10 Minutes on a parade square

A slight trickle of perspiration fell slowly down my neck as I looked up. Stern. The austere stares that confronted me did little to hide the nerves; no happy times now. Let’s concentrate. This is serious. This defines lives.

Why we all tried to hide it I have no idea. It was a case of proving we weren’t scared, showing we were the ones for who this didn’t matter, looking at ease. But the tension was palpable in the way it gripped all our stomachs and in the silence that preserved every second as an eternity. I tried riding over it with a sly grin. It didn’t work. There was solidarity at least. We had trained for this. We had trained and trained. The half jovial nature of the reassurances that had influenced conversation previously showed how much we all wanted each other to get through this. We were all in this together. That’s just the long and short of it.

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This was always going to happen. I knew it was coming –we all knew- but somehow it always seemed so far away. It was out of reach for so long, and then it was upon all of us so quickly. Sometimes the most obvious things in the world are the ones that we are blind to. For fear I put it to the back of my mind. But now, on such a day as this, I wish I hadn’t. I knew there would always be more I could have done. One minimal mistake could cost us everything. But there’s no use thinking like that, not today.

I stood silently, thoughts surpassing my mind. This was a battle of everything we had worked so hard to achieve. There would either be a bullet or a bomb with our names on it, or there wouldn’t be. Every nerve ending in my body was like a live wire. Nerves were slowly taking over.

I just went through the various procedures in my head. Made it mechanical, checked I had everything, tried not to think. I looked up from my watch. A deep sigh. Nerves held my stone stare into the far distance. It started slowly, before rising to a crescendo that consumed everything. What if I did something wrong? Which way do I turn? Left? Right? No point even considering that now. It’s nearly time.

3 minutes. I swore inwardly. Breathed out long, heavy breaths. I’m not ready! What am I doing here? Give us a week, two at least, then maybe. But not now. We’re destined to lose. I looked up at the gangly group around me. It was going to happen to some of us. I know it’s selfish. But I couldn’t help myself. Stuck in the forefront of my mind, ‘Please let us win, please let us win.’ It was paralysing now. I struggled to breathe, as I was incarcerated by it. The clock ticked. I felt sick –physically sick. The clock ticked. I didn’t want to lose, this is it for us, it is over. The clock ticked again and again. Would it ever stop? It was ticking away to my own oblivion. It was like dying by one hundred thousand cuts, killed by the methodical click of the second hand. I hardly think I would have noticed the difference.