Sundowning diary - part 4Farhad Mammadov / Actions & Adventure / Science Fiction
By Farhad Mammadov
Copyright 2017 Farhad Mammadov
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Battle of Shaiba
Buzzing noise in my ears, accompanied by inaudible dialogues of Ottoman soldiers running towards me with a bayonet charge, me unable to move my legs, shellshocked …there was nothing I could do to stop those angry soldiers from stabbing me with their sharp rifle blades. Still terrified by the view of horde charging on me, my right hand involuntarily touched something solid which I thought was a square shaped stone, being of no use but hitting the face of one soldier out of dozens, still would not neutralize him. However I found it to be a red flag with white star and crescent in the middle, as I picked the object to defend myself from the assailants.
Heavy moustached, iron-bone structure soldier, one of assailants running in the front line passed by, without paying much attention what I was doing while lying on the ground, like I was spook or something, then second, third, fourth, entire horde, dozens running straight ahead with inherent resolve, without breaking the ranks, followed by a huge regiment of those running without any sign of order, irregular Arab and Kurd forces fighting under the red flag. I was lucky to emerge at the right side of the battlefield rather than inside fortified British camp with trench and barbed wires, as I noticed to be wearing Ottoman uniform. Brits holding strategically significant positions 2-3 km around north-west started indiscriminate bombardment straight away, shells hitting contact line causing 4 meter high splashes of wet sand after floods mixed with bloody body fragments of fallen Ottoman soldiers. Young rank soldier stood over me before kneeling down on the ground and put rifle aside.
“Yaralımısın kardeş?” (Are you wounded ?) – he asked in Turkish with caring voice, meaning of which I understood immediately as we both were members of Turkish nation, Azerbaijan and Turkey, with slight dialect differences but same language like Australian and American English.
“Heç bir şey olmayıb. Mərmi düşdü yanıma amma Allaha şükürlər olsun sağ-salamatam” (I was almost hit by a shell but I’m safe and sound thanks to Allah)
“İğdırlımısın?” (Are you from Ighdır? ) – he asked whether I was the resident of Turkish region where Azerbaijanis form almost majority.
“Evet” (You bet) – I lied for not to confuse the soldier by uttering the name of yet nonexistent republic that used to be invaded province of Russian empire which was British ally as a member of Triple Entente. I could have been shot point-blank on the spot for misunderstanding and anachronism of this lucid dream, even time traveller - bull shit explanations, wouldn’t have reduced my chances being executed as a spy. He gave me some water to drink and briefed me about to plan of attack, but he sounded so desperate and frustrated that I understood that he was fighting with his conscience, doing all his best to terminate the outcries of cowardice.
Basra was – in my case – is important communication and industrial center captured by British led coalition forces, that became a turning point in the war and roiled the power of balance for the benefit of “English”. After failed attempts to regain the city, it was useless to push forward, with increasing number of tolls that but not for Lieutenant Colonel Süleyman Askerî who would subsequently commit a suicide over defeat in the battle.
In a close range, shrapnel and projectiles pouring on our troops lake a monsoon rain, with no enclosed place to take a refuge.
“Türk bayrağını kimse indiremez. Sen bir-iki dakika dinlen, ben şehid olsam, şu bayrağı göz bebeğin gibi koru” (No one can lower the Turkish flag. You rest for a moment, but keep this flag like protecting your cornea, if you see me fall martyr ). Hadi, Allahaismarladık (Ok then, goodby brother)- he said as he took the red flag and ran towards the depth of battlefield like a mad, without any clue where he was going.
He was struck down by a random bullet as soon as he reached a vast crater made by a canon shell impact. The intervals of enemy artillery fire increased as there were almost no one left on the contact line except medics and dozens of soldiers scattered all around devoid of senior command.
I must cross the city with a flag if I want to wake up from this lucid dream. I got my thoughts straight and took a deep breath, and sprinted forward in 45 degree angle, left and right, left and right in order not to be an easy target. I recall my self-defense instructor once said that zig-zag running was more effective pattern than running in straight line when facing imminent threat of getting killed by an active shooter. I expected the bullets bite into my chest or legs as I was running towards crater where my fallen dream comrade was lying. I checked him out in the moonlight, it was a fatal wound, bullet pierced through the forehead and gashed half of his brain out of huge opening on the back of his skull. I doubt it was full metal jacket bullet as it expanded in contact and almost exploded this head.
It was so realistic that I pitied him from my heart for a moment but then I realized that it was nothing but an element of dream, a Lego house assembled from the bricks of photographic memories and good history knowledge (but couldn’t really say mine or Herman’s). But I must give him a credit for his courage ‘cos he was still holding flag on his arm firmly. I grabbed it and sprinted once again towards the creek running 500-1000 meters to the left of the enemy position. Over 15 soldiers who survived the massive artillery bombardment after taking refuge inside the craters and trenches, popped up one by one, encouraged by the scene – “me bearing the RED, all alone” and unaware of my real intentions, charged towards enemy trenches with battle cries calling Allmighty God for help and strength.
That agitated the Britishmen who ceased bombardment after seeing no active Turkish assault on the ground and that was it. We were getting killed one after another. I felt warmth in my left shoulder, that brought up some bad memory of getting stabbed by an old man, in a dark alley. This time it was bullet, but to my surprise, I found myself capable of continuing the march of honor. But then I heard buzzing noise of shell rushing on and got my ass down instantly not to get hurt. It landed 15 meters away from me, that made dirt fly all around the spot and my ears ringing.
“Think. Think!!” – there were no way I could cross the river without being noticed. Like they were monitoring all my actions. I must double-cross them. Second shell hit edge of nearby hole and shrapnel got into my left leg and other one cut through my neck.