Fireworks light up the night.
Airplanes, bombers, rip apart the dark silence. I see nothing.
Cannons fire, overwhelm the village outskirts with dust and destruction. I hear nothing.
I can only see him, my baby, peaceful in my arms.
I can only hear him, my baby, whimpering.
“Don’t worry, we’ll be fine.” I assure him. He doesn’t understand. The noises from outside keep getting louder. I don’t care. We’re safe, right here, at least for today. He starts to cry. I sigh.
This bunker is barren, of resources and of people. The two of us are here, with other mothers and their children. I don’t know of their names. I don’t want to know of their names.
My son’s round, wet eyes fixate on me. I smile at him. His father is gone. The man is either down South fighting, or dead. War is war. I don’t have any regrets. I love him, but he went of his own accord. I didn’t stop him. I didn’t feel the need to.
“Keep quiet now.”
I bring my baby’s face to my own. I love it. I love every part of him, from his precious nose, his quivering fingers, to his bright complexion. He may not grow up in a peace, but at least he’s still alive. He smiles at me, beaming. I don’t even want anything else.
“Go to sleep, son.” I urge him. He understands. Not too long after, he drifts off.
I look at him. One day, he’s going to grow up. He’s going to be a soldier like his father. He’s going to serve his country. He’s going to make me proud.
The night carries on.
A woman in the corner begins crying, her baby held close. She’s clearly upset. I don’t know why. Maybe she’s missing the father. Maybe the child’s starved to death. Maybe she’s just scared.
I drift off, my son in hand.
A young man approaches me. He’s covered in blood, and walks with a limp. His expression is sullen. He has someone on his back.
I recognise the both of them.
He stoops down at me, his head bowed low. He is saying something I can’t make out; people are being so loud. Today’s the day team 86 returns, and many takes to the streets. The war is finally over.
“Everyone!” I hear the voice of the captain. It’s rugged, hoarse, and broken. “We’re victorious! The invaders have surrendered.”
“The country is free at last!” The woman behind me screams aloud. It is her son who’s bowing down at me.
He hands me the body on his back with all the delicateness he can muster. He expects me to say something. I don’t plan to. As if filled with guilt, the boy departs, and goes to his mother. She hugs him fervently. How happy they are.
I look down to the body I now hold, a boy of only eighteen. His face still shines as brightly as I have remembered. I bring it close to mine, and kiss him on the cheek. I love him. I reach for his right hand, since his left is gone. I hold his palm tightly. It’s cold. That’s no good. He has to have been dead for a while.
The villagers start to sing the national anthem. I recall singing it to him. The song was, and still is, so heroic and honourable. He loved it. He would tell me to sing for him everyday.
Everyone is tearing up. No more fighting, only peace, such a momentous occasion. The woman behind me is crying too; tears of joy, of reunion. Her son held her by the arms. They join the solemn tune.
I sing, my son in hand.