This blog contains material I wrote and posted on between the years 2005 and 2011 only. It does not contain any new material. For newer writing, please check my main blog (Bill the Butcher).

Thursday, 11 October 2012

The Ultimate Weapon

It’s the worst weapon ever made,” the officer said. “Guard it with your lives.”

The soldiers looked down at the sealed crate, puzzlement on their grimy faces. One of them reached out with a finger, as though to touch the crate, but jerked it back again as if it might be burned. “What is it?” he whispered.

“That’s secret information,” the officer said, trying to conceal the fact that he too had no idea what the crate contained, exactly. “But I can tell you that it’s the ultimate weapon ever made. Once there were millions, but they were all destroyed. Except this last one. The secret must not be lost to our side.” He cocked his head, listening to the rumble of artillery in the distance. “So guard it with your lives.”

“What did this weapon do?” another soldier asked. He was young enough to be the officer’s son; so young that he hardly had even a wisp of hair on his face, and his eyes were large and frightened.

“It’s a mind-control device,” the officer replied gruffly. “It can make anyone do your bidding. That’s all you need to know.” He turned to go, and then turned back at the entrance of the bunker. “The enemy is planning a big attack tonight. If we have to pull back, make sure you take the weapon with you. Under no circumstances must it fall into the enemy’s hands.”

“Yes, sir.” The soldiers fell silent and stared at the crate. In the dim light of the hanging bulb, it looked sinister, though it was really fairly small. A big man might almost be able to carry it in his arms.

Artillery rounds began to fall closer and closer. Earth from blasts pattered around the bunker. The soldiers gripped their rifles tight and stared at the crate.

“I can feel it pulling at my mind,” the young soldier whispered, and nobody snickered.

Suddenly there was a lot of shooting in the darkness outside the bunker. Through the entrance they could see tracers splitting the night.

“We’re pulling out,” a sergeant snapped, looking into the bunker. “Get that box and come on quickly.” He was silhouetted against the flash of an explosion. Looking nervously over his shoulder, he ran off into the darkness.

“Let’s go then,” said the oldest of the soldiers. Grunting with the effort, he picked up the crate in his arms. “Help me.”

“Let me take...” The youngest soldier never finished his sentence. With a tremendous bang, a shell struck the bunker’s roof. The entire structure shuddered, earth sprinkled from the roof and walls, and the oldest soldier cried out. The crate slipped from his hands and fell onto the floor, bursting open from the impact.

With horror, the soldiers stared at the contents of the crate, at the strange and bizarre mechanism.

“Come on,” shouted someone from outside. “The enemy will be here any moment.” It was the officer. Lumbering in, he surveyed the shattered crate and its contents. “You and you,” he said, pointing at two of the soldiers, “pick it up and let’s go.”

Stumbling awkwardly from the object they carried between them, the two soldiers trotted off after the officer. The others, left without orders, hesitated, and finally ran off into the darkness, not knowing where they were headed. The youngest soldier left last of all.

And though he fought all through the war, and lived a long and eventful life afterwards, the soldier never forgot the weapon he had glimpsed just that once. And during the long evenings of his dotage, he would gather his grandchildren about him, and recount again the tale of the strange and evil mind-control weapon which he had guarded from the enemy, during the war all those years ago.

“Tell us what it looked like again, Grandpa,” one of the kids was sure to ask.

And so he would tell again of the weapon, so unlike any he had ever seen before. He would tell them of how it was only a box, but a box with buttons and knobs, under a glass window that took up one side.

“But the window was only a blank grey square,” he would say, the puzzlement still in his voice after all those years. “I couldn’t see anything inside it at all.” 

Copyright B Purkayastha 2010

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