Story Contest 2018 #1 Results » Highly Commended - The Bravest Of All

Amrutha R Shenoy, India

“The Bravest Of All” by Amrutha R Shenoyr, India, is the Highly Commended story in the senior category of the first biannual Short Story Contest 2018.

The Bravest Of All

Rifle shots rang out and cannonballs flew in every direction. Both the guilty and the innocent were killed.

That is how a war generally is. It isn’t easy to be a soldier; much less, the general. On one side, our consciences scream at us as we shoot down our enemies knowing that each and every one of them had a family who loved them and whom they loved with a heart as good as any of ours… On the other side is our country and our families whom we have to protect against all odds, no matter what happens to us. After all, freedom is everybody’s right.

All these thoughts ran through my mind as I continued fighting. As the general of our army I have to set up a good example.

But the war seemed to be getting a lot bloodier – people from both sides were lying dead in masses; there were cries of outrage and pain in the air as many more fell, and soon the number of the soldiers on our side lessened drastically, which resulted in a lot more pressure on me… but something told me this was only the beginning.

Dodge. Shoot. Kick. Dodge. Shoot. Kick...

The struggle went on for a long time – hours probably, or maybe days, we never knew. We were too engrossed in the battle raging around us. By now the enemies’ strength too had reduced considerably. But I could feel myself getting tired, my energy wearing off, leaving my body sore. There was only a handful of us now and most of us were badly injured. I myself had a nasty cut across my calf that was absolutely refusing to stop bleeding and was throbbing horribly as if in competition with my hammering heartbeat.

That was when pain flared right up my spine and I fell forward dazed, not able to move any part of my body and in terrible agony. It was all I could do not to scream. With great difficulty, I felt around my back, and sure enough there was a dagger that somebody had used to stab me. My vision blurred as some of my colleagues swarmed around me trying to help, but it was useless. I’d already lost a lot of blood. It was too late. I could feel my own pounding heart slowing down, the war cries turning into meaningless noise. Visions of my entire life flashed right past my eyes – me in our old countryside house riding my tricycle as my mother chased me around laughing, me and some of my friends stealing mangoes from our cranky neighbour’s tree, me writing my very important board exam, joining the army, getting elected as the general. All of these memories were so vivid, it might have been happening right there – in the middle of the battle…

Lastly, thoughts about my wife and our unborn kid I would never be able to see. They were my everything. They were my family… I felt hurt and guilty that my child would have to grow up without the love of his father, that he would never know his dad… And my wife – Maria? How would she manage all this alone? We came from a middle class family. How would she get around all the expenses without me - without her husband to help her out?

I pushed these depressing thoughts away because I knew, deep inside, that I worked for a good cause and went down for a good cause and maybe made the world a better place to live, not only for my juniors but also for millions of people across the country who would finally be able to soar across the infinite sky as free birds, no longer made to work in chains. My eyelids drooped giving me just about time to hear – “FOR OUR GENERAL SULLIVAN, THE BRAVEST OF ALL!” right before my fellow soldiers plunged into the battle and I drifted off calmer and at much more peace than I had ever been in my entire life…

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