It was over, just like that. I, personally, never thought it would happen. It was them - our enemy. The whole thing reeked of their thirst for violence, their lust for blood that turned brother against brother, state against state. As the war progressed, it claimed just about everyone I held dear and that was when I started to learn how to hate. Quite a trade, really. We gave them literature, music, art and they gave us war, hate, and killing.
Expecting destruction and desolation, the scouts reported worse. Ruins, everything was gone, all the sculptures, paintings by our great masters, all our art, literature, the very essence of our culture lay strewn about, like some giant jigsaw puzzle.
I was studying some plans for several emergency housing projects when Hans came scurrying in ‑ all legs, as usual. He was so agitated that it took a drink and several minutes before he could explain himself and then I needed a drink. His scouting party had found someone alive, as incredible as that sounds, trapped beneath the ruins. The scouting party had received no orders regarding survivors, so they sent Hans back to me.
It was my first trip outside the shelter and I was astonished, aghast at the destruction. I hadn't imagined this in my worst nightmares ‑ had always clutched to the dream that something would be left. What is this victim was one of them. What then?
Reaching the site, we were greeted by a pleading voice.
"Hello? Are you still there? Is anyone there?"
I moved closer to the hole from which the voice was issuing. Trying to pierce the dark and see the voice’s owner, I squinted. "Hello," I answered softly, slightly surprised at the sob that greeted me.
"Oh, thank God you're still there. Help me! My legs were pinned."
Hans had gone for a lantern and, until he returned, I wanted to keep the voice talking. "It's all right now. Just be patient a bit longer and we'll get you out and to a doctor. What's your name?"
"Sam. Please, hurry."
Han returned with the light then and, as it pierced the shadows of the hole, my fears were confirmed ‑ it was one of them, the killer of our children and mates. I saw in the faces of my companions and knew what my own face must have betrayed.
Simultaneously, we turned our backs with a sharp click and started away.
The voice pleaded with us, to forgive him, not to blame him for the ignorance of the others, to help him. He kept screaming for us to come back.
And we would come back… in a week, possibly two. When the enemy was dead and the voice was silent. Then, our fight would be complete. They would truly be gone forever and we would be free to live again.
But, then, after all, what else could we do? There’s nobody here, but us cockroaches.
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