeply. It was like a structured set of actions that seemed to be perfectly timed. Our cavalry group galloped towards the enemies. Each with their swords proudly in strong grip. They were going straight into the fight zone. As patriots cut through the thin air, charging toward the British, the line of British soldiers started breaking down. God was with us.
We pushed the British towards the ocean. The British cavalry fell back. However when the soldiers went up the hill, they saw that there were still hordes of British soldiers left. Our line started to break and the patriots fell back and retreated with doubts about going back. When the commander saw this, he grabbed the flag off a soldier who was running back. He yelled, “No! No retreat! Hold! Hold! Hold!” as he yelled this to every uncertain man who was running back, the miracle happened, the Patriots followed the commander in the the war zone. The uniformed patriots joined the civilian army and they fought furiously. The patriotic drums and the pipes made me proud to be part if it. The beating of the drums raised our spirits. That made the British Commander finally blow the horn of retreat.
Cheering, I hugged a soldier beside me. Then I quickly realized that there were lots of people lying on the ground. A few of the cheering soldiers picked up the injured to get them back to the hospital tent. I was desperate to save them all, to share the joy of victory with them. I looked around to get the most severely injured to take them in first. One who came into my vision was a boy who was lying on the ground crying for help far away from our base, out in the war zone where there were still a few guns being fired. I dashed at him. People tried to hold me back, but they couldn't stop me. I got on a horse that had been wandering around. It flew over the fighters who were cheering with glory. I had no idea that there were British soldiers who would try to kill as many people as they could before dying. I picked the boy up and loaded him gently on the horse. I guided the horse towards the tent.
Bang! A sharp sound came from behind and everything went black. Where was I? What happened? Was I dead? Panic and fear went around me inside the blood vessels carrying small bits of worry to every part of my body. Then as my vision blurred and started to return, I felt the blood pumping out of my heart. The excruciating punch in my body wouldn't stop! There was only one way I knew what would happen, but I was afraid of it. Inside me a voice said, “Come on. You can do it! Get up!” but another voice said, “The pain, you can't resist it! It went through your heart. You can't go back to that body.” I looked around. I saw the concerned soldiers carrying back the wounded to the tent where the smell of blood lingered in my nose. I wondered if I looked like the patients I treated. A strong grip on my shoulders and my legs lifted me up into the air. I grabbed the area around my heart where there the bullet was. I closed my eyes. I had to accept it. The ringing in my ear stopped.
With a jolt, my eyes opened. I felt no more pain. It was a bright morning. I was alive. I was on the cart going back to our hometown. My friends kept me from joining the dead. Things happened so quickly and ended so fast I was confused.
Years have passed since the war ended and all that is left to symbolize it is a shield with a flag tied to it flapping in the wind, atop the highest peak.