Drop, Part 2: Help Thy
In the morning there seemed to be a pause in hostilities. I
looked outside at the rubble covering the ground and thanked God just to be
breathing, to be in one piece, aboveground.
Smoke still rose from surrounding buildings. To clear what
was once a pitch, I used an old jalopy of a bull dozer. It took me a full day
to clear the larger pieces. I picked up and put the smaller ones into a
wheelbarrow and wheeled them off the pitch. I used a stiff broom to deal with
the dust and mud.
Five hours felt like five minutes. The day felt like a
flick of the hand and, before I could reach my targeted amount of work, it was
night. I looked up to see white specs of diamond dust sprinkled across the sky,
and realized they were stars. It was warm, and streetlights were operable,
which helped me to work. I continued cleaning until I was exhausted. My brow
was covered in sweat, my tee shirt drenched. I took a seat, and watched a black
water spout in front of me snap in two, half of it falling to the ground.
I dried myself off and changed my shirt. I sat down and
continued scrutinizing the building in front of me. The top half of the
structure was blown out and looked like a dangerous cliff with rocks about to
fall. The apartments to the front looked bulldozed, like a huge punch
from King Kong had taken down a wall and big chunks in between.
From my black satchel, which I fetched from the seat on the
dozer, I grabbed my copy book and drawing pencils. I started drawing what I
saw. The stars looked close enough to touch. The silence, the stars, the
black sky holding the stars, and the devastation underneath me was like a haiku
Streetlights were flickering on and off. I took this for an
advance warning that all lights would soon be off in the city. I got my torch
from my black satchel and walked inside. The railings of the staircases were
destroyed. I had to climb and jump over obstacles as I made my way downstairs
to the basement room.
I waited all night long for daylight. I slept poorly. Every
hour I woke to check the time. In the morning I counted fifty piles to clean up
and put into bags. The sun shone down upon me. I heard distant battles as I
gathered up the remnants of yesterday’s mess. The grass was overgrown. I wanted
cut it to stop potential rats nesting.
With rusty hedge clippers I began the intensive process of
cutting grass. It took me eight days to clear the area. On the ninth day I woke
up, picked up a discarded ball, and walked outside. I was just about to kick
the ball into the sky, when I had visions of me rifling the nets I’d made.
Every dream must come to an end. I saw a man hanging by a rope from a goal post
I’d made with wooden logs. I turned around and walked inside.
Days passed after that awful event. To my great relief some
people began to return to the Bayside region, including Sam and his family
who’d returned from the countryside along with his wife and two kids. They
looked hungry and shell-shocked. They brought all their worldly possessions in
the trunk of a car which I helped to unload. I helped them get basic appliances
working again. I told him that only if he wanted to freeze to death should he
keep things as they were. Concerned, he asked for further help from me.
I agreed to sort this problem out very soon. I gutted out
all the glass I could find. My days of rehanging glass are long over. After us
spending enough time together working through plumbing and other problems, he
told me of his ordeal in the part of the countryside he’d fled.
“Food was scarce there.”
“Food is getting short here too,” I said.
“We had no other choice but to leave,” he told me.
“Why? I thought you were doing well there.”
He shook his head. I debated with him. “You have farm
land, don’t you? You could live off that? Look around you: nothing grows here.”
“Her father’s house where we were staying was blown up.”
“I did not know that.”
“We will never return.”
“Possibly you will return if this never-ending war should
draw to a conclusion.”
“That is a distant hope.”
“Do you have enough provisions for your family?”
“What we have is some clothes and essentials we borrowed
His wife, who wore a blue-and-white dress, finally said a
few words. “We moved to my father’s house because our home was too small here.
Now we are relieved to have our small apartment to stay in.”
“Was anybody in the house when it was blown up?” I asked.
“You are lucky.”
“My father would have been in the house, but had passed
away six months before. It was morning when they hit our home. I was walking
with the children; my husband was doing farm work,” she said.
“We had to leave our primary source of income and
sustenance just to be safe,” Sam groaned.
Time went by, and Sam’s family was truly manacled by
hunger. We were all hungry. Sam was willing to do anything in order to
survive. I gave Sam what little extra food I had, though it was not enough to
keep a family. He was not willing to give up the struggle for survival,
entering one of the many ruined complexes around his home area, searching for
nothing short of a miracle.
His long beard was filthy; hair hung like a stalactite from
his jaw. His face was dirtied from the plumes of smoke all around him—a pitiful
sight, his body starved so his children and wife could live. With a proper diet
he would have been a tall, strong man, but had become all skin and bone.
He climbed into destroyed and wasting buildings full of mud
and rubble. The ground was uneven. He tripped over a rock and landed in mud and
water. He pulled himself out of the mud and continued exploring. He could not
ignore the strong smell coming from underneath the rocks. Unaware that he
was smelling decaying bodies, he bent his knees, raised his hands, and hefted a
He thought he would use the rock to crush something.
He knew what he was looking for was somewhere between a crack in the wall and
underneath the rocks below. He set down the rock and got out a sharp knife.
There was no game to kill around here. He kept looking, and, eventually, saw
the nest. What were they eating?
They were there lining up between the walls—the size of
dogs—no longer barely detectable. They had always been there. Before, they were
small, fast, and skinny. They could run like lightning. Now, with fat rolling
from their bodies, they were hardly able to waddle. What had they been feeding
on? When the answer dawned on him, his stomach churned.
He walked slowly up to the vermin. As he neared them, their
clicks sent a chill down his spine, disgusting him. This could not be his
family’s dinner, could it? As he was about to move away he spotted white
runners worn by a man with black trousers and a sweater, his head covered by a
The militant entered the crumbling doorway and pointed his
gun at Sam, who nearly fainted in disbelief.
“You’re looking for something, aren’t you?”
His heart thumped hard. Two weeks ago, this same militant
had attacked a hospital, where a surgeon had told the News Agency, “I think the
death toll is much higher than thirty. The entire building was full of dead
bodies and blood. I am still in shock and cannot forget the floor painted with
This militant, unremorseful and unperturbed by what he had
done, must desire to shed more blood.
“I have seen you around before.”
“You have?” Sam asked.
“Yes, driving your motorbike.”
“I have no petrol for it now.”
The militant pointed his gun away. “You’re looking for
food?” he asked as he took aim at the rats.
“Yes,” Sam admitted with shame.
“Do you have family?”
“I know you are one of us.”
Sam did not dare disagree.
“I’ll give you enough supplies to last a month. But you
must make deliveries around the city using your bike.”
“How about cash for this?”
“I will pay in advance, and great money too. We will give
“I would appreciate that.”
“Come along with me.”
Sam was escorted to the militant’s checkpoint. It only took
a few sentences for the militant to be understood. He was told to wait. Beside
him were ten armed men dressed in combat fatigues.
“There are two children?”
“Yes, as I told you, I have two.”
“Give them extra meat.”
Sam was given four big bags of food.
“Do you want help to bring them home?”
“You better let us help you. Do you live far?”
“It’s far enough for you to be attacked.”
“When you get there, we will fuel your bike and make sure
it is in working condition. Your bike is outside your home?”
“Yes, it is.”
When Sam got home his wife and two children were fast
asleep. Good, he would not have to face her questions, although he felt soon he
would have to have answers. He lit the stove and started cooking. His food
smelled delicious, but before he could taste it, his mobile phone beeped to
indicate a received message in his inbox.
“First job tomorrow: pickups and deliveries will be texted
He shook his head. His wife had woken up. Facing her was
worse than having to face the militants. The kids ate. It was a relief to see
them eat. Junior before the war was a picky eater; now he wolfed down the greens
and the fruit like they were the best food in the world. The children had not
yet reached the stage where eating would be impossible.
Nobody said anything. Sam looked at his wife. Her face
showed not victory, but defeat. An old lady began screeching mercilessly; the
walls might have been made of paper, for there was no blocking out her grating
He left the table, got a bucket of water and a rag, threw
liquid soap into the water to make suds, and went to the basement to wash his
motorcycle and forget about his family for a few hours. By the time he was done
cleaning his bike, he was fed via SMS instructions for the next day.
He thought if he walked upstairs and went into the
apartment everyone would be asleep. He opened his front door. His wife was
waiting for him at the kitchen table…
Heavy fighting in the city started at five am, continuing
without letup. His phone rang at six.
“We have the delivery earlier than expected; come get it.”
“Okay, I am coming for it.”
Sam had just put on his jacket when he heard his wife’s
footsteps. He turned his head to her.
“Where are you going?” she asked.
“To work,” he said.
“What work?” she asked.
“Dangerous work,” Sam said, grinding his teeth.
“What work?” she repeated.
“I am going to work.” He refused to offer details.
“I’m trying to understand why we have to do desperate
things to live,” she said.
“I know if you understand we will survive.”
She shook her head in frustration. “I see no future
“I am doing my best.”
“You are not making things better for us.”
Sam could not disagree.
“This is hell,” she said, trembling. “What am I to do in
hell? Tell me?”
“I will work only as needed.” He thought this comment would
calm her down so he could mentally prepare for the work that was ahead of
“I know who you are with.”
Sam wanted to bury himself. “You saw who I came home with?”
“Yes,” she replied.
Sam got his keys to leave.
“Sam, you have already joined them.”
“I am only carrying messages for them.”
“By taking alms from them and agreeing to do work for them
you have completed their initiation ritual.”
“I will do this
“I don’t care what you have to do, be safe. Do whatever it
is that you have to do, and let’s get to hell out.”
He opened the door. He gave her a kiss on the right and
left cheek. He walked towards the door. A tear fell from his left eye. He wiped
it away with his right palm.
Although most identifiable landmarks had been destroyed,
luckily, he had a sat nav. He rode his bike on the roads filled with a white
sandy dust, as plumes of smoke rose sporadically from various parts of the
city. His first destination was a pickup at a rundown warehouse with
shattered glass all over the ground in front of it. He was given strict
instructions not to go inside. By SMS 564 he texted, “here at 8212.”
Sam waited patiently. A giant of a man in a bloody apron
came out of a large black-cloth-covered opening in the wall holding a large
box. The box was heavy. He handed it to Sam, telling him where to go. He told
Sam to be prompt, go right away, with absolutely no stops.
An aggressive battle was kicking off—bomb after bomb, from
land and air, in a ceaseless succession exploding. Sam focused. Overhead,
bombs flew. One seemed to possess a mind of its own. It appeared to be going
off target, straight into nowhere; then it made two turns, indicating that the
bomb was somehow guided.
Sam kept riding through the dilapidated urban wilderness
between rows of ruined houses, as dust rose to the sky. A hidden bearded man
with long black hair lifted a MANPAD to his shoulder and proceeded to take
aim. He concentrated all his attention to make sure his quarry was in sight and
range. A bird flew overhead as the rebel prepared to fire.
The MANPAD was aimed directly at Sam. The rebel shouted
towards the morning sun, sure Sam would be blown to pieces. The bird flew
directly into the rebel’s face. He unintentionally turned the MANPAD and, as he
misfired it, managed to blow off his own head.
Sam rode on, completely oblivious to the fact that he was
being targeted. Eventually he reached his delivery point, a bullet-ridden
building just like those near his apartment block, with a blown-up minibus, its
roof and center taken completely out. The apartment block had many walls
riddled with drilled holes used for entry and exit points, for the purpose of
transmitting snipers and fighters as swiftly as possible from one section to
Sam picked up the box and walked towards the front entrance
of the block. He took a deep breath and held it. At home his wife knelt to pray
for Sam’s safety. She had not eaten anything. She would not eat until he
returned, if, that is, he did. Sam held the box firmly.
“Come in and sit down,” a grumpy voice ordered. He walked
slowly, carefully, and as calmly as he could. A man in his fifties with long grey
hair and beard, wearing a black leather jacket, was sitting in a chair. He
appeared to Sam as if he had been waiting a long time for his arrival. He
leaned over and set the box down in front of the man.
“What is in this box?”
“I don’t know.”
“What do you mean you don’t know?”
“I don’t know what I’m delivering.” Sam moved towards the
“Stay seated,” the man growled. The man picked up the box,
raised it, looked inside, shut his eyes, paused briefly, and commanded Sam,
Sam stood up and looked down into the now open box. On
first sight, in disgust, he looked away.
“It’s my daughter’s severed hand.”
Sam turned his eyes away from the box.
“Keep looking.” The man lifted her hand with his right and
with his left index finger pointed at her finger with a ring on it. This is the
ring I gave her for her 21st birthday.”
Sam was sick.
“How do you explain this?”
“I hardly know how to pick up a gun to use it.”
“A gun did not do this; a knife did.”
“We are hungry. Armed factions control everything, and we are
the last to be fed, the last to be looked after. The aid never adequately
“Those are not valid excuses.
“Excuses are all I have.”
“Go,” the man said.
“I can leave?”
“Get out,” he replied.
Sam got up.
“Are you sure you want me to leave?”
He ran to his motorbike, got on it, and rang base
control. In full view of gun range, Sam, the sitting turkey, asked. “Job is
done; is there anything more to be done today?”
He waited, sitting on the bike, obstinately tempting
“No,” base replied.
Sam started his bike, drove the bike past a half-destroyed
wall, worried that a large chunk of rock would fall on him or create an
obstacle in the street. He wondered why his life had been spared. He knew there
could have been anything in that box, even an unexploded bomb. His heart
raced and his mind tried to focus on the road ahead. He had been paid a sum of
money to do this job. He could call this desperation money, survival money, but
somehow down the line he would have to admit it was blood money.
Sam, having driven for twenty minutes, got off his
motorbike. A fierce gun fight was ongoing two blocks from his home. He ran for
cover in the nick of time. His motorcycle was riddled with bullets.
The sound of gunfire suddenly ceased. The decision for
the gun battle to suddenly go silent was eerily abrupt. Sam was trying to
figure out why. A woman, her face hidden by a balaclava, walked into the
middle of the road. She had neither gun nor rifle. She gripped a human head by
the scalp as blood dripped onto the ground from the severed neck. Sam
could clearly see she was vested and belted with explosives. She screamed
loudly. As Sam watched with revulsion the blood falling from the beheaded
person’s neck, the motionless, expressionless face, which hung from her hands,
appeared to look him straight in the eye, daring him to take some action, make
some gesture of retribution.
“I am a terrorist,” she announced.
His unsilenced mobile tingled with an SMS, now perfectly
audible in the absence of gunfire. He swore that she was walking over to where
he was hiding; the sound of his mobile was like waving a red flag to taunt a
“I am a terrorist,” she repeated. “You have been
killing us for a long time. Now I am your death.”
If a gunman shot her in the chest it would cause widespread
damage. Her head would detach from her body, pieces of her body would splatter
everywhere, and, most likely, Sam would be crushed to death in the
A gunman raced into the middle of the street. She drew her
hand to the suicide belt, ready to detonate. He shot her in the middle of her
forehead two times. She fell back on the ground and did not self-explode. Sam
did not have to think twice. He ran from where he was hiding. The soldier who
had shot the woman dead looked at him directly. Sam thought he would also take
aim at him. He did not say anything as they both looked at each other, probably
sussing if they were enemies.
His wife had stopped praying and the children sat on the
sofa reading when Sam came home. He had done his work. Sam saw me fixing the
generator. He waved at me. I waved back at him.
Sam, especially his kids, had fled so quickly from their
home all those months ago that I doubted they had clothes adequate for the
winter. I was still working on the generator when I saw people in the distance
barricading themselves in—U.S. Army soldiers.
One of these new occupants, when night came, sent out a
light signal: 5 pause, 4 pause, 5 pause, repeatedly. I knew this signal, and
signaled back: 5 pause, 3 pause, 2 pause. He recognized and texted me.
“Rats are crawling around in the long grass,” he
“They are swarming the area now,” I said.
“We will put out some poison and let them eat it,” he
“What should I do?”
“Stay until we clear this mess.”
“When did you hear this?”
“A terrorist courier on a motorbike has been followed.”
“This morning; we have been following his movements and
“Do you know any reliable way to get out of here?”
“I don’t think any
way is easier.”
“Well,” I said, “I would love to leave.”
“Have you any idea how?” he asked me.
“I think I would have to take a minibus out.”
“I know of one recent minibus ride that left from here and
was shelled by mortar.”
“I can’t possibly stay here, can I?”
“It’s only a matter of time before you get killed there.”
“Can you help get me out of here?”
“I will help you, but you must give me time.”
Men in black trousers, jumpers, and balaclavas parade
around outside. One man carries a black flag. They busy themselves spreading
their plague, practicing training drills, teaching other new recruits how to
fight. I know if this battle is lost things will never be the same again. Sam
came to me. I did not have to come to him. This is a critical point. Sam is my
neighbor, but even if his decision to join militants is mercenary, he still
belongs to the wrong side.
“Have you gained full control of the neighborhood?” I
“Not yet, but the others believe they really will crush the
“What will I have to do differently?”
“House the foreign militants here in the apartments.”
“These apartments are not mine to give. They belong to
people who may come back here.”
“You will not have any say in the matter.”
Michael Mulvihill, firstname.lastname@example.org, of Dublin, Ireland, wrote
BP #89’s “Drop 2: Help Thy Neighbour”
(+ BP #88’s “The Taxidermist Is Hatching.”; BP #81’s “Drogol’s Inst.” &
“Killing Time”; BP #80’s “Rise”; BP #79’s “Drogol the Nosophorous and the Calf
of Man”; BP #78’s “Self-Immolation,” BP #77’s “Lupine Savagery”; BP #76’s
Watchers”; BP #68’s“The Toasters’ Tragedy” and “Ziggy’s Afterlife Analysis”;
“Homeless” & “Why the Hell Siberia?” for BP #67; was featured
author for BP
#65’s “Ethagorian Evidence (Parts 1 & 2)” & “Uninsured Assurance”;
VAMPIRE HORDE, Ch.1… for BP #63; BP #61’s poems, A Love Story Beautiful,
Modern Architecture of Love, Red Brick, The Securocrats, and Toxic
Addiction; the poems, “Fatigued,” “O Mother,”
& “Spike-Inverted Hearts” for BP #58; “The Cleaner and the Collector” &
all 6 BP #56 poems; BP #50’s “The Soul Scrubber” and as featured
vampire poet with
A Vampire’s Dilemma: Love, Becoming a
Vampire, Vampire Insomnia, and Vampiric
War in The Kodori Valley; wrote
BP #49’s poems—I, the Vampire, The
Reluctant Vampire of Tbilisi, Vampire Observations, and Vampire Psychoanalysis). The 30ish author published a short story,
“Ethagoria Nebsonia,” in BP in ‘98 and had a poem, “The Bombing,” in The Kingdom
News about a domestic tragedy in
Ireland. He has two 2007 poetry books out with Exposure Publishing: Searching
for Love Central and The Genesis and Anatomy of Love, and has
written the horror novels, DIABOLIS OF DUBLIN & SIBERIAN HELLHOLE.