No one would have looked up into the sky for any particular reason that night. Stargazing? It would be like waiting for God himself to crystallise in thin air.
The sound of the varying generations with their lifelines and stories, beliefs and values, interweaving with each other as on any other humid night was as always, mundane and uncherished, while eighty kilometres north of the island, across the vast darkness, the first airborne unit of the insurgents had just loaded up the C-130. They were heading south.
The sheer contrast between them and their foreign counterparts was on its way to light, symbolised by this readiness to provoke discord in the name of intolerance. One after another, the bulky soldiers stepped onto the aircraft until the last reported sharply, “Last man!” The Major nodded in something like a perpetual frown that cannot be adjusted, but a nod was all he gave before he solemnly discontinued eye contact.
As the shutters reclined into the aircraft, the two transport Lieutenants signalled for the Major to take his leave. A brief discourse took place, after which the Lieutenants glanced mousily at each other as if they’ve just been furnished with a demotion, then hastily left the Major to be.
The unyielding currents that the turbines generated in the air forced the Major’s teeth to show, wincing and squinting. With the dragging push of the accelerator, the aircraft commenced its honourable journey. The Major stood superfluously upright for the entire duration with his gaze fixed on it. The moment it took off the runway, he put on his dark green beret, stood in attention, and gave a heartrending salute, oblivious to anything else – like the world had come to an obligatory halt – until the aircraft was completely swallowed by the murky oblivion above.
He was alone on the runway now.
Inside the aircraft, the acting platoon commander reached out to the two men beside him with both hands, forming unbreakable bonds. Spontaneously, the rest of the first section touched palms with heads bowed down. Then the second, and the last. The platoon commander then lowered his head, eyes tightly shut, and nothing was uttered for a full minute.
Then: “Seperti bunga di langit.”
Chester Tan is a travelling writer on his RTW trip. He writes from village to town, city to country, sometimes in a semi-posh country house, other times in a tent in the mountains. He gets easily excited by English literature and humour, has had seven cats to date, and is on his way to leading the van life across the globe. His fiction has been published in the UK and Singapore.