The First Cry

I wrote this story with a fellow writer, L.C.Rumi, for a competition. It was a pleasure to work with her and we had a great time writing this. She is a great writer and you can find her work on Wattpad here: https://www.wattpad.com/user/Roman021

***

The sun burnt the barren land below, cracks visible in the soil as the firing continued. He could hear the triggers being pulled and the screams of the innocent, as they ran to save themselves from the slaughter.

He waited in the camp as usual, preparing himself and the med unit, as he had done every day for the past 6 months.
The firing stopped and silence descended upon the area, and for a moment everything was peaceful.
The silence broke however, as the first cry of “medic” pierced the air. He rushed with his colleagues to carry the first victim inside the camp. Within seconds the camp was busy tending patients, the serious cases had the luxury of a bed while the others had to stand or sit on the old chairs.
He could hear the distant rumble of explosions getting closer, as he removed the shrapnel from a soldier’s leg. The enemy, apparently not satisfied with their previously inflicted injuries, had now decided to shell their positions. The battery powered lanterns which drove back the darkness swung on their hooks, scattering shadows over every surface.
He attempted to stitch up the wound while at the same time keeping an eye on all the other patients and staff around him. He was the medical chief and was responsible for keeping them all safe.
The small camp on the edge of the town was supposed to be a safe haven. It was supposed to be far away from the frontlines, so they could safely treat the wounded. But nowhere was safe in a warzone, not really.
As another explosion rocked the ground beneath his feet; the closest yet, his hand slipped and both he and his patient cursed loudly as the needle jabbed into the man’s leg, morphine a luxury they could not afford. There were limited resources so they couldn’t afford to waste even a drop of betadiene.
No matter how long he spent here it didn’t get any easier, he thought. Every day it seemed like the fighting grew fiercer and more wounded found their way into his care, and not just soldiers but some locals too, innocents who had been caught in the crossfire. Those cases affected him the most. They didn’t know why people were fighting, or the politics or strategies involved. They were just trying to live their lives in peace, which was taken away from them few months ago, when the first building crumbled into ashes announcing a start to an endless war.
Finishing up with the soldier, who gave him a wan smile, he attempted to clean the blood and dirt off his hands before he treated the next patient. His attempts were thwarted however, when another shell dropped close enough to churn up a cloud of dust and send it flying into the camp, coating himself and everyone else nearby.
Reconciling himself to the fact that cleanliness was practically impossible in these conditions, he decided to focus on what he could do instead. Infection was the least of his worries right now, he had every kind of injury imaginable to deal with.
There was a seriously ill soldier with a fractured skull which had been caused by falling masonry. He had survived the IED explosion while he was searching a supposedly abandoned building, only for part of the roof to fall on him as he reached fresh air.
There were poisoning cases due to gaseous explosions, concussion, dislocation, fractures, burn injuries, you name it and they had it.
The air in the room was filled with the metallic smell of blood, he could taste the tang of it on his tongue. There were limited resources and he had to do everything possible to keep the surfaces and implements disinfected, and tend to the injuries as fast as his hands could work. He was exhausted but adrenaline rushed through his system, urging him to help whoever he could. He knew he had to keep pushing forwards, he was their only hope. 
The sound of renewed gunfire was easily recognisable now as the enemy grew closer. He worried that he would be ordered to pack up and leave. Some of his patients couldn’t move, and he didn’t feel like he could cope up with leaving them behind in such a state.
Medical instruments skittered around in the trays and bottles fell off trolleys to smash on the ground, as the rain of death grew worse outside, every shell seeming to come faster than the last, falling closer.
Still working, still moving from patient to patient, checking vitals and patching what injuries he could, he mentally began to plan what they would do if forced to retreat. But before he could do much more than form a basic idea, a group of locals stormed into the tent.
The group consisted of both men and women and they seemed to be cradling something between them. Unable to see at first and not wholly familiar with the native language, he didn’t understand what they wanted. But as he flicked on his torch and the crowd spread out he understood perfectly.
With shocking realisation he saw a woman, half walking, half being carried between all the others. There was so much dirt covering her that it was impossible to tell her age.
But critically, he knew why they had brought her here, he knew what they wanted him to do. The woman was pregnant and displaying clear signs of going into labour, and not only that. By the woman’s cries and the stains on her dress he could tell that her water had broken and she was having frequent contractions. There wasn’t much time.
Urgently beckoning the people inside a tent he ordered Harvey, his right hand man, someone he trusted implicitly, to clear a table and get the instruments for an episiotomy.
Leading her over to the table he helped her lay down, making sure she was as comfortable as possible in the harsh environment. As he began to examine her he realised it was far worse than he feared, he could see that she was in the final stage of labour. Knowing it was time, he told her to push as hard as she could. Harvey positioned himself beside her, comforting and assisting the mother as much as he could.
The other people who had come in with her; either family or close friends, crowded around the bed. There were so many of them and so little space that the doctor had almost no room to move, and they weren’t giving the mother enough air. He tried to force some away but to no avail. They didn’t want to leave the mother while she was in distress.
