Two Sides Of A Coin (Wahji Aleamla) وجهان للعملة
النور سيظل داكنًا
Sergeant Earl Mason, part of a surgical strike squad deep behind the ranks of Yemeni insurgent forces, had been on the run for over an hour straight, the first signs of exhaustion finally getting to him. Earlier in the day, his entire team had planned and tried to execute a tactical strike on the Insurgents, but that had gone south as they walked straight into an ambush. The firefight had resulted in the deaths of a number of good soldiers, those who had survived had tried to make their way back to the Basecamp of the American troops.
In the skirmish, Mason and a few others had been separated from the rest of the squad, leaving the marine all to himself. His rifle had long since ran out of ammo, and his handgun had only five rounds left. He knew that he had been spotted by the Yemeni insurgents as a pickup truck had opened fire on him from a long distance away. He weaved through the now-abandoned town of Al Hudaydah, keeping away from the streets where the corpses lay littered. He weaved in and around the run-down buildings that served as stalls, offices and even living areas.
Before the American forces had arrived, the Insurgents had come into Hudaydah and rained fire on its inhabitants. Those who could, fled for their lives. Yemini military forces were unable to combat the Insurgents as they seemed to have superior weaponry to them, obviously backed by a neighboring nation which profited off the chaos. Mason heard the engine of the white Toyota pick up truck as it fired down the road behind him in a desperate search. He watched from a balcony a few buildings away, counting six men. Two jumped off the vehicle, AK47’s in hand, the preferred weapon of choice.
Mason knew he couldn’t stand up against six men with a measly handgun, even if he had a full clip, their weapons would make short work of him and stop him from making it back to the American base. Resting the deagle pistol across his forearm to align his shot, he aimed at the closest insurgent and fired a single shot. The bullet went into the man’s skull before getting tangled up in his brain. He dropped to the floor dead. The men froze, diving for cover quickly. One of them spotted Mason and screamed at his Comrades. The marine turned tail and ran, knowing what horror awaited him if he happened to be caught by the Yemeni men.
There had been a few videos circulated of the Insurgents, brutally murdering US marines by slicing their necks open with large jack-knives, and leaving their heads out on poles. It kept the men wary, and eager at the same time, for vengeance and for their own survival. Sergeant Mason leaped from building to building, on the second floor, trying to stay ahead of the car and men downstairs. He jumped right through glass-paned windows into the next building and the next. His fourth leap took him to the roof of a smaller building, causing him to temporarily trip and loose speed. The pick up truck that was just to his left spotted him quickly.
The Insurgent in the bucket of the vehicle stood, with a DP28 Light machine gun bolted to the roof. He turned and fired, missing Mason by mere inches as the 7.62 bullets whizzed by him. He jumped again, into the next building, curling himself like a ball to slow his momentum. He quickly looked around the room he was in, found a vase and threw it out the opposite window from which he had come in. The sound would goad the men in the truck to believe he had jumped across to the next building. He listened as he heard the truck’s sound move away from him. Now he had to deal with the two men on foot following behind. They had no reason to come up there, they were just back up in case he slipped through. All Mason had to do was keep absolutely quiet as the men walked passed.
With his gun in hand, pointed down the stairwell, finger inside the trigger guard, ready to blow the brains out the first man that dared come that way, he heard a soft cooing sound.
Mason fought the urge to turn around and inspect, as all it took was a momentary distraction for everything to come crashing down. His head did a quick swivel, taking on the room quickly. It was a residential house, and apparently he was in a bedroom. The body of a woman sat unmoving in a corner, curled up with blood pooled around her. The cooing sound was coming from her.
Sergeant Mason couldn’t have the woman give off his position, he could take on the two men, but that would draw attention from the vehicle which meant a prolonged gunfight. Something he couldn’t put up with. With two long strides, he reached the lady and reached for her shoulder. She began falling the moment he touched her, causing the marine to catch her body quickly, so the thud wouldn’t be heard by them. Her skin had gone white and her lips an odd pale, so did the bloodied-up hole in her head. The lady was dead, but what she held in her hand wasn’t.
A baby, not up to a year old was curled up in her arms. Her final positions had been a defensive one, an effort to protect what Mason could only conclude to be her child. It looked up at him, eyes wide with what looked like confused expectation. The sounds of the men reached his ears as they walked into the building. Five seconds at most, and they would be gone. The baby stared up at him, it’s nightie soaked in the blood of its parent. The mind of the infant, oblivious to the fact that it’s mother lay dead on the floor beside it, no grief, no sorrow, unable to process the concept of the scenario.
The men walked out of the house after a few seconds and moved on the next, leaving Sergeant Earl Mason to make a difficult choice. The child would draw attention to him, and would be extra weight to pull around, but night was nearly upon them and he would probably be able to rescue the child from certain death which would be its fate if he had left it behind. He cursed at himself for even considering leaving the child in the first place.
