A Wartime Incident






Ezra Azra


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Copyright 2023 by Ezra Azra


 
Photo by Laker at Pexels.
Photo by Laker at Pexels.

The refugee camp was in turmoil. News had been received that the camp was in the path of an advancing army. That army was making every effort to be unidentifiable.

The administrators of the camp had made a painful decision: the camp had to move four hundred miles to the nearest friendly town in their country. Vehicular transportation would be provided for only the old, the unwell, and the children and their guardians. All others had three other options.

They could make their way on foot to that friendly patriotic town.

They could remain in the camp, and take their chances with that anonymous army.

They could make their way on foot in another direction across the mountains to a friendly port city of a neighboring country, neutral in the war, a hundred miles away. The problem with the third option was that the crossing over the mountain was accessed by the river. The river was a few miles from the refugee camp in the direction of the approaching army.

Enid and Esme, twin sisters, unmarried, in their fifties, chose the third option.

When they were much younger, they and a group of friends had, on a few occasions, hiked to that sea port city. A section of the route was by a shallow river. It had been a lot of fun in Summer, walking in shallow warm water. When they left the river, they would hike cross the mountain. Sometimes they would meet other hikers going in the opposite direction.

They had heard of a shortcut that bypassed the river, but they had never tried it since it was rumored to be dangerous because of wild predatory animals.

Now, in times of war, the sisters thought that between predatory animals and an approaching anonymous army, the former was a less dangerous risk.

They had climbed up a low ridge of stone, and sat and surveyed the territory through which the shortcut ran. No trees; just high wild weeds and bushes. All looked peaceful. They looked at each other, and nodded. They were about to climb down the ridge into the shortcut terrain, when they heard ferocious growls.

A violent conflict was happening among the bushes and wild weeds. The sisters saw no animals; but they saw the violent disturbances of the vegetation, before a sudden cessation of movements and animals sounds. The sisters, there and then, decided to go by river.

They discussed asking around if anyone else cared to accompany them. "I did not see anyone in the camp that could have accompanied us on those other crossings." "Me, too. Mind you, the Camp emptied so fast after that announcement it was to be closed down, there might have been some who took off for the river right away."

They walked for about an hour before they reached the place from which they had to descend to the river. They saw uniformed persons gathered at the river's edge. They hesitated. One of them whispered that she recognized the uniform. It was friendly. The sisters cautiously climbed down the hill to the river, making as much natural noise as they could.

When they were noticed by the uniformed persons, the initial response was one of official caution.

"Identify yourselves, please, ladies." "We were born in this County, and have lived here all our lives." "We were informed this County had been evacuated, because of the war." "It has been. We were allowed to cross the mountain into a neutral Country." "By the river?" "Yes. We have done it a few times." "Most teens in this County do it every Summer."

"Do you know there is a rainstorm coming in the next few hours?" The sisters looked at each other. "No."
"Then we should get on our way right away."

"Are you aware that that neutral country has forbidden its citizens from crossing the mountain over to this side, because of the war?" "No. Has our Government forbidden us to crossover?"

"No, but that coming storm makes it too dangerous." "More dangerous than that anonymous army bearing down on the County?"

More than one of the uniformed persons instantly paid more attention to the sisters. "How did you come by that information?" "We were living in the refugee Government camp. It has been dismantled because of a report it was in the route an anonymous army was moving. Why are you here?"

A uniformed person blew a whistle. All the uniformed persons came forward from both sides of the river, and elsewhere. Without hesitation, and without a word spoken, all of them hurriedly climbed up the hill.

The sisters hurriedly removed their shoes, and stepped into the river. As they hurriedly sloshed along, they chatted.

"Have we ever climbed the mountain in rain?"

"If we did, I do not remember. It does not matter, now. Changing our minds is not an option. That army is much nearer by now. As if on cue, they heard sounds of heavy gunfire and explosions coming from not-so-far-away. They sloshed along faster. Rain started.

They came to where they had to move out of the river, and walk to the foot of the mountain. They saw a young man hurrying towards them from the foot of mountain.

He paused, and greeted them with, "Be warned, the rain is already much worse up the mountain." "Thank you. What's the ground like?" "Slippery, here and there. Walk where there is vegetation to hold onto." "There's a war going on back there in our country. We are trying to get away from it because we are too old to enlist."

"It's safe in my country where you are headed. I am going, to volunteer enlist in your army." "Good for you." "Thank you. Be extra careful because you are going to run into an army on the march. We do not know on whose side that army is on." "Thank you."

"You are welcome." "Most welcome." He went on his way to join the war. The sisters started their slippery climb up the mountain."
 

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