Asleep in the middle of the night, you try to figure out a strange sound coming from some faraway distance, heading slowly towards you, inch by inch, and you hold your ears to it and try to listen.

First, it looks like a strange sound in the middle of the night, but then you try and assume it’s a rumbling that is part of your senses and definitely your sleep.

You hear the sounds of a helicopter roaming through the sky. Did something happen anywhere?

When the sounds begin to vanish, incompletely, you try to sleep, holding your cushion close to you and close your eyes, pretending to sleep. Then some magic happens and you don’t know how you fall asleep again.

In the morning you try to gather things. You hold a rope in your mind, string by string, and make out what really happened during the night. Was it a dream or I was awake? You try to remember. You’ve started losing your memory, you begin to realise.

You wake up and try to slowly overcome the dizziness and ache in your eyes. But first, you check your phone. You connect to the tortoise speed internet and try to discover what’s happening in the world. Has your world fallen apart or not?

Every time some news awaits us. It could be anything. Mostly, you await news of deaths.

As you wake up, you hear a beep from your phone. “Encounter has started…” it reads. That’s how your day begins, with a good mourning.

You try to somehow not consider these things. They have become ordinary things now. Lives have become numbers. The lower the number, the less we mourn. It has become a part of our life. Normal.

You have your tea while listening to some old folk songs on the radio. Outside the blue sky is spread over the roofs of homes. You hear birds chirping and you begin to think it’s their way of communicating with each other.

Finishing the tea you check your phone anxiously again and now the newsfeed reads: “One militant has been killed.”

You pass through the window and look outside. Every minute a vehicle passes on the street. People come and go, some steadily and some quickly. You observe them for some minutes and then return to your study where books are waiting.

Holding a book in your lap, you close your eyes for a moment. You feel sleepy. You hear some noises outside. Children are playing cricket in the nearby park. You put the book aside and come to the window to see: children playing and a boy fluttering his kite in the sky. It’s a bright red kite that comes close to your window.

Around noon you hear the muezzin’s call to prayer. Abruptly after some time, you hear Mom’s call for lunch. Before going to eat you check your phone again: “One more militant has been gunned down,” it reads.

Feeling a little drowsy after lunch, you are ready to take an afternoon nap. It relieves you at times. But your phone vibrates with notifications. News doesn’t stop travelling.

Whenever you try to sleep, anxiety always accompanies you. You fear you might again visit that unknown valley in the forests where you escaped firing. You fear you might again see a headless corpse while descending through hills. You might even walk to an empty road with no lights.

You even saw a crowd of people once, gathering outside someplace that you were passing through. What was ahead? You shivered and opened your eyes. There was no one. You tried to gather the courage to imagine it again but you didn’t. It was scary.

You get up lazily from the nap and throw splashes of water on your face. Back in your room, you watch the serenity of the town. You catch sight of faraway mountains with snow trapped over their surface. You see poplars rattling in the wind. You hear pigeons resting under some shade of the rooftop.

Pick up your phone again and check for updates of the encounter that started early in the day. Scroll down and it reads, “2 more militants gunned down, toll 4.” Then you go for tea.

You want to breathe fresh air and decide to go for a walk. Your mother reminds you to carry an ID card. A licence to live. Your mother fears more than you do.

You walk outside looking for a suitable place to sit. You come across an armoured vehicle crossing your way, a glimpse of a soldier taking a selfie that shows his rifle. You sit on a hill and try to forget everything for some time.

When evening approaches, the muezzin’s calls to prayer can be heard clearly reverberating through town. You open your phone and see a call from your mother and other notifications. One reads, “Encounter ended. Total 5 militants killed.” Your mother calls again and asks you to return home. It’s getting darker every passing second.

At home in the evening you see disturbing images of the encounter on social media. You see the sufferings of people online. You see big and huge houses razed to the ground. Homes with so many dreams and memories turned to ashes. You feel broken like those houses.

At night when you are finished with dinner, you look through the window: the lights of the town are glittering in the darkness. You watch the strong beam lights in a row on top of the hill where an army camp is located. You watch the starry sky, moon hiding behind poplars. For a second you sigh deeply.

While sleeping before closing your eyes, you feel sad. You try and imagine the place where the gunbattle took place. Your ears resound with gunfire. You begin to worry. You try to skip imagining it but fail as it feels so close to you.

Sirens are heard somewhere. Your eyes become tired of seeing the flickering shadows of curtains on the wall. Terrifyingly, you close your eyes and the sirens vanish, first slowly and then all in all.

Drawings by Malik Sajad