We were crushed by the battle’s evidences. All around us, screams and roars of pure pain and suffering were ringing, reminding us of the fatality of the situation and the absolute resignation that was howling in all of us. We couldn’t lose this battle, not now, not after seeing all the blood that was pouring from un-healing wounds, not after witnessing the corpses that were too much in the verge of death to be healed, not after the sacrifices and the suffering that we lived today.
We had lost too much to succumb now and a deep thought never ceased to roar in our minds, in unison.
We will come back as the winning end, vengeful, victorious.
We were in the middle of the forest, a territory that we battled in and for, it was still day but the sunrays were going to slowly fade little by little as the night would settle its coat on everyone. Makeshift tents were sparsely settled all around the clearing that we were in. Some of them were in between the trees as the space had begun to be more and more crowded, making us thrift more and more to gather everyone.
To save the most we could, the few and fortunate ones.
The simple and fatal thought made my heart clench horribly in my chest, making me grind my teeth in absolute rage. The thought was such a powerful one, making my body shake by the feeling that was submerging me when it punctually started to cross my mind, more often the more time passed in this chaos.
We were at the verge of the battle and everyone knew it. Despite it taking place miles away, we knew with certainty that the end was near. All around, the bodies continued to come, more bloodied, more lifeless and more irretrievably gone by the minutes and goosebumps of pure anxiousness shook my body.
Before me, the body that I was attending to was failing us and I couldn’t do anything about it. He was dying and soon, he would rejoin the others, the lost part of us, the one we would never get back. As my hands pushed against his chest, the hardest I could, I tried to save him, tried my hardest, pushed on his chest as if it’s wasn’t just flesh and bones inside, as if it was unbreakable metal that wouldn’t even bend from my phenomenal strength but nothing did it and when I felt a hand on my shoulder, I recovered my senses only to look at the body, fully look at it.
“ He’s gone Reina.” the voice whispered near behind me, its pull stronger on it. “ You did the best you could.”
A lie for the sake of carrying on when everything was collapsing.
He was dead, so dead, probably since awful minutes but still, I pushed, pushed for life to get back inside of him, pushed for him to come back to his family, for him to live and see another day, a glorious one. But there was no glorious day ahead of us and he was gone, his chest unmoving, his breath having faded in a list exhalation too far ago.
“ We have to keep it going.”
The hand patted my shoulder reassuringly, the words out of that mouth not processing themselves in my head, unbearable to handle, leaving me seconds later for the person to probably attend another critically wounded person.
But I couldn’t move.
Right there, I felt everything drop. My strength, my willpower, my determination and it all materialized in the drop of my arms from the lifeless body, making my hands join flatly my sides in a cushioned sound as the bones in my wrists hit my thighs. My eyes set on the corpses ahead of me, I couldn’t carry on. I felt dead inside from seeing so much, from being able to do this little.
This couldn’t be possible. I couldn’t for the life of me see how everything went from assured victory to indisputable fear of loss. The fear of losing more lives, the fear of losing dear ones, the fear of losing everything to them.
Around me, I heard the hurried steps of the members charged of attending to the wounded, rushing, shooting orders and indications in a chaos of voices.
“ Please, he’s my mate.” A female’s voice screamed, sobbs ruining her wwords as she cried out shamelssly before me, tears streaming down her face as if down a waterfall. “ Please, I’m begging you, don’t let him die.” She cried again, rederning my eyes stuck on that figure that I would never forget.
Like too many others that day.
The cries of people who hopelessly brought a dear one from the battlefield, foolishly thinking they could save them, I had heard enough of them.
But we couldn’t save them.
We were in such deep and dangerous waters, outnumbered, incapable to attend everyone, obligated to choose between a life and another to save the most likely one to survive despite everything. We were doing the exact same thing the enemy was doing on the other side, we were bringing fatal lethality and grief all around us.
My hands fisted, probably making my knuckles look whiter than the color itself would allow for it to be in common bases and they were beginning to hurt from the strength I was putting in them to fully concentrate on my task, to fully return to it despite the mess.
As I tightly closed my eyes, trying to suppress the absolute shambles we were in, I just couldn’t help the feeling that shook me inside. We had to win, or everything would have been for nothing, or all the dead ones would have gone only to become a number added to the triumph that the opponents would be applauded for. They would become numbers used by them to settle the facts of a victory that wasn’t ours.
We would lose everything, our lives, our unity and before all, we would be for them the dim remaining of a scattered enemy and we would die, one way or another.
It was all happening tonight, all for the safety of our homes and families, for our land and territory to stay ours.
I pulled myself together, not because it was what was required from me but because I had to.
But I knew my place wasn’t here. I should have been in the battlefield, I should have been in between the bodies, shattering the enemy into pieces, leaping at them with my strength and tearing their heads of their bodies, extracting their guts out of their deathly kissed corpses, allowing myself to be fully drenched by cold liquids and the metallic scent of victory, by the color of it and vindictively the blood of the adversary.
I should be with my brothers and sisters, fighting for our liberty, fighting for our victory. But I had to be here, I had to obey the orders that were containing me, constricting me in this place that was becoming suffocating, jailing me in a place between life and death.
Again, my jaw clenched out of pure rage but I had to do it despite my aversion, I had to stay strong for my people, to save the few that could be.
Opening my eyes with a new found resignation, I searched around, going out of the tent only to find the makeshift camp more crowded than what I had imagined it to be, with people laying on the ground, some covered by white dirtied sheets that signed their death and other inconscient or screaming out of pain.
I wanted to avenge them, I wanted to be there for them but for the sake of the orders, for the sake of my people, I would stay here despite every fiber of my body fighting for me to run for the front rows. For now, I would help them the best I could and avoid to give more dead allies to the enemy than the ones they ultimately had to their account.
My eyes met with a new wave of bloodied warriors as they were transported towards us and it was then my body moved, running to help them. As I approached, wide and terrified eyes met me.
" What happened ?" I demanded hurriedly, my eyes searching for the place he was bleeding from me.
" He was beaten in the leg, the bone is sectioned." The nurse debriefed quickly as I took the young man's arm and set it behind my neck as I carried him inside.
When I laid him there, with the help of the nurse, it was only to come face to face with the man's blue horrified eyes too, the eyes of someone who saw this battle I was seeking to fight, the eyes who couldn't handle it.
" I don't want to lose my leg." I heard the man implore, his pleading voice making my heart clench horribly.
Looking in his eyes, questions hit me.
Was Jagger in the same state ?
Was he even alive ?
How many more lives to lose before losing it all ?
It was only half an hour later, after failing to save a leg lost for the sake of this battle, after taking care of a female and two others that survived through it, that I heard it.
In fact, we heard it all as it resonated in our minds. Everyone in the camp linked, we were all in tune, our heads tilted up for the most as we were waiting for the sentence. Our eyes glazed over slightly, becoming pools of darkened orbs. Our heart beating faster, menacing to collapse from the anxiety, the pain already engraved in there, the fear.
It was then we heard it, what would make us or break us.
“ Retreat !”