Tell A Tale in 500 Words

Second Chance By Caitlin Kirby-Ashmore

Why when the world is at it bleakest do the fractions of the human race bind to spout unrelenting positive nonsense? Murmurs of silver linings and an essence of optimism plague my life more than the thoughts of the many we’ve lost. I’m told twenty years ago we felt safe to the atrocities beyond the seas, only for our prime minister to enter into a fight that wasn’t ours. She is forever blamed for the demolition of our country. I wasn’t even born for that decision, and I was too small to know of the bombs that killed my family in the following years. I’ve been enlisted since I was 14 but I don’t even know what we’re fighting. I have killed. I remember the first man I took down – he was tall and broad, I could tell he was conflicted over shooting a small girl - he paused and I pulled the trigger. No doubt my first “successful mission” had a family of some kind, related or not we all have people we call family. I don’t remember the rest and I stopped keeping count; what good would it do to fall apart over the enemy when I can’t fall apart over our own losses?

That’s war. That’s humanity. Sometimes I wish I were a flower, I wish I could leave emotion and stupidity behind and simply exist in peace. But it’s such a useless wish, I’ve only ever seen flowers in pictures.

‘Six two seven, come on no point sitting there when there’s a war to win – you never know today we could end it.’ His words both snap me out of my internal rant and remind me how right I am. Of course we can’t end the war today. I sit and listen through the briefing which is the same as always – shoot on sight. Something is different now though, something that’s causing sickness to rise up from the pit of my stomach. I feel it burning my insides; warmth spreading up my chest as I rise to fight. I follow my squad but it’s only when I round a corner and hear the gun fire I realise what it is. We can’t go on killing, or at least I can’t not when it achieves nothing but more loss of life.

‘STOP!’ I hear myself yell. Twenty pairs of eyes trail on me and I know I’ll be dead any second so I make my last words count. ‘Remember we’re all human, we’re all on the same side.’ Then I’m gone, the bullet hits not from the enemy in front, but from my commander behind.

The world seems to shift as he shakes me. ‘Prime Minister are you okay, you were screaming.’ I rub my eyes trying to adjust to reality. I know what I must do now. It takes one phone call and I’ve called off the bomb squads - I will not kill innocents to aid a war that’s not even my own.

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