There he was, sprawled faced down in the muddy field, canopied under the dull grey skies. His clothes were tattered from overuse, one of his black boots had peeping hole at the toe and his arms and legs appeared askew. A flat bag was strapped to his shoulders while a hat laid a foot away from his head. The sight fearfully took my breath away. Taking a few minutes to gather my alarmed senses, I hurriedly knelt beside his stationary body and jerked his shoulder in hope that he would become mobile. Seeing no response, I turned him around. His face was grotesquely covered in mud but still I could see that he seemed very pale, like there was absolutely no trace of blood on his face. A small graze could be seen on his forehead and there was an obvious hollow around his eyes.
"Are you OK? Can you hear me? Don't worry, I'm getting help."
Looking around, I desperately called out to Kaki. She came as fast as her old legs could carry her. Shocked at my dishevelled state, "What's wrong Naina ji?"
She darted her gaze from me to the object I was bent over. "Hai Rabba, he's injured! Wait here, I'll go and call your Kaka."
Again she was off as fast as her poor legs could allow her.
I looked back at Stranger. I tried to help him, tried to spread words of comfort but nothing came to me. I just sat there staring at him. Thankfully Kaki returned with Kaka soon enough for me not to indulge in any sort of self grief. They've always been there for me, bless them. In fact, they've been there for my father in his prime time as well. The outside world knows them as the family's loyal servants but for me, they're my best friends. My world. My life.
The three of us picked up Stranger and burdened in home straight to the guest suite. Kaki immediately ran off to grab the necessities required in attending to Stranger and Kaka made Stranger as comfortable as possible by arranging the pillows, taking his shoes, socks, jacket and shirt off. I, still stuck in my bottomless fear, stayed rooted at the door. I tried with all my might to go near, tried to lend a helping hand but I simply couldn't. I just kept on thinking that I was betraying Father. That I had turned my back on him and disregarded his word now that he was not here. A guilty albeit semi-wave of relief ran through me at the thought of him not being here to witness this.
Finally Kaki came bustling in with her equipment (she's always bustling, never ever walks) and started to fuss over Stranger. She wet one towel and applied it on his forehead while with the other she began on the task of cleaning his upper body, all the while mumbling words of faith under her breath. Kaka, suddenly realising my presence in the room and my giddy state, came up to me.
"Naina ji, it is best that you retire to your room."
Still shaking to the core, "No, I'm fine. I...I want to help. I'm ready to help."
"No Naina ji, it is better for you to go. It will, umm, help us more."
He was right, I was being no good to myself nor them. I unconsciously took Stranger's military jacket from Kaka's hand and retreated back to my room.
Now here I am, sitting at the foot of my bed replaying all that had happened so far. It all feels so surreal, all I wanted was a walk in the winds. It had been raining heavily the past few days that I welcomed this cold walk in the fields with open arms. I hate being kept in this mansion of a prison under the monster of a chandelier where everything is kept devilish white. Sometimes watching the birds chirp gives me proof that I'm not the only one alive in the world.
Noticing a weight on my hands, I look down that the jacket still resting there. I recognise the array of badges displayed across the chest, medallions of a pilot. My heart twisted in the tightest of knots as I threw the jacket across the length of the room. A train full of painful memories of my own brother tracked through my head. A brother who was an ex-pilot, a brother who we've now laid down to rest amongst other ex-pilots, a brother who happily gave his life away leaving behind a broken and distraught family.
That night, my sleep was broken by a shrill of agitated cry. I knew all too well who it was from - Stranger. Before I mellowed in any further, I put on my night gown and allowed my mind to walk my feet towards his room. Kaki was bent over him trying to untangle his mess of a body. He was drowning in his own cold sweat, withering to and fro and all the while, a harsh voice would escape from his locked jaw. I rushed to his bedside and helped Kaki hold him down while she applied a more wet cloth to his head. A few minutes into the struggle, he seemed to calm down and return to his sleep.
"He's been doing that all night. Poor kid, must be really troubled to have these nightmares attacking him more than once this night. May God have mercy upon his soul."
With saying that, Kaki slumped back into her chair and continued to watch over him. She looked so tired, her aged face seemed to look more aged tonight. It often occurred to me that Kaka and Kaki were too old to be doing all this, looking after me. But then again, if I let them go, where would they go? They had no one else to go to and besides, they kept saying how happy they were being here, doing what they were doing. But I know the truth. They don't want to leave me, they don't want me to feel another loss. I can't love them more for that.
"Kaki, you should go and get some rest. I'll look over him."
"No Naina ji. I'm fine. Your Kaka will come soon anyway."
"Please Kaki, just go. You look terrible. You need some rest...so does Kaka."
"What if he wakes up? What if he has more of those attacks? We do not even know who is or where he is from."
"He's a man who needs our help, I think that's enough information for now. If I require your assistance, I will call for you. Now please Kaki, go."
Kaki clearly portrayed how uncomfortable she felt in leaving me here but she left nonetheless. I turned to look back at Stranger's wet face. He seemed to be digging further and further into the bed with the blanket plastered to his skin due to the excessive sweating. I took the towel from his head and merged it in the water again to return to his head again. Kaki was right, who is he? Where is he from? What is he doing here? Does he carry information of Father? Or maybe even my brother? Burying my head in my hands, I silently prayed - Dear God, whoever he is, let him live. Let him carry some miraculous information and then let him leave. Please. I don't have the strength to face someone else who is apparently defending the country.
At the early crack of dawn, Kaka came and relieved me of my duty. I stood up like a zombie and returned to my room. I looked to the corner where Stranger's jacket still laid. A single ray of sunlight shined upon the name badge...