A Devil’s Dance
The mighty Alpha company hastily took cover amongst the rocks. Three of them didn’t move an inch. They had fallen moments ago, victim to the sniper bullet. Shock stung deeper than the chill in the air.
“I want the enemy sniper taken out..!!” shouted the Major in battle fatigues.
The company sniper, lying flat on the ground, stopped chewing a now tasteless gum. He nodded in silence but didn’t move. No one moved for the next few minutes.
Sniper duty was like dancing with the devil. Hot and exhilirating. Sure to set the floor on fire. Locked in embrace, a tango to remember. The dance, simultaneously elevating and consuming, warned of imminent death.
The sniper, still flat on the ground, made the first move by slowly pulling his right foot forward. The boot slithering over pebbles and stones, made treacherous sounds. He froze. His face instinctively pressed against the cold pebbles, waiting for sniper fire. None came. Dragging himself further in the general direction of sniper bullet, he perched himself on a flat rock near the cliff. The brave soldiers of Alpha company, helpless and vulnerable, waited with bated breath.
The sniper raised the rifle to his right eye. The powerful telescopic sight, showed the vast expanse of stillness ahead. Snow clad mountains, simultaneously treacherous and beautiful, hid his nemesis well. His heart began to pound. He wondered if he could dodge the bullet. He could sense the devil smile. The tango had begun.
After what seemed like an hour, with no enemy in sight, his thoughts began to drift. With extreme stealth, he took out his son’s photograph from the chest pocket. The innocent face of a boy in school uniform next to his proud father had a calming affect.
“my Batman” his son had scribbled on the photo. There was a smiley too.
His 6 yrs old son had been fast asleep when he had sneaked out of the house. As usual his wife had been in tears. She stood at the doorway watching him board the military truck.
Batman slowly removed the tasteless chewing gum from his mouth. He used it to stick his son’s photograph to a nearby stone.
The sniper thought of a name for the enemy. “Joker” seemed appropriate. Batman peered again through the telescopic sight. His prowling eyes hunted methodically. Dark clouds loomed large.
His mind drifted in the times gone by, the wedding attended by his close friends, the vacations spent on the beach. The time when he had waited anxiously outside the operation theatre, as his wife went under the knife for a cesarean section. The sublime happiness on seeing his son take the first step. He thought about the call of duty and the futility of war. He thought about the tears, his wife could barely hold back.
A trained subconscious mind detected a faint movement in the distance. It shook Batman out of his reverie. His eyeballs frantically scanned the valley through the telescopic sight.
Devil sensed the inevitable and craved with gluttony for its pound of flesh.
Joker’s index finger wrapped itself around the trigger. He shifted his telescopic crosshair from Batman’s head to the photograph stuck on the stone.
An innocent face smiled at him through the telescopic sight. His trigger finger hesitated. Duty fought against conscience. The tango foxtrotted even as the devil frowned. The turmoil lasted for a few seconds.
Clarity broke through the fog.
Joker’s index finger tightened again as he shifted the telescopic crosshair back to the sniper. Batman’s eyes now stared directly back at him. The tango had reached a crescendo.
The valley echoed with the sound of a rifle gunshot. Alpha company ducked behind the rocks. A sniper bullet, laced with duty, hit between the eyes and opened a spurt of blood. The determined hand that gripped the rifle became lifeless. The Devil smiled with glee, content with its pound of flesh. Batman felt the void, in the regions of his soul. The face in the photo continued to smile.