Perhaps I am a coward after all. I stop. Bent over and pushing the rifle against my thighs just above my knees, I heave great breaths of air into my lungs and force them back out. My side stitch has returned, like a hot knife, lancing me through the side. The agony is excruciating. It is some measure of what I deserve, I think.
In this position, I can see that my pants are dry now. I wonder how much time has passed. It must be hours. Could it be that long?
I skitter from this tree to another further away, stop again. I am like an overgrown squirrel in this forest. Freezing, scampering, freezing again to listen and watch for depraved predators.
I’d say this was a bad plan if it had been planned at all. It wasn’t. I am here in the forest, alone, running, afraid. There is nothing here in the land where trees touch sky. Even the animals have wisely fled. I must continue north. I know this but I do not have a compass or a destination. And little ammunition. I am in all ways lost.
The nurse was lucky, or wise, to have not spared me much. Is panic cowardice? I wonder. I surely panicked at the sight of the masked men, the only bit of their faces showing their rodent-like eyes. They wore our uniforms, drove our trucks boldly up to the front door of the hospital. They swarmed out with guns, not stretchers.
The realization that those men were not our soldiers came as a shock. I can’t really remember what Nurse Anna told me to be honest. I was too busy worrying she’d notice that I’d wet my pants.
I had a vision though of the masked men slowly torturing me, laughing and cheering at my agony. Who are these monsters that would attack a hospital? I look at my hands. They are still shaking.
I took the rifle that she pushed into my arms, sprinted to the barn she pointed to and kept right on running. I never even looked back. The shooting started before I hit the tree line. Or was it after? I am not sure now. They would shoot the wounded in their beds. And, of course, the male doctors. The women though? I shake my head. I pray for them, but suspect the prayers of this ten year-old coward will be left unheard, blowing around like the leaf litter upon which I have run.
I sniffle and wipe at my tears furiously. Anna was good to me. She deserved better than a coward.
Picture linked via Writing My Legacy.