This story is selected as Editor’s Choice and won INR 500
The battleground was set. It had been starving for blood and flesh for so long. It had witnessed epic battles in the past; closely enough to have a few scars of its own.
Right before the war bugled, an elderly announcement changed the course of the actions.
“Kids, I am going to the temple. Don’t make the mess of the house.” Granny said from the living room.
The kids – Rohan, Pinky, Ria and Sahaj – heard the thud of the main door closing. Their eyes sparkled picturing the raw madness that awaited them.
Every summer vacation was the much anticipated event for Rohan and Ria as they would get to visit their maternal uncle’s place for a week or two; for the uncle’s kids – Pinky and Sahaj – were as naughty as Rohan and Ria themselves.
Rohan was the eldest of the four while Pinky was just a year younger. Ria and Sahaj were their respective younger siblings.
Those would be the ten days or so, when utter rivalry unleash all boundaries and reach the pinnacle of insanity. Their famous war began, accidentally, three years ago before it became an annual ritual.
They would pair as Rohan-Sahaj versus Pinky-Ria. So that was, basically, the cousin boys against the cousin girls.
The war would often end with messed up bed-sheets, broken table lamp, fractured pen stands, partially torn – and sometimes even shattered – pillows with leftovers all over the battlefield. That was no wonder, as the bullet shells are bound to be shattered and flopped all around the war zone at the end of a combat; for the cushions are the guns, grenades and ammo of a Pillow Fight.
The only ceiling to the pillow fight was Granny’s constant sentry when Pinky and Sahaj’s parents would be away for work during the day. It was only when Granny would ask them to mellow the fun down; the four of them would adjourn their eternal rivalry for a bit and get along- or pretend- as one team to protest the old woman’s disapproval.
The soldiers geared up. They were itching for the combat they had been waiting for, ever since the last one had to be cut short owing to Granny’s intervention. They could not wait to make their foes taste the dust. Their eyes were focused. Strength spilled out of their arms and wickedness out of their brains.
The scenario was the same on both the sides.
Walking in pairs of two per side, the warriors gradually headed towards each other, a step at a time. Their eyes aimed at piercing each other’s confidence.
Like epic Mahabharata’s battlefield, the soldiers’ eyes shot virtual arrows at each other; red from one side and green from the other. Both the arrows collided at the center of the war zone and shoved against each other for a while before vanishing in smoke because of the equal supremacy.
The soldiers came face to face. Their foreheads touched each other’s; noses did the ditto. They could sense each other’s breath. Raw, fierce thrill exhibited their passion for the war they were heading to.
From the corner of the eyes, they gazed at the arsenal at the far end of the battlefield; neatly positioned in two stacks of two. The buffer ammunition was in the wardrobe, the warriors knew.
With the soundless signal of the eyes, the war was announced as Rohan was the first to rush to his pile of pillows. He picked one and gave another to his younger partner Sahaj.
The girls were right behind them as they pounced on their side of the stack. Ria was the quicker of the two. She picked up a pillow and gave another to her senior, her commander, Pinky.
Quickly, both the squads took shelters on each sides of the bed waiting for the enemies to make the first move.
After strategically hiding by the bedside table, Rohan imparted the first blow.
The orange covered pillow went flying across the bed, brushed Pinky’s hair as she ducked and slid down to the balcony through the open door.
Before the boys could rearrange from the first attack, the little Ria lobbed her first grenade – the green pillow. She was a child prodigy at this. Her aim hit Sahaj right on the head to topple him.
“Focus.” The commander-in-chief, Rohan, said animatedly to his wounded soldier. The soldier was back up on his feet in a snap of fingers.
Meanwhile, taking the advantage of the situation, Pinky crawled on elbows and knees to the balcony to recover the ammo – the orange one.
Seeing her sneaking out of the bunker, Sahaj aimed his pillow at her. But little he knew, who the boss was.
The pro-digy, Ria provided the cover fire to Pinky, who rushed and retracted the ammo back before Sahaj could stoop Ria’s fire and refocus his aim.
Within no time, stern screams clouded the excitement of the warriors.
They ducked, hid, crawled, fired, and repeated all of that endlessly with snowballing enthusiasm and energy amid flying pillows.
Rohan lost focus for a second as Ria diverted his mind by screaming ‘Auch! My Ankle!’
At the right moment, Pinky hit the Blue grenade right at Rohan’s face hard enough to hurt his pride.
Girls giggled and high-fived as their plan hit the bulls-eye.
Humiliated at the commander being hit right in the face, the boys gathered all the ammo in their part of the warzone.
With utmost concentration and revenge on mind, Rohan aimed one at the ducking Pinky and Sahaj aimed at Ria’s head peeping from behind the chair by the study table.
Just as Rohan was about to launch the strike, his elbow hit Sahaj’s chin.
Sahaj lay flat on the floor with a loud ‘Aaaaaiiiiiiaaaa’.
Rohan’s aim went wayward, but the power didn’t; the pillow went flying across the room straight at the door opening into the living room.
A short yell tried to overshadow a plate’s crashing on the floor. The plate’s sharp resonance mellowed down in a gradual smooth curve to leave behind a deafening silence.
What followed was a fiercer cry and an old woman appeared at the door of the bedroom.
Kumkum was sprinkled all over granny’s face and a trail of ghee from her shoulder to waist seemed freshly crafted. Petals of marigold peeped from her milky-white hair. With eyes bigger than ever, cheeks chilly-red and smoke fuming out of her ears, she screamed, “You kids are going to…”
Even before she could finish her statement and her eyes could make its way through all the kumkum, ceasefire was imposed silently, two teams of two merged into one team of four and they stormed out and vanished in the backyard.
Gathering her senses, granny rubbed her eyes to regain her vision. She stood bewildered to witness the war zone garnished with toppled table lamps, broken alarm clock, messed up bed-sheet, cordless phone beeping for nothing, half opened curtains, wardrobe be like robbed, people in the photo frame facing the floor and of course, what started it all – the pillows – The trails of a bloody battle.