Prejudice shining through in an environment of conflict

A gunshot rang through the night, birds take to the heavens. A black veil on a black sky. There wasn't a better description for this wretched place: when it wasn't black it was grey. There were only two shades in this city, but never any white. Never once in this grisly city have I seen any white, even the clouds seem to be perpetually stormy, and everything that ever had any shine would be tarnished within a day or two, as if there was something in the air, chipping away at beauty in the land of the desolate.

And perhaps there is. There was always something ill between the gray of the rain and the dark of the eternal night. There were no heroes and no martyrs, only those who die and those who survive. And that is the reality of it, at least those who were sane seemed to have deserted this place a long time ago. Me? I stayed in this city because I couldn't run. Maybe it was that strange will I had. That hope that someday some hero would come and save this town. But of course not. Nothing ever happened like those fairy tales. All the brave men and women who tried became feasts for crows and banquets for rats.

But all this could only happen during the day. Sunlight, or what could pass through the eternal gray of the skies, offered somewhat of a facsimile of protection from thugs and thieves and the like. But even then it couldn't stop what happens deeper still in the shadows. It almost seemed that dark alleys were a world of their own, and you could almost feel the cold gaze of some creature - what must have been at some point human - staring at you through the border between black and white: where the dark starts is his domain. Stray too close and you may lose a leg an arm or more if you aren't careful.

And after, after, there was the night. Slowly as the sun retreats, the shadows gain on the lit ground and darkness devours all. Engulfed in the shroud of death, you wait until morning, tendrils of solid void seem to strangle you making it harder and harder to breathe. But you don't dare cry for help, for fear of alerting the predators of the night, so different from those who walk the lighten paths. Indeed they are like the innocence of a new-born baby and the black stain of death basking in the afterglow of a bombing. Heaven and Hell.

It wasn't uncommon to pass a sleepless night or two or three or more. Sometimes because of the shots that were fired so close to you terror of being found in the flash kept you paranoid. Sometimes because of the dreadful feeling of deaths playful touch on your skin, or the gleaming eyes of some unknown gory killer, or the hot breath of some beast contrasting against your cold sweat.

There was only ever one word to characterise these kinds of nights : madness. Many a time have I heard mad howls and mad laughter followed by multiple gunshots, screams and sobs. Heard singing flesh played by some morbid musician, and clickety-clacks of some mechanical tool going to work on some helpless and clueless victim.

And that was what we feared the most about the night: its cloaked covered all and induced horror of not knowing what was coming to get you and running away from some atrocious death, unknown yet unwanted. Even then we all knew to hide, play dead and wait for the sun to rise again and reclaim ground on the darkness that crept into his kingdom for half a day. Still it left behind buildings to cast the shadows necessary to his realm.

The rest of us counted our limbs and thanked our guardian angels - if we still believed this was a better place than death - and walked in the pools of blood that have replaced where once rested morning dew. We scavenged the corpses for everything we could take on ourselves and ran for cover, because we know that soon they would come and pick up those who did not survive.

Day after day, week after week for who knows how long, we've looked with empty eyes at all those who passed away, and we envied them for they no longer needed to face this Hell on Earth. Jealousy especially towards those who seem to have died a peaceful death, and many were frozen by time with a smile creeping on their lips. They knew this was it.

And still we fight because we have no choice, it's either them or us. So what could we do but rest for the rest of the day, in the brief ceasefire the sun afforded us. Until once more we were thrown into the dark battlefield. Most of us were weaponless, defenceless and never asked for any of this to happen. But we had no choice but to once again hide, trembling while outside the rumblings of beasts against monsters shook our fragile haven.

Come day again every soul in the city, directly or indirectly was scarred for life, mentally or physically, and disease festered in the sewers and the waste spots, people were hungry and thirsty, the healthy were scarce, food, water and other supplies scarcer. Survival was number one priority and everyone would steal and kill to keep themselves alive. Nobody could be trusted and bloodbaths eventually occurred even in the day. After a while, they could no longer dispose of everything any longer and so we were swallowed up by our own death. Many committed suicide. And slowly, slowly, they all died.

Me? I stayed in this city because I couldn't run. Maybe it was that strange will I had. That hope that someday some hero would come and save this town. But of course not. Nothing ever happened like those fairy tales. All the brave men and women who tried became feasts for crows and banquets for rats in the ravages of war.

A short story on war and what it could do to a city.