He grabbed the child, cradling it in the nook of his arm before leaving through a back window. It stayed surprisingly quiet, gawping at Mason. For a moment, the soldier tried to imagine what was going through the mind of the child. The setting sun was at its lowest point, as the evening winds kicked in over the city. The smell of death lingered on the dry desert air as the men rummaged through the city. Mason spotted a red Nissan out on the street with its driver dead in its seat. It would most certainly have its keys and a fair amount of gas to get him a fair distance from the insurgents.
They had a vehicle as well, and would most likely hear him once he started the engine, which would result in a car chase, but he felt comfortable with himself and his capability to evade them. It was a risk he had to take, at least for the baby as much as for himself. The Yemeni men had often been said to commit acts of infanticide and while there was no proof to the claim, Mason wasn’t willing to wait and see. Once the men on foot were a long way and the truck had stopped further down on the opposite side of the street, he made his move.
He crouched low, baby in hand as he dashed to the car. The child giggled silently, a sound that warmed his heart. Pulling out the body of the previous driver, he slid the baby into the back seat and tried his best to secure it quickly with a seat belt. He turned to the dashboard, finding the key beside his foot and went to ignition. He put the car in reverse quickly and did a one-eighty. The sound drew the attention of the Yemeni men, who followed behind on the truck. With about five hundred meters between them, the light machine gun couldn’t accurately hit the smaller vehicle which sped away into the night sky. But they had a little trick left up their sleeves.
Mason knew he had just a quarter mile away from the US base in Yemen, if he could just get down to the stretch of road outside the base and maybe he would be able to avoid the horrors involved with the Yemeni insurgents, maybe he would be able to get the baby to safety. Move the child to America where it would be raised properly and perhaps become something in society. In the rearview mirror, Mason saw a flash and the quickly accelerating head of an RPG rocket. He swerved left, in and effort to dodge the projectile, but the car was too slow.
The explosive hit the rear of the vehicle throwing it up and forwards, causing it to land on its head. The accident had temporarily dazed Mason. The car had landed in a ditch near the sparse trees surrounding the roadside. He could easily lose the men under the cover of darkness between the trees. He turned around as his hearing returned, the baby had fallen as well, landing on the roof next to him. It was crying loudly making the marine believe the child had been hurt.
He struggled to get loose as he knew that the Yemeni were almost on him, but his foot was wedged between the seat and the pedals. He considered remaining in his position as the men themselves would anticipate his escape into the trees and wouldn’t bother with the vehicle as it had only minimal damage. The fires had began burning and letting out thick plumes of smoke which would mask him in the car, all Mason had to do was free his leg, stay quiet and wait for them to pass.
But the quiet part would be impossible with the baby crying in the back. He tried reaching over his shoulder in an attempt to get the smaller human to comply with his desire to continue living, but he couldn’t reach. The men would easily hear the sound of the baby and that would bring their entire escapade to a jarring halt. Mason had to act fast as the sound of the engine of the truck was loud enough for him to hear now, through the blaze going on around him. Smoke had began pouring into the overturned vehicle adding to his problems.
The child coughed due to the smoke entering its frail lungs, crying even louder now. Mason couldn’t understand how something so small could create such a ruckus. The sound would most likely be audible to the men searching for him. In his quest to save a life, the very being he had hoped to rescue would result in both their deaths. If he had lived on, perhaps he would have been able to rejoin the rest of his troops and continue the larger mission; stopping the Insurgents and bringing peace to the nation. But now, all that was about to go up in smoke.
If only he hadn’t taken the baby. An idea occurred to him in a fraction of a second, one so vile and evil, he dismissed it instantly, but his mind kept making recollections and recommending the line of thought. He had to make a choice, as the men were merely seconds away, the men who were indignant savages looking for blood. Mason couldn’t die, no. He had a wife waiting for him back home, they had planned a life together, one which would commence after he had finished his current tour, and to think all of that would be taken from him by a child?
A child who he had never before met, had no affiliations or emotional connection to. It could very well grow up and join the men trying to kill him. In a nation that had been at war for longer than Mason knew, every child has a potential threat to his nation and the allied forces of America. The crying child next to Mason was as good as dead, the one life that truly mattered was his. He wasn’t proud of it, he would never get over the action, but using his free leg, Mason tugged out his combat knife from his boot and drove it into the child’s neck, silencing the child instantly.
The smoke continued to rise into the dark skies as the war raged on. Mason’s plan worked without a hitch and he succeeded in evading the Insurgents, but then he felt the weight of that single act on himself; an invisible, immeasurable sum of guilt. He had joined the army and gone headfirst into danger because he believed he was doing the right thing, he believed he would be doing good. But he could never shake the feeling of being in a grey area that was neither the evil he swore to fight or the good he’d set to do, the soldier felt perhaps he was even more evil at that moment. He had saved his own life, but at the cost of another—an unknowing infant for that matter. Was it worth it? Had he done what was right and necessary or had he become the very thing he had come to Yemen to battle. Perhaps it was as they said; the line between good and evil truly was a blur.