My face met the ground as Haider pushed me down. Inaudible instructions were yelled out somewhere in the distance and just like that they had all disappeared. Still flat on the ground propped on my elbows, I aimed the sniper to the source of the chaos. Evaluating where to shoot, I looked to my right. Haider was still there, his hand was on my back keeping me on the ground, he knew I was capable of being completely stupid and running towards the center of the action. He signaled a plan to me, I nodded and we both started shooting.
The brass rain falling down at us had thinned, we were shooting blind but it was working. All of a sudden there was silence. The firing had stopped. Still on the ground, I searched the campsite; there was no sign of the others. I opened my mouth to call out their names when the excruciating pain made me choke on my words. The brightness of the day was changing to the dark of the night every few seconds in front of my eyes. It was when my hands felt the warm blood oozing out of my waistline did it make sense, one of the last few bullets had found its way into my flesh.
“We need to find the others, come on,” Haider instructed already on his feet a few feet away. He was gathering the already scarce supplies into a rucksack. I tried to move and ended up yelling in pain. Haider looked at me and saw the small pool of blood forming around me.
“Oh shit,” he exclaimed falling on his knees next to me. I was fighting the tears; I refused to cry, to be weak at this point. “It’s gone in pretty deep, this is Hammad’s area of expertise, I have no idea what to do,” Haider was panicking; I didn’t have the energy to try and calm him down. I wasn’t in any position to say anything reassuring.
“Can you walk?” He asked sounding terrified.
“I think so,” I managed to choke out. “I need help getting up though.”
He stood up, put my arm around his shoulder and helped me up. I felt the damaged tissue pull as I came to my feet barely managing to swallow my scream. I winced on every step, as I hopped down the trail leaning on Haider for support. We couldn’t call out the other’s names without compromising our positions, so we wondered aimlessly through the woods trying to figure out where they had disappeared too. Every step I felt my energy levels drop a little. Haider sensed my lethargy and started to make conversation.
“I’m hoping Maleeha sees another snake or something, her scream might give us their location,” he joked.
I gave a shaky laugh but that’s all I could do.
“Does it hurt?” he asked sensing my discomfort.
“Yeah a bit,” My voice was so hoarse; it was getting difficult to speak as well.
There was silence again. I kept thinking about them, about Ali and Maleeha. Just last night Ali had said he wanted to propose to her if we got out of here alive. Surely the universe would grant them their taste of happily ever after. Then Sheheryar, the youngest out of us all, he had so much more to see, so much more to live for. This couldn’t be the end for him.
It hurt to even think about Hammad, I knew how much he longed to see his family, to go back to his beautiful wife who he loved more than anything else in the world. He had promised her that he would come back to her. He had to keep his promise.
Haider had other reasons to win. Avenging his sister was the fuel to the fire, the fire of hatred that burned inside him. This war had taken everything from him, from his family to his peace of mind. I can’t remember the last time I saw him sleep. His mind replayed the screams, the horrific scenes as punishment. He was unable to protect his sister from the worst form of torture a man can do on an innocent little girl. They had their way with her and left them all to die. Our soldiers were unable to save anyone other than him and since then it has been the purpose of his life to avenge them all, especially Eesha.
Here I was slowing him down in his fight against them.
I wasn’t even going to think about Sarim, this bullet was a sign, we really were not meant to be. I just hoped that once he found out about my passing he would move on, just like I had advised him too before I was deployed.
My eyelids were drooping, the sandman was adamant to put me to sleep, but I knew that if I gave in now, I may never wake up again.
“Aleesha?” Haider whispered stopping. I felt my body go limp, but he caught me before I hit the ground. I could feel Haider’s frantic hands slapping my face, calling my name in the distance, but I was too tired to answer. The last thing I saw were red sparks in the sky, the signal. Somewhere towards north-east my friends were safe, with that peaceful thought I blacked out.