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Tell me would you kill to save a life?
Tell me would you kill to prove you are right?
I have everything. I have everything anyone could ever want. I have the life one can only dream of. I have a big beach-side mansion in the Big Apple complete with a kilometer long driveway and white picket fences, a degree from Harvard, a trophy wife, two beautiful kids and , of course, a big, fat, ever-growing bank balance and I was voted the third most successful businessman under 30 of the USA by Forbes magazine – the perfect life, right?
This is a question that haunts me all day, every day.
I have it all. But it isn’t enough. When I close billion dollar deals in my extravagant office, when I silently slip into my kids’ room every night to gently place a kiss on their head while they dream away, when I hold my lovely wife and our hearts simultaneously beat next to each other – this question, this feeling of emptiness is ever-present, slowly but surely consuming me.
I know when it started. It was a sunny day – in every sense of the word. I had just been informed by my PA that my company Grab It has grown five folds in just a matter of a year. It seemed like the whole world was celebrating my success. Smiles and laughter of kids playing at a hydrating pump lit up the whole street, content corporate workers chattered as they crossed the road and I even witnessed a group of three cute old ladies do a ‘CHEERS!’ with their floral coffee mugs as the happy Sun shone on their regal white heads.
I was on a whole new level of Cloud 9. I could feel my happiness buzzing through my veins as I watched the world dancing on my plate.
“My Sammy! Bring me back my Sammy!”
It was an old woman, she was crying and a bunch of people were trying to calm her down and hold her up as she fell on her knees.
I slowed down my car. I don’t know exactly why I did it. May be it was the unexplainable agony that I could not relate to which was painted on the woman’s worn face. I managed to collect only tidbits of what had happened. The woman had lost her son – her only family, in the war zone in Afghanistan.
The smile that I had plastered on my face all day slipped off my eyes and down my face. The world was no more dancing in merry anymore. Rather now it seemed to mock me.
I could not sleep that night. And the nights after that.
So, here I am again, wide awake on the bed, beside my beautiful wife who is fast asleep. I listen to her quiet breaths to calm down my restless heart and try to slow down my own breaths to match hers.
It has been five weeks since that fateful day. I have thought about it a lot, examined it from every possible angle and I have come up with a conclusion.
I have figured it out.
The next day, I follow my usual morning rituals – put my black suit on, gelled back my silver blonde hair, grabbed the keys of my newest baby –a sexy red Ferrari-, kissed my pretty wife and dropped off my kids to school.
I stop at a crossroad.
Left or right.
I have already made up my mind, but it is tough. I know that this moment is going to change my life for good. I have to be brave.
‘Do it. Do It, Tyler. Just do it.’, I chanted in my head.
With one long breath, instead of taking the right to my office, I steer my car to the left and leave behind my old life and everything that I have ever known.
“Thank you”, I quietly mutter as I take a bunch of papers from the recruiter. He nods with wonder. I know exactly what he is thinking: why am I, Tyler Smith -The Tyler Smith- here?
A few weeks later, I’m sitting in my office desk and staring at my ASVAB result sheet. I have aced it. I have been accepted.
I have made it into the US military.
It has been over a year since I joined the US military and I’m in Afghanistan. I’m on my first mission – my first meeting with reality.
The Sun is scorching and the wind, harsh. The sand seems to be dancing round and round, chasing us. I’m anxious and beyond excited as I follow my team mates to a rundown house. It seems to be in the middle of nowhere and appears to be vacant.
I move ahead and after getting a nod from Lieutenant General Dan, I kick open the weak wooden door. We are immediately greeted with carelessly aimed bullets and then everything moves so fast for the next a few minutes, every moment a blur.
Everyone under the roof is scrambling and crawling among the debris. Gun shots and cries of anger and pain, echo through the abused building. It slightly reminds me of a song playing at the city mall’s pit stop. Skrillex? Well, it is music – the music of a battle.
At one point, I’m shoved through another door and I land on my back with not even a little grace, my protective helmet flying off my head. But I’m back on my feet in an instant, my rifle in perfect position. I am ready to make my kill.
But so is my enemy.
Time slows down for me as both of us stand in perfect stance, ready to rain down bullets on each other at the slightest of a movement. Our eyes are locked into each other’s. A lone drop of sweat trails down my hairline, slowing down over my eyebrows and finally slides down my cheeks.
The others can be heard fighting in the next room. But in this moment, it is only him and me.
I can see my own determination and fear reflect in his dark eyes.
Then suddenly I can see it. I can see myself in him. I can see his eyes looking for answers.
‘Would you kill to save a life?’
Why am I here? I know why: I want to be more than just another bloke feeding off the country. I want to serve my motherland. I want to save my fellow citizens; I want to protect my country. And I am doing this because I know keeping my people safe is right.
But would I take another person’s life so as to protect my country’s life? Would it be right?
‘Would you kill to prove you are right?’
But isn’t this man in a caftan, my so-called enemy, doing the same thing? He is protecting his ideology. He believes he is right to kill in order to defend what he believes in – just like me.
I am thrown off-guard. I can see so much of myself in this man. Is this his first mission too? His first kill?
He is here because of the very same reason as mine. I believe I am right, but if I put myself in his shoes, I realize that he is right as well.
So what does it mean? To me, us being here right now, with guns pointing at each other, has no point. It is like we are running around in circles trying to bite our own tail – something which has no valid conclusion.
Why are we here?
What are we fighting for?
What is right?
Lost in the turmoil inside my head, I fail to process the loud explosion right behind me. I stumble back into reality when I crash down onto the cracked concrete under the weight of what I feel are the lies and unanswered questions of the world.
The last thing in my sight before I close my eyes is the bloody face of my enemy, my brother, my fellow traveler.
Crash, crash, burn.
Let it all burn.
DISCLAIMER : The first two and last two lines lines belong to the band 30 Seconds To Mars. I’ve drawn inspiration for the story from their song ‘Hurricane’.