POSTED: 05 Nov 2020 06:48
CATEGORY: Short Story
FEATURED: Yes ( yaynikki )
I do not remember much leading up to the incident, but I remember the crew being enthused, in high spirits from a success not shortly before.
That would shortly change after the lookout spotted some objects bobbing up and down at a ways from where we were headed. We hoped that we might have ourselves some unique rations, but that would rarely ever be the case.
As we approached, we noticed a peculiar sound wafting over to us. The objects were more than that; they were people, floating, no less, in the frigid sea. The sounds they were making were calls for help, accompanied by frantic, jerky movements characteristic of desperate souls succumbing to the coldness of the ocean.
We weren't willing to save them, though. They spoke a foreign tongue.
"Kill them," "Slaughter them," "Show them no mercy!" the deck replied. "Avenge the deaths of our brothers in arms!"
As soldiers in times of war, we had no business helping the enemy. The goal was simple: to defend our great empire against foreign powers. A noble task that would require ignoble actions.
But our commander thought otherwise.
Standing on the bridge with his face glowering, he proclaimed, "Listen, my men! As men serving our great empire, we have to uphold what it means to be Noble! Righteousness of thought, righteousness of action!" He stared at everybody below him, as if to pierce through our actions and talk directly to our souls, he demanded, "All of you are to save every man in the water!"
There was an eerie silence as everybody processed his request. It went everybody's intuition; we were to harm, not help, the enemy, right? But he also spoke sensibly; we were men after all, right?
We quickly scrambled to gather as many float rings and lifeboats in the water to get everybody out of the bone-chilling water and up onto the boat. All hands were on deck to make sure we could rescue as many as we could. We were given an order, after all, and doing so much as disobeying an order was grounds for very severe punishment. One officer even dove into the water to make sure one of the men didn't drown.
As we fished the men from the water, it got increasingly lively on deck. While we had our hands full rescuing the stranded men, we also took to making sure they were warm and well-fed, as per our commander's orders.
I manned a lifeboat for a while, and bearing the brunt of the waves chilled my body down to the bone. Hauling shivering bodies out of the water was exhausting work.
All that work wouldn't go to waste. We eventually got everybody out of the lifeboat and onto the main ship. I fetched a blanket and started wrapping a man so he could recover from the pure cold of the ocean. He turned to me and looked up into my eyes and tried to thank me in my native tongue. He twisted his foreign mouth to try to make the appropriate sounds, but it came out garbled. He was shivering too much anyway.
It was the thought that counted, though. His mouth formed into a shaky, thin smile. His expression was one of true gratitude, towards his enemy, no less. I gave him a canteen of warm soup and pat him on the back. I had more people to attend to.
That day, I realized what our commander had envisioned for us. To uphold the values that define us as good men of our nation. To show compassion to fellow humans. They weren't enemies anymore.
I think what my friend said to me afterwards sums it up nicely:
"Y'know, even though we're in a war and all, we're still human, yeah?"
Since nobody could guess what the last thing was, same thing applies here. If you can guess what inspired this, I'll maybe give you something kek.