Seeing my struggle, Harvey stepped in and corralled the gang, leading them outside the tent, leaving the doctor free to do his work. He had always been better at dealing with people, while the doctor just focused on healing the wounds of the patients. Reassuring them that as soon as the baby was born they could return, he led them to a small fire where they could keep warm.
As Harvey turned around to return, the doctor gave him a quick smile and a nod of thanks.
Harvey returned the gesture for an instant before blood sprayed violently from his chest and his body convulsed.
With shock on his face Harvey fell to his knees not ten feet away from the doctor, multiple bullet wounds visible in his chest. He weakly looked down at his blood stained clothes and then back up to the doctor, his eyes pleading him silently.
The doctor, initially frozen in horror, rushed to his side, the pregnant woman momentarily forgotten. Dropping to his knees he cradled Harvey in his shaking arms, looking down at the gaping wounds in his chest. There was nothing he could do, his torso was shredded, and he had only few moments before his body collapsed.
Blood was filling Harvey’s mouth now, and he watched as the colour drained from his face, his eyes slowly losing their shine, finally becoming lifeless. The doctor cried out into the night in both anger and despair.
As the body of his friend went limp in his arms, the doctor simply knelt there, unconcerned with the enemy gunman, who had snuck into the camp and was now pointing the barrel of his gun towards him.
He was paralysed with an overwhelming feeling of powerlessness. What could he do? Even his friends and colleagues weren’t safe from the horrors all around him. What use were his efforts when people continued to die by the dozen for no reason.
Harvey had done nothing but helped people his entire life. He didn’t deserve to die in this place. In that moment the doctor prayed that the gunman would end his life too, so he didn’t have to suffer through all this reckless hate anymore.
He wanted it to end.
His prayers went unanswered however, as the soldiers took down the gunman before he could do any more harm.
He was still unable to move, until he heard the ear piercing cry of the mother, who amidst the chaos and death, was still trying to bring life into the world. Her cry resonated through him and spurred him into action. He should go on, he couldn’t leave her now when she needed him the most.
Harvey would have wanted him to carry on, to help bring life into the world and then to continue saving it.
Slowly he forced his legs to respond to him, shakily getting up onto his feet and carrying the body of his friend over to a nearby chair. He sat him down gently and draped a sheet over him, saying his final goodbye’s before turning again to face the mother, his face set, his resolve resolute.
Before long she was drenched in sweat, the woman was tired of pushing but he didn’t have a vacuum cup in the warzone. If she gave up now and stopped pushing, both the mother and child would be in danger. The child would die from asphyxiation. He soothed the mother with his words, giving her strength to push and not to give up at this crucial time.
The woman was obviously beyond exhausted, but after another ten minutes of pushing, the stubborn baby was finally free of its mother’s womb.
Another colleague held the baby as the doctor cut the umbilical cord and the baby uttered its first cry.
It was a sound like nothing else in the world, and amidst the chaos all around him, he felt strangely at peace as he looked at the new life that had been born into this world.
It was a girl. After checking her vitals; determining that she was perfectly healthy, he wrapped her in a cloth to keep her safe and warm. As a nurse held the baby, he went back to check on the mother and to tend to any injuries she had suffered during the traumatic birth.
She was smiling at her baby in the nurse’s arms, and looked about to ask if she could hold her, when suddenly she slumped down on the table. Panicking he checked her vitals and found that her blood pressure was dropping rapidly. As he rushed to find out what was wrong with her, her eyes rolled back in their sockets and he felt her pulse fade and die beneath his fingers. He ran like a mad man to the defibrillator and brought it to her. Within seconds he was back applying jelly on the pads and positioning them on her chest. “Please god don’t do this”, he whispered.
“Charge to 200”, he barked at a nurse, more like an order than an instruction. The nurse didn’t flinch however; they were used to working in a high pressure environment, and he watched as the charge meter quickly climbed to 200. Upon reaching it he quickly yelled, “clear”, and pressed the button. There was a jolt, then nothing happened.
Maintaining his composure, he barked, “Charge to 250”, and again watched as the meter climbed. “Clear”, he yelled and the body shook beneath him as the volts flew through it, but again it lay motionless.
The environment was tense, he knew this was his last chance. “Charge to 300”, he said, his voice shaking. This time the meter seemed to take forever to reach its target, clearing 100, then 200, and finally, 300. “Clear”, he said with one last effort. The body shook, and he thought for a second she would come back to them, but she remained still.
The monitor beeped and the ECG line stayed flat, unmoving, as the mother departed for heaven. And for the second time that day he screamed, louder than he had every screamed before, all the anger and misery in the world were trapped within those cries.
As he slowly regained his composure he was met by the sight of the morning sun cresting the horizon. Slowly he took the new born baby into his arms, and she cooed softly settling down into his embrace.
Sighing as he looked at the little one, his heart melting despite what he had suffered. Standing up he looked at her dead mother and then at his colleague, Harvey.
Making his way out of the tent, the baby now sleeping soundly against his chest, he watched the sun rise over the war torn landscape, adding light to the darkness. It was dawn, a new beginning. The landscape was slowly brought out of the darkness and into the light and he searched for the answers he sought.
Why do we make war? Why can’t we all live in peace as one species? If Mother Nature can produce something as pure as the child he held in his arms, why do we destroy her? His questions were met only with silence as the stars shone upon him. He gazed out at nothing and everything, and felt like perhaps there were no answers, but if he could just protect one innocent among thousands, it would be worth it.

 

Even one life saved was better than none.