War spared no one.
The world has been at war ever since I could remember. People didn’t fall in love anymore. The war left no time for love. And those who did find love had it snatched from them.
I grew up believing that violence was right. To fight for wealth. To fight for power. To fight for a loveless world.
But then I found love. I didn’t find it in the way that you might think, not in the romantic sense. I’m a doctor, you see. I treat those hurt in the war; I save lives that might have been lost.
It was a few years ago now that they wheeled Xavier into my OT in critical condition. The child lay on the table in front of me, his skin charred, his hair burnt off completely. His clothes had been reduced to ashes.
‘The Napalm bomb,’ I whispered, repulsed by the sight of this wretched, convulsing body. ‘Is there any hope?’
The head doctor nodded. So the surgery began. I was a junior at the time and this was my longest surgery yet. Naturally, the memory was engrained into my brain. As the surgery progressed, my will to save this young child’s life strengthened. After hours, we took a step back. Xavier was finally breathing steadily.
I stayed by Xavier’s side that first night, watching him the whole time. I’d never felt this protective towards anyone before. Is this what my mother had felt towards me?
Hours later, Xavier opened his eyes. I gasped. They were brown and soulful.
‘Mama?’ he whispered.
‘No, son, I’m not your Mama. Your mother is…’ I stopped, not sure if I should be telling him about the fate of his entire village.
‘Mam…’ he tried to repeat laughing. He reached his hand out to me. I took it, trying to hide the tears forming in my eyes.
‘Why… cry…?’ he struggled.
‘Shhh,’ I said, swallowing my tears. ‘Go to sleep son.’
It was clear he had some form of brain damage from the bomb.
Unsurprisingly, when Xavier was discharged from the hospital, I adopted him. All my colleagues laughed, called me naïve for forming an emotional attachment to something that wouldn’t last. I suppose I was naïve… but not for the reasons they thought.
And those years were the happiest of my life.
Until the war came to us.
‘We have to leave, Xavier,’ I said, hurrying into the kitchen with my arms full of clothes to be packed.
He was sitting at the table, happily bouncing in his chair. A map was open in front of him.
‘Can w… we… go h… here?’ he stabbed a finger at the Philippines.
Before I could answer, the front door burst open. I swore under my breath. They’d gotten here earlier than expected.
Dropping the clothes, I grabbed Xavier in one hand and my gun in the other and dashed down into the cellar, barricading us in. Xavier squealed, thinking it was all a game.
‘Shh baby,’ I tried to quiet him down. The squad was getting closer, aided by Xavier’s squeals.
‘H… here…?’ he asked. I noticed he still had the map in his hand and was now pointing to Antarctica.
‘No…’ I whispered, hearing the raiders getting closer.
He wouldn’t stop squealing. Turning his back to me, he began looking at the map again.
I tried pleading, I promise. It didn’t work. I had to… I had to do it…
I raised my gun to his head and pulled the trigger. The map fluttered to the floor, stained with blood. I picked it up and hugged it, crying silently.
In the background, the footsteps faded away.
Later on, I stood at the top of the building, watching the Map of Blood before me. War unfolding before my very eyes. Red stained dust. Blood spattered roads. I knew what I had to do.
Later reports would talk of a woman who fell from a building. It was allegedly an accident. She was holding a blood stained map in her hand…