Wednesday, June 14, 2017

#KwentoRP612 2017: The Earth Diggers

And when all of their work in the killing field has been done, the earth diggers cleaned their tools.

Atoy drew water from the artesian well. Luis, his older brother, started rinsing their spades and buckets. Instantly, the clear basin of water changed color. Blood mixed with the color of earth. Atoy could still remember the first time he and his brother took on this job. He couldn't bear the sight and the stench of dead bodies that littered the killing field. He puked his guts out. He couldn't eat for days. The images of severed heads, limbs, disemboweled body organs and rotting flesh haunted him in his sleep.

He watched how his brother cleaned their tools while whistling a happy tune. Where does he draw this happiness? He wondered. He can still manage to chirp like a bird when there is nothing but death and destruction all around.

"Put the tools in the shed." Luis ordered. "We will take the same route going home."

He did as he was told. As they walked the path towards home, they turned right to a clearing where the old school house still stands. No one goes to school anymore. Like Atoy and Luis, the children and young people of the village had to find work to stay alive for their families and for their own skins. They were lucky to be born flat footed. They were spared of work in the battle fields where many of their friends have already died.

Here in this old school house, Luis could play the old guitar he found in a cabinet in the principal's office. Here in this old school house, Atoy could retreat to the reading room to read. It helps him remember a time when dreams are free and his desire to make them come true is a possibility. Some days, he would simply smell the books and the scattered paper all around.

He picked an old storybook. On its cover is an illustration of a smiling monkey carrying half a banana tree on its back. Behind it is a turtle with an even bigger smile on its face. He knows the story very well. He started to read anyway. Then he discovered a few missing pages.

Someone else has been here.

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