An Orphan's New Beginning

Ezra Azra


© Copyright 2023 by Ezra Azra

Photo by Jade Koroliuk at Unsplash.

by Cole Keister:

Photo by Jade Koroliuk at Unsplash.Photo

by Cole Keister:


by 100 files:

He was about ten years old. War was happening all around him. Explosions. Smoldering debris scattered around. Gun shots. Shouting. Screaming. Sounds of people running in every direction. Dead bodies and parts of bodies on the ground; stuck on shattered walls.

He was hiding under debris in what used to be a building. He was on the lookout for his next hiding place. This one was his umpteenth in the last few hours. Fortunately, having been without family for as long as he could recall, he was, at that moment, completely unburdened by worries about the fate of loved ones.

A soldier staggered in and collapsed to the floor. The soldier struggled to unclasp his water bottle from his uniform. The boy crawled to the soldier. He helped the soldier unclasp the water bottle. The soldier's hands dropped limply. It took the boy extra seconds to figure out how to unscrew the cap of the water bottle. He did it. He put the opening to the soldier's mouth. The soldier drank, struggling to swallow. The soldier closed his mouth. The boy screwed the cap back on. He took the bottle with him as he crawled back to his hiding place.

Another soldier blundered into the place. He did not see the boy, hiding. The second soldier saw the wounded soldier on the ground, and went to him, and treated him. He spoke to someone on his phone.

Within seconds, two other soldiers appeared with a stretcher. They put the wounded soldier on the stretcher. The two were carrying him away, when he said something that caused them to pause. The second soldier bent to listen, and then looked around. He saw the boy.

For the next thirty years that boy served in the armies of that world Empire, always as special assistant to that soldier he had helped drink water from a water bottle, on a battle field.

They had been in successful battles in more countries all over the world than they cared to count. Some of their successes came after near-failures.

There was a time they were taken prisoners, but escaped when a freak earthquake foiled the plans of their captors.

There was a time they had to hide in a pigpen among pigs in order to avoid being captured.

There were times of temporary setbacks too painful to be healthfully recalled.

In time, that soldier had become a General, and would be retiring soon.

Corporal Jiggs, we have to talk.

Ready and willing and able, General. Sir.

I will be retiring, soon. You can retire, as well, or continue.

I will retire with you, sir. I will return to my hometown where we met, sir.

Jiggs, that place was nuclear bombed. It will be uninhabitable for thousands of years.

I know, sir. Nobody lives there. I want to approach as near as is safely possible, just to look. Sir.

One last look, huh, Corporal?

Yes, sir. One last look.

I understand, Jiggs.

Months later, now retired from the Empire's army, Jiggs was sitting on the banks of a shallow river. Across the river was where the village was where, he had been told, he had been born. He vaguely remembered playing in that river. Nowadays, there were officially posted signs warning that the river water was radioactive toxic, to touch, let alone to drink.

He could not but marvel at how green and dense the forest was on the other side of the poisoned river, a place that had been nuclear-bombed back into the Stone Age, he had been told.

He unclasped his army-issue water bottle from his belt. He sipped a toast to the memory of that last time he remembered being on the other side of the river; being carried by that second soldier, while two others carried his General on a stretcher.

He lay on the ground. He would nap. Under cover of night, he would cross the river.

The official weather forecast was for a night of heavy rain-clouds cover. Perfect cover for an illegal act. Jiggs slept.

Quietly and slowly he walked across the river.

When he entered the dense forest, there was a full moon. He paused a few seconds, to wonder. He dismissed the dense forest as a possible optical illusion; a consequence of nuclear radiation.

He walked on, through the trees and other foliage. He came to a clearing.

A cluster of small houses. Lighting by open fires on the ground. People! People?

He walked towards the dwellings, and the people going about, some casually, some with purpose. Children and adults. In shock, he sat on a bench. People walking by paid no particular attention to him.

He was gathering up courage to speak to someone. A woman, uniformed as a man, approached him,

May I speak, please?

Of course. Please do.

You are a stranger.

Yes. How could you tell?

You are not emitting our frequencies. People have reported it. I am a police person.

I do not mean any harm, officer. I am a retired soldier. I was born here. I was taken away when I was about ten years old. This is the first time I have returned. Just a short visit. I know I have no family here. I will be leaving in a short while.

The officer sat on the bench, and removed her jacket. She shone her flashlight on her forearm to show what appeared to be a tattoo or a birthmark or a scar.

Do you have one of these somewhere on you, sir?

Jiggs was taken aback at the sight of the discoloration on the officer's arm. He had a similar discoloration on the side of his leg, below his knee. He had dismissed it as probably a scar that had happened in one of the many battles he was in, assisting his General, in the Empire's wars.

He showed it to the officer who shone her flashlight on it. The officer put on her jacket.

"What does it mean, officer?"

"It means, sir, that you are one of us. For some reason, we are immune to radiation poisoning. And, we do not age beyond my age while we live here."

"Was this immunity acquired during that nuclear war?"

"We do not know. You said you returned from outside the village?


From which direction over land?

Not over land. I crossed over by the river.

Itís not deep enough for a boat. You waded across?

Easily. Less than knee deep.

We know. We do not try to cross ever since at the beginning when the few who entered the water, died instantly. We tried rafts. The water weakened the wood within minutes.

Obviously, then, my immunity does not come from the mark on me.


Because I am from outside?

We cannot tell. You are the first outsider we know of since the nuclear war.

I will leave immediately, just in case that water contact is having a delayed effect, because I have been gone for so long.

Or, perhaps, the mark on you is a birthmark that gave you immunity from before the war.

Contact Ezra
(Unless you type the author's name
in the subject line of the message
we won't know where to send it.)

Ezra's Story list and biography

Book Case

Home Page

The Preservation Foundation, Inc., A Nonprofit Book Publisher