Thin, silvery wisps texture the stale air choked under a sky of tarpaulin. They mingle with the musty vapours, which now condense on the soldiers, a shroud of humidity. In the back of the Humvee, nobody speaks. The only punctuations in the air of horror are the stifled sobs of soldiers, overcome with the revulsion of their actions. The dying embers of the Malboro Light glow faintly. The world is burning.
Ahzad stares, uncomprehendingly, into the eyes of the white man from the TV. Definitely from TV, he thinks. Where else would there be white men in Tripoli? His gaze falters, chilled by the inhuman discipline of the soldier. His eyes trace the khaki two – piece of the soldier, following the outline of a meaty arm to an unexpected destination – a pistol. It glints deceptively, that beautifully moulded seductress, charging its holder to slake its insatiable bloodlust. Now, in Azhad’s mind, its slender barrel croons in anticipation of a feast of disparity, contorting into a malevolent smile.
Bang! Azhad feels the warm liquid sluice the façade of innocence adorning the faces of his peers. That was Hassan, his brain manages to grasp a narrative from an abyss of uncertainty. He’d sat next to Hassan, at the same desk he now crouched under – shivering, sweating, praying. Praying a manic chant, a tribute to Gods he did not adulate, a sort of last-ditch attempt at retribution. Retribution for what? His bewildered young mind contemplates furiously. Maybe it was that chocolate I stole off a tourist? Maybe that is why Mr. Gaddafi’s men are here; maybe that is why they have spewed their poison, their war, on Hassan? Hassan’s eyes turn to stone, as if the leaden bullets have leaked into his corneas. A wisp of smoke emerges from the blood-vapour mist, seeping from the gun’s merry smirk. Sergeant Price reloads. The world is burning.
Robert Price is choking inside. Not from the fresh release of gunpowder, but from the barrage of emotion sinking its icy tendrils into his conscience, laying bare his many, many sins. They culminated with this, the death of an 8 year old. No, the murder of an 8 year old. Reckless, unnecessary blood spilt by a man who hadn’t heard of Libya two months ago. Outwardly, he feigned an air of supremacy – a military standard. His eyes haemorrhaged tears under a thin film of rigidity, threatening to destroy the richly constructed premise, threatening to expose his humanity to these children – to provide some semblance of hope. Could he do that? As if in answer, he lifts the Glock at his side to his head, locking eyes with the shaking boy under the desk. He does not wince. He does not falter.
Click – clack – bang.
The brilliant glow of a magnesium flare illuminates Robert Price’s shallow grave. The world is burning.