Forever. That was what she thought. She had made up her mind. She couldn’t determine the end of the muddy road but she kept moving forward. I will keep going. There will be an end somewhere, and I will find a village there. She had been on the trail for almost five hours now.Initially she was supposed to take a bus but someone had stolen all her belongings including the jacket with the ticket, purse and phone in it. She staggered along the road alone. This was her birthday and she was spending it like this. It was the worst birthday ever.
She saw some smoke rise from a distance. At last. She sighed. Her legs got a new sense of purpose and started to move as quick as they could. Her spirit, though only a little, had lifted. She could have some food and water now.
When she was just a couple hundred meters away, she noticed that it wasn’t just one smoke column, in fact there were many columns of smoke. Maybe it’s an industrial city or a middle class prosperous town with smoke chimneys in many homes. At least the view assured her that it won’t be cold there like everywhere else. She moved on.
The outline of the place was now visible. The place looked like having small buildings and smoke was rising from almost all of them. That doesn’t look like an industrial town. Something is not right. What is going on. As she reached closer, she realised what she had seen. The very sight of the town made her tremble in fear. What the hell. Right in front of her eyes she could see buildings and small homes on fire. It was like the end of the world. Where was everyone. Had everyone died. Is this the Doomsday?! She thought about what was happening. The hunger, thirst and fatigue made her stomach rumble. Adding the mental stress made her feel lightheaded. Her legs couldn’t go any further, they gave up and she fainted on the dust covered ground.
Suddenly a siren started to ring as if something ominous had happened. Any soul within a km couldn’t have missed it. Soon two army trucks appeared out of nowhere and a soldier climbed down from each. Both were carrying semi-automatics and both pointed the weapon towards her. She was still unconscious so she couldn’t feel either the fear of trespassing in army area and the joy of being found by someone.
The army dogs sniffed her from head to toe, the officer checked her clothes and made sure that she wasn’t carrying any hidden weapons. Satisfied, they picked the body and took it to the truck they had just arrived in. There the officer gave her some water. She was still unconscious but her throats gulped down the much awaited liquid. The officer asked the driver to drive back to the army station.
The officer made arrangements to send her over to the general army hospital within the compound where she was to be given IV. Her heart was beating slowly and she had scratches around her feet probably due to walking continuously for a long time.
It was only after two hours rest that she opened her eyes. At first she was shocked to see people in uniforms around her and was astonished to see that she was in a hospital. She didn’t understand how did she reach the place or what was she doing here. Then she re-adjusted her thoughts, I was walking for a long time and had fainted at the sight of a… Burning town. Oh lord, I have to tell the officers. She pulled the shirt of the officer standing next to her.
The officer was a largely built man with big biceps bulging out of his shirt. Either the shirt was too small for him or he was just too massive. She said slowly, “The town… it was… burning.” And had tears in her eyes. The officer didn’t know what to do. He quickly took out his handkerchief and handed it over. “It is okay, it is okay.”, he exclaimed, “The town was just a model town. No actual beings were living there. That town is a part of our missile testing facility. There is nothing to be worried about.” She stopped crying. She felt stupid and small. The officer said, “it is okay, no need to feel ashamed. Anyone would have done the same thing in your place.” She nodded. I am okay and no one was hurt. It was a model town. I can go home now. The officer got a call from one of his soldiers and went away after fifteen minutes.
After almost an hour, about a hundred officers, men and women, came in the room, dressed in their uniforms but with a weird looking cap on each. They all seemed to be smiling and happy. Was something happening? Was the missile…test…a success?
A nurse brought a big cake. It was about the size of a truck tire. “All right”, said the officer who had been explaining to her just an hour ago, “Get up and cut the cake. It is not often that we get to enjoy a cake! It’s your birthday, you need to cheer up Adya!”. She had tears rolling out. She was astonished that they knew her name and about her birthday. The officer told her that he had to run a background check on her for security issues. Therefore they had taken her fingerprint while she was unconscious and were able to pull her information.
The officer said, “It seems you have been having a really rough day. Time to lighten up and celebrate. We can hear your story after that and will help you any way we can.” She had completely forgotten that it was her birthday. She nodded and blowed a single candle kept at the side. Everyone sang Happy Birthday in a chorus and she cut the cake. This might have been the worst and best birthday ever.