Skirmishes

Why cauterize wounds?

The sight of a masked man walking towards a festering wound with a branding iron would set motion in us mortal fears. More often than not, these are battle wounds with neither the doctor nor the patient having had the luxury of clinical training.

Sometimes the roles are reversed midway.

The teeth are clenched, the face blanched and the orange iron passed onto the other. The charred smell of burnt skin and the sizzling sounds would have barely died out before the other takes the rod. The stanching continues till either passes out in the hope that when they come to, their wounds would have healed.

One moment we appear saints; a blinding flash rumbles somewhere – a reminder of the larger context of mindless mayhem – and immediately we become two distrustful beasts who caught ourselves at the right time from becoming a human toy for the other.

Why would one even want to imagine such scenarios? Why put ourselves through the pain and fear of medical history when we can give ourselves a shot of novocaine and drug out?

I do not know.

Maybe I believe, hidden in plain sight, there are miasmic battlefields. Armed with weapons arbitrarily assigned to us we battle the known and the unknown.

In this other world, words are weapons. They are hurled to hurt. They are slipped in to deceive. They are planted to explode into mushrooming booby traps, blasting to pieces legs of friends and foes alike. We do not come back to check the casualties.

Sights and sounds are weapons too I believe. In war isn’t everything a weapon? Even intent?

Wartimes are extraordinary.

Caught in the melee of war, we lash out. Like whirling towers of frenzied flesh, we deploy our weapons, firing at phantoms. We then make our temporary escapes into the rising dust, not having the time to gloat over enemies’ dismembered arms, nor drag dazed loved ones into the trenches.

In abandoned shackles, far away from where the battle has moved to, sometimes we cower in the dark, feeling each other out, reassuring ourselves more than anyone else, that someone armed with a mighty arsenal will walk in from the horizon, dispelling darkness and bringing cooing doves and green lawns with a wave of their hands. With eyes smarting from the cordite, we squint into autumnal lights, till we find ourselves gripping and smothering each other with terror and hope.

I am not sure who has the advantage. The ones who have only words? They have range. The ones with the sights? They are immediate. Powerful brawlers who if within range can decimate. Those armed with smell and taste can overpower too. Words seem far removed. The others are all short ranged decimators with devastating effects.

Words are inexhaustible though. There must be something to it. After the war is over, like sparking automatons, words would still be crackling away. A long-tail end to desolation.

The interludes of comedy are funnier.

Every now and then, after years of roaming the wastelands, you will catch the moans of pleasure from a shack, voices you forgot. Smells you thought you knew.

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