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The Wrong Shortcut

Ruffled by the light autumn breeze my skin felt dry though I was driving slowly. I was then a government officer on rural posting. Dad would escort me to work when he was free, he enjoyed countryside scenic beauty and fresh air. We halted for a while at a small refreshment stall for coffee. He often took the steering at this cross-road. Two roads diverged in the woods, he took the shorter route, the less travelled one to reach in time. On the rugged, rough road he drove as cautiously as he could. All of a sudden, he said, ‘look what’s ahead’. The car was moving downhill speedily, we didn’t know what to do. We could see a barricade made with tree trunks to block the road and make it inaccessible.

Dad made a sudden U-turn to flee but it was too late. We could see armed men a few yards away. ‘What an intelligent layout,’ he murmured. We knew we had entered the wrong area. If we moved, they would start firing. An armed man accompanied with three more moved forward to snatch the car keys. Dad had already hidden it and raised both hands in surrender. The man directed us out of the car downwards towards the valley. As we walked down the valley, we saw victims tied with a strong rope. A planned kidnapping for ransom was obvious at this point.

The armed man politely asked me for my handbag and smartphone. He checked my shoes to make sure I had no weapon hidden there. Satisfied, he requested me to get on the vehicle that would soon come. I knew I was in serious trouble. It was scary to hear the sound of a coming vehicle. I felt numb. The vehicle stopped and we could hear a familiar voice yelling at us to come out else it would be difficult to escape.

Since I was the only one left untied, I started to climb up the slanted slope to see who he was. My heart leaped with excitement to see uncle Morris, an army officer on patrol with four armed military men with automatic weapons. I started walking uphill. The rest under trap warned me not to walk ahead as I could be shot from behind and it would cost their lives too. I didn’t listen to them and walked ahead. Dad encouraged me from behind. Luckily there was no firing and we had a slim escape from ambush.

As we were a few miles away from the ambush point, we heard three bullets fire perhaps in anger of a failed mission. My superiors transferred me to a different place. Though the experience was life threatening yet adventurous. Dad was so heroic I knew not until that day. I am grateful to God without whose will no one can touch even a single hair on your head. I appreciate the military for the everyday risks they take and sacrifices they