“What were you thinking?” squeaked the mouth on the floor.
“What were you thinking?” Colonel Batra shot back.
An entity with one arm and half a leg dragged itself over to the mouth, “I’ve often been told that I should stop running my mouth.” A toothy grin flashed from the mouth now nestled in a dirty palm.
Batra sighed. “What was I thinking?” he thought to himself as he looked around. His butt- a piece of his butt was missing and as a man rather fond of his butt, he was determined to find it.
He walked past two fingers and a kidney. Something that looked like a Gluteus beckoned to him from the left and he pounced.
“That’s mine!” a severed hand clamped over his leftover finger.
He jumped. “How on earth are you doing that?” he whirled towards the one-armed entity and snapped.
“I’m using the force,” the solemnity in the mouth’s voice didn’t match the twinkle in its eyes.
“Damn kid…dead and still joking around…” Batra grumbled as he pulled his hand away.
The entity was now beside him and offering a piece of flesh with its single hand. “Why don’t we think of this as my version of an olive branch?”
“My butt!” Batra snatched it from the hand and pressed it into his torn behind. It merged seamlessly into its place as if it had been waiting for the opportunity.
Batra sighed in relief. “I always thought my butt was my best feature,” said the 50 year old army officer.
“It is a nice butt. Felt quite meaty,” replied the 23 year old terrorist.
Once upon a minute, they had come face to face- gun to grenade. The officer was defending his base from the bomber; the terrorist was promoting his belief through the bomb. There was that split second when their eyes met. Then, they were dead.
Later that day, a terrorist cell will make a legend out of the young man’s name. Later the same day, the old officer would be honoured as a martyr that died in the line of duty. Neither had wanted to die. But, in that split second none of these thoughts entered their heads.
“Seriously, what was I thinking?” Batra mumbled as he hopped towards the wall, his leg tucked under his arm.
“The question should be: why didn’t you think?” came the cheery voice from behind him. The head was now re-attached to the torso and the entity ceased to be an entity and became a person. He slid down the wall beside the now fully-reassembled officer. “Don’t you need your fingers?”
“I only need one,” Batra held up his hand with the single remaining middle finger.
The terrorist snorted and opened his mouth. Then, closed it. The smile slipped from his face as he looked up at the officer he killed.
“Do you hate me?”
Batra moved the facial muscles to rise his eyebrows.
“That looks very weird when you don’t have eyebrows.”
“And whose fault is that?”
The young terrorist’s equally hairless face flushed. “Sorry…” he mumbled.
“What’s your name?” Batra asked to break the silence that had fallen between them.
“Abrar,” came the quiet answer.
Abrar looked up with wide eyes at the excited officer. Slowly, his face creased into a smile.
“I used to love my rifle. I was only six then, so it was almost as tall as me. But, I would clean it every day and I would love to hold it, even if I wasn’t shooting!” Abrar fell back against the wall as the memories assaulted him.
“Ah…I know that feeling.”
The silence that fell between them now was more companionable.
“Do you hate me?” the terrorist’s question thickened the air again.
“I did. I hated you so much I would have shot you without a second thought.” The air became thicker.
“But…you didn’t.” the small voice almost lost its way in the miasma between them before reaching the officer.
“I know. I was surprised too,” Batra shook his head and shrugged. “But, what does it matter? I’m dead now. So, if it’s anything to you, I don’t hate you anymore.”
Abrar nodded. “At least, you died a hero,” he whispered.
“So did you,” replied the martyred colonel, “Just…to a different set of people.”
The air lightened and the companionable silence returned.
“You know, I read the Koran,” Batra started.
“It’s a book open to interpretation,” he turned to look at his partner in death, “Just like any other religious book.”
Abrar nodded. “Yes, that’s true.”
“Then, did you ever wonder how it would’ve been if you had adopted a more peaceful interpretation?” Batra’s lopsided eyes didn’t leave the young man’s lopsided face.
“All the time,” came the reply, “But, it didn’t matter. Because good boys don’t ask questions. They follow orders and I wanted to be a good boy.”
“Ah! People-pleaser, aren’t you?”
“That’s my weakness.”
“So, let’s say you meet Messiah now. What do you think you’ll say?”
The dead terrorist guffawed. “What were you thinking? That’s what I’d say!”
Batra laughed, “I thought good boys didn’t ask questions?”
“I’m dead now. What does it matter?” Abrar winked. “So, what would you say?”
“Ah…” Batra let out loud sigh, “I’m not much for talking. But, I believe it’s a sign that the only finger left on my hand is the middle one.”
The terrorist placed a hand on the officer’s shoulder. “You have a lot of growing up to do, old man.”
“And you have a lot of Sorrys to say, young terrorist,” Batra shrugged off the hand from his shoulder, “Let’s go. It’s time.”
The mourning comrades had lit the fire, one in consecration of a martyr, another in desecration of a terrorist. Leaping flames consumed the remains of hero and villain alike and nobody noticed a well-shaped butt and a toothy grin walking away.