MY BROTHER’S KEEPER

Invisible in the temporary blackness of the night, the trio of soldiers separated from their regiment crept silently through the rain-soaked jungle. One had an injured leg as the result of a skirmish and was in excruciating pain. He knew his injury would impede their progress and he pleaded with his comrades to leave him to die alone with dignity, as was their ancestral custom. The steadfast friends were adamant and refused to abandon him in the middle of enemy territory. Instead they worked in tandem to  carry their wounded brother – a selfless act that did indeed slow them down but they would have it no other way and refused to discuss the topic any further. 

Exhausted and frightened, they persevered through the seemingly endless night, scrambling for cover as quickly and quietly as physically possible whenever they spied the opposition or heard murmurings in the darkness. Soon the slowly rising first light would inevitably dispel their cover and finding shelter for the day would become a priority. Looking around they took stock of their surroundings – trees, bushes, and marshlands – none of which would provide adequate  concealment or refuge. 

Walking on, the soldiers spotted a huge boulder in the distance and as they drew nearer they noticed a small aperture. The decision was agreed upon that one would investigate the opening while the other two hid beneath the shelter of the low hanging branches of a weeping willow tree. After a while the scout returned with good news – there was a small cave inside the rock with room enough for the three of them to take shelter. Painstakingly, one soldier carried his injured brother on his back and squeezed through the crevice while the third searched for something for them to eat. Finally for the first time in hours the exhausted trio was able to get some rest. Huddled together, they eventually drifted off to a fitful sleep. 

After a few hours, the wounded soldier awoke with a fever, his leg swollen and throbbing. Since it was now midday, it was too risky to leave the cave. Outside was sweltering and humid and the chance of them being caught, especially hindered by a wounded friend, would be great. No … they would stay where they were until it was safe to venture out. To pass the time they talked about life back in their village and the family members awaiting them. All they knew was army life, following in the footsteps of their fathers and grandfathers. It was not an easy life and they were in constant peril but they soldiered on. 

Suddenly their wounded brother heaved a ragged breath and died. Saddened yet aware they must move on, the soldiers covered him with rocks and began the slow crawl out. Without warning the long sticky tongue of a giant anteater slithered through the crack and swallowed the startled army ants. They struggled bravely, as courageous ants are wont to do, but in the end they could not prevail. 

Poor little buggers. 

NAR © 2019