Dave woke up with a start. He, stupidly, had slept off at the post. But even more weirdly, the enemy was no longer to be seen. Hopefully, they had finally been driven away after 13 days. Dave got up and started searching for his mates. His friends seemed nowhere in sight.
He approached the canteen to see if anyone there had survived the attack. He leant inside the door, holding it to support his limp.
There was no one inside. He looked inside the kitchen and yet found no one. He was panicking slightly now. There was always someone – backup, youngsters serving the dishes and the clean-up ladies doing their work. Seeing no one, he decided to run to the nearest city.
As he was half-running, half-shuffling across the wide, brown muddy grassfields, he was stopped by a cow of giant proportions, a big black one. It seemed to be gesturing somewhere to him, rolling its head in a precise yet random order. Dave looked over to the place it was indicating. Unbeknownst to him, there was a jeep parked on the way, with a stranger on the wheel.
Overcome by an odd sense of attraction, he approached the tall, brooded figure that was at the helm. He climbed in behind the stranger and they left, off to where, he had no idea. They went north for how long he couldn’t comprehend, but when they stopped, the sun had gone down. They stopped at a farmhouse, abandoned and larger than life. He realised he felt rather hungry and weak in the legs, almost as if he’d walked all this way rather than ride in the jeep.
The stranger spoke in a deep, calm voice, “Your world as you know it is finished. All you know is nothing. Listen to me and nobody else, and you shall survive. My name is Blue. You can eat your fill in the third room inside, you’ll find anything you wish for. Eat quickly and meet me in the living room.”
As Dave stepped inside, he was stunned. The farmhouse was unrecognisable from the inside. It was a single storey weapons facility right out of a war movie. There was an oily smell to the whole setup, not very unlike the warehouse he’d slept in, before the war. He went further inside and found the canteen. He spotted his favourite snack, a bag of Tyrrells and a big bottle of Ribena. He ate and drank to his heart’s content and returned to the first room, where he found a couple of people waiting for him.
“Sit down by the hay, what I tell you now is very important, so listen carefully,” Blue ordered and Dave felt as if he was obliged to obey. He sat down and Dave introduced the other guy to him.
“This is Fred, he will give you everything you need. I will tell you what you need to know and hopefully, give you the courage to do what you need to accomplish. Now the thing is… most of your friends ARE dead.” He placed rather sharp emphasis on the word most.
“What do you mean, most?”
“Two of them have escaped, we are told.”
“Escaped? What do you mean, escaped? Who? From where? Were they captured? Can they return?”
“It is believed that it is two men, Dunn and Syd. They have betrayed the nation. They were captured while trying to join their kind. They have managed to give their guards the slip and run away from capture. Your job is to find them and kill them.”
“What! No way, impossible. I know them very well, especially Dunn. Didn’t it cross your mind that they did this to help us win the war?”
Fred spoke for the first time, “I told you, the boy has not what it takes, I’ll do it myself.”
“You’ll do no such thing”, replied Blue. He turned around to Dave and said, “It was your choice to join the forces, now you must do your duty. Or else, we have no use for you in an already dying country. So, what do you choose, your death, or your friends’?”
“I’ll do it”, whimpered Dave, not yet inwardly resigned to his fate.
“Do we have your word, that when you encounter them with a gun in your hand, you will not hesitate or think twice?”
“Yes, you have my word,” replied Dave, not yet sure of what he was doing.
“So come with me”, said Fred and he took Dave to the second room which he hadn’t visited before. He handed him a .38 pistol.
“This is an automatic, so you can finish your job clean. Make sure you do, or we’ll know. “
They went back and Blue directed, “Border patrol tells us that they haven’t yet left the province, so you will be able to find them within 3 hours from here, possibly west. Go now. “
Dave left the farmhouse and started walking west across to the clinic, which was as west as one could get. He reached the clinic, not meeting anyone on the way. He went inside, just to make sure, but he couldn’t find them there either. He asked around, but nobody could help him, or didn’t want to help him.
Dejected, he walked out of the clinic. Though he was sad, Dave did remember that the army people would be watching him somehow. He made out a plan in his head while walking along the river. He reached his hideout, beside the coast, where he used to come before the war to spend his evenings. There was a nice breeze blowing this late in the night. The sand was pearly and smooth under his legs and as he looked around, he saw two dark silhouettes. One big, rotund, other being thin and scrawny.
He quickly realised what was happening.
“LISTEN, YOU TWO, WHAT HAVE I BEEN HEARING?”
The two figures stepped closer, so that they shone in the moonlight in front of him.
It was Dunn who spoke first.
“Aah, it is you, Dave. We did what had to be done. The foreigners are coming to pick us up, and we will be rewarded for what we’ve done. We’ll be celebrated like heroes.”
Dave was having a hard time comprehending this. His friends, traitors! But now he had to act on his feet.
“Oh yes, we’ll get our fair share”, chirped Syd.
“But I’m here to stop you.”
“We’d like to see you try”, sniggered Dunn.
“Why would you do this,” asked Dave, directing his words to Dunn, as he knew him better.
“They offer me protection all my life and all the wealth I want. Let me tell you that it was by no means an easy choice for me, doing this, but I had to, Dave, I had to.”
In the flash of an eyelid, Dunn whipped out a Glock 20 and cocked it up. Dave, being no slouch, readied his .38. As Dunn shot, Dave rolled away and took aim at Syd, who was unarmed. He aimed to kill. It was easy. His shot went right through the temple and Syd was no more.
Dave, being quicker on his feet, advanced diagonally toward Dunn. Dunn, caught unaware, started shooting with the passion of an unbridled man. Thanks to his limp, none of the bullets hit Dave as he fell below the firing range. Using his momentum, he bowled Dunn over and kicked the revolver out of his wrist.
He had Dunn pinned down.
“Again I ask you, why would you do this?”
“I got something there which I’d never have here. They value people there, unlike here. Even now, they use you to do their dirty work. See, this is what you have become. Their man. Join me, I’ll take you in there and introduce you. You can start a new life there. What do you say?”
“Then you’d better kill me, or else they’ll do you.”
“CAN’T YOU, YOU BLITHERING IDIOT”, shouted someone. It was Blue. And before he could turn, there was a shot and Dave’s grey T- Shirt was shattered with blood.
“Should never have trusted you with it, you dunce.”
“He was my friend. It’s not easy.”
“But you did kill the other guy, what was it with this one?”
“I did not know what I was doing when I gave my word. You see, he was much closer to me than the other guy. It was easier Syd than Dunn.”