Writing 101, Day Two: Choose a place to which you’d like to be transported if you could — and tell us the backstory.
“Would you look at that? Ain’t that something?” I asked Alvin, rhetorically. As anticipated, he peered through the small excuse of a window panel to this left. I surveyed his face and was oddly pleased to see him overwhelmed by complete and utter awe. His mouth was slightly agape, as though he was halfway through an incredulous gasp. His eyes were brightly lit by wonderment. “All my life, and I have never seen such a vision back home,” I commented, snapping him out of his reverie.
“Yeah, this is like the mother of all skies!” he said. Not a very eloquent descriptor for this vista, I suppose. But yeah, I could see where he was coming from. “Holy shit, you can actually see the moon as well!” he further exclaimed. I shifted my gaze back towards the tiny glass window to my right.
Sure enough, I noticed the gibbous moon basking in the last light. I contemplated our current predicament. We had been cooped up in this armoured vehicle for the past hour or so. There was barely any leg room for either of us as we were seated, knee to knee, across from each other. There was a considerable sized radio-signal set between us and another pair of poor souls. In the front compartment, the driver was sprawled in his seat awaiting his next instructions. Abreast him, was the most morose one of us all. He has been in a ‘stand to’ position with half his body out through the top hatch of the vehicle and hands steadily gripping onto the machine gun. It was last light. The point right between darkness and light. And at that very moment, the sky was just the epitome of that.
“Screw it guys, let’s get out. I want to bring home photos of myself in this back-drop,” I called out.
“But Sarge, it’s last light. We’re not allowed to leave this fucking vehicle!” Alvin responded, indignantly.
“Come on, we’ve been through hell today and you guys need a break. Besides, all of you are my charges and this is a direct order!”
In unison, they swiftly yelled “Yes Sergeant,” knowing full well that I had to issue that order to protect them from the plausible culpability. We then clambered out of our cage, overcome with relief and joy from stretching our limbs to their full extent. Following which, six camera enabled cellphones were immediately extricated from the various pockets.
After numerous shots of ourselves and the scenery in all sorts of photographic angles. We put away our handheld distractions to immerse ourselves in the scene that was unfolding before our eyes -or at least I was. I looked for the perfect spot among the lavish, dehydrated long grass that had turned brown; or was this just their natural colour in this part of the world? The grass back home were green and nothing but green. I tried my best to flatten some dried thistle and weed to allow myself to comfortably lay down on the grass.
It felt as though I was living in two realities. On one hand, there was a beautiful sunset that has guised part of the sky in a striking hue of yellow and orange. But when I pivoted my head about 100 degrees to the right, the night sky was a few shades darker, littered with red-tinged clouds and dotted by the moon. To visually capture the dichotomy between night and day in one frame was truly astounding.
I scanned my surroundings to notice my men, who were silently appreciating the New Zealand view of a lifetime. The serenity that came with it was palpable. We were all at ease, especially after a tough day in hell. Just hours before, we had been mercilessly trudging up a hill putting out a fire that had alighted hectares of the ‘Waitangi’ grounds. But all was forgotten then, because that sliver of un-torched land symbolized tranquility. It held the key to free our minds from our hardship as soldiers in training; our longing to be home with our loved ones; our yearning for proper meals, shower and bed. At that very moment in time, I was just a regular Joe who was lost in himself as he watched the split sky converge into darkness.
I had to be Seargeant again.