The Island

Dawn is about to break in the City of Seven Islands. A lone man strolls along the Queen’s necklace. Alone, dejected and forgotten by those who once loved him, he absorbs the scene around him .A group of friends sharing a laugh, two lovers walking with their hands entwined, and a group of homeless children running around, completely oblivious to their surroundings. The man looks towards the west, where the sun is gradually emerging, crushing the darkness, and signalling a fresh start.

On a different day, in the opposite corner of the world, Times Square is abuzz with activity, packed with people, for it is time to usher in the New Year. The crowd chants in unison,” Ten! Nine! Eight! Seven! -”.A young woman watches the scene unfold on her television set, reminiscing about the same day one year ago, when she had attended her husband’s funeral.

“Three! Two! One! ” The whole place erupts in cheering. A thousand hearts beat as one, in anticipation of the unknown adventures that lie ahead, while glittering fireworks herald a new beginning.

Five months later, in another part of the world, it has come down to the last penalty kick in the tournament final. As the player steps up to take the decisive shot, his entire life flashes before him-growing up in an orphanage, bullied by his dorm-mates, and without any friends. He runs up to the ball and swings his foot at it, driving it into the top right corner, giving the goalkeeper no chance. The stadium erupts, and his teammates lift him on their shoulders, parading him across the ground. Fans invade the pitch, just to get closer to the match winner. The town hails him as a hero, and he is loved by all, alone no more.

What binds these completely separate incidents together?

In the vast ocean of humanity, Fate, the wily temptress, can plot to bring even the strongest of the lot to their knees. It is in these very moments, that mankind, in all its beauty, can conspire to make them rise again. In the tumultuous journey of life, one runs across the various faces of mankind-friends and foes, lovers and haters, good and bad. While some faces symbolise everlasting memories, others impart invaluable lessons.

There comes a time, when one loses his bearings in the sea of faces. The once endearing expanse of blue turns a dour shade of grey. The waves lose their vigour, and the sea looks familiar no more. Washed ashore on the island called Loneliness, marooned and desolate, he travels further inland, escaping from the call of the sea, for it seems enticing no more.

The waves lap up on the shore, lying in wait of the prodigal son. The loner erects massive walls to drown the noise, and makes a settlement deep within the island, at last convinced that he belongs there. He spends his days aimlessly wandering around, looking for a voice, one which can guide him, one only he himself can find.

One day, he hears a voice. Recognizing the voice as that of the ocean, he travels to the wall, to find the chink in his armour. However, the wall is sturdy as ever, and the voice still seems far away. Looking for the voice, he travels further inland, but he does not stop at his settlement. He keeps on going until he reaches the other side of the island. It was the ocean speaking to him, all along. However, the ocean seems different on this side. It is an endless expanse of blue, the waves crashing with untamed ferocity on the shore. It is then that he realises, that the voice was speaking from within himself, guiding him towards the ocean. Savouring the moment, he starts walking towards the expanse, letting it embrace him.

The Last Conversation

He would leave for the front tomorrow. His division, the 50th Infantry, had been assigned to fight Erwin Rommels’ Afrika Corps in Gazala, Libya. The ballroom was filled with his fellow officers and their partners, all trying to ignore the stark reality, that several of the men might not come back.

He looked into her eyes, and whispered ,”Darling , I might not come back from this . ” She replied,”Sure, Johnny. But know this-I will wait till the end of time if I have to. You’re not getting away from me that easily.”

“Neither will I ever let you go” ,he said. They locked in a passionate embrace, treasuring the few moments they had together.

1st July,1941

The 50th Infantry division was held in reserve during the ensuing First Battle of El Alamein, due to the severe casualties it had suffered in the Battle of Gazala. First Lieutenant John Kendrick was one of the lucky few to have made it alive. The horrors he had witnessed in Gazala seemed to be right out of the pits of hell. The continous barrage of gunfire, shelling and grenades made him wonder what God would allow humanity to descend to such madness. He watched his fellow comrades die. He watched them lose their limbs. He watched their bodies blown apart by grenades. Deep down, he knew that his time would also come. He only wanted to take down as many of the Krauts as he could, before that inevitable bullet found him. He was lying on his bunk, staring at the letter in his hand. It was from Alice.

Dear John,

I hope this letter finds you alive and well.I’m counting down the days to your return. Things are in a precarious state at home.Maisie was just informed that her husband was killed in action in Lebanon.No amount of words can comfort her.She refuses to accept he is dead. Meanwhile, its all chaos in London. The Blitz is on song, and is causing destruction around here. Give those Germans my love, won’t you?  Remember,I’m waiting for you.

Love,Alice.

John wanted to leave all this behind, and dash back to London that very instant. His mind went back to what Alice had written about her friend,Maisie. If he were to die, could he allow Alice to go through the same trauma? He couldn’t bear the thought of his Alice living her life as a shadow of herself.He knew what he had to do.

6 June,1944

They were preparing to land at Gold Beach,Normandy in the Universal Carrier, an amphibious craft . The beach was in sight. John’s mind flashed back to the past few years,and the battles he had fought in Central Africa and Sicily.He thought about the brothers he had lost .He thought about Alice. He had not replied to her letter, nor the ones after that. Her letters regularly found him, but he never wrote back. He wanted her to forget him.He wanted her to hate him. He hoped that when the news of his inevitable death reached her, he would be long forgotten in some deep recess of her mind, and she would not go through what millions of other women had suffered in this tragic war.

As the beach drew ever closer, John looked sideways at his comrade and friend, Second Lieutenant Gary Bates. Over the numerous battles they had fought together, they had saved each others’ life several times. They had developed a close friendship.

“Gary”,said John.

“Fire away,old chap.”

“In case I die today, there’s something I want you to do.”

“We’re going to make it. We didn’t fight all those battles for nothing, you know.So why don’t we decide how many of those Germans are we going to kill-”

“Listen to me! There’s a bullet out there with my name on it.Its only a matter of time before it finds me. If I die, promise me that you’ll check on Alice. Make sure she is doing well. Don’t tell her that I sent you.”

“I still think you should have replied to her letters”, said Gary.

“Clear the ramp!Sixty seconds!”,came the cry from the Captain.”God be with you gentlemen!”

The men readied their rifles, anticipating what lay ahead.

7th June,1944

Gary was looking at the carnage around him. His division had suffered over 400 casualties in the brutal battle at the beach. However, the beach had been secured, which enabled the Allies to establish a foothold in France. Gary found what he had been looking for. John lay on the ground, motionless.

Right after they had landed on the beach, John had taken a bullet to the stomach, and crumpled to the ground. As Gary had bent over to pick him up, John said,”Go!Don’t wait for me!I know what I signed up for!”

“I’m not leaving you like this!”,exclaimed Gary.

“You’ll get yourself killed, you idiot! Just remember to check on Ali- ”

Right then, a bullet went through John’s forehead, and he collapsed.

Gary turned towards the Germans, and shouted,”I’m coming for you, you bastards!”

Gary had killed over 20 Germans. But John still lay motionless. He stooped down, and opened John’s haversack, expecting to find the letters from Alice. He would keep them preserved, and would one day tell his children about his selfless moron of a friend.

However, when he opened the bag , he only found a single letter.It was from John’s mother.

Dear Son,

I am deeply disheartened to be the bearer of this news.Alice was killed last night during the German air raids. I know how much you two loved each other, and that no amount of words can comfort you.Just know that we love you, and are counting down the days to your return.

Love,Mother.

Gary was shocked. The letter was dated  May 1941. Had John being imagining things? Then he remembered what John had told him about his last conversation with Alice.Then it dawned on him.

John had never let her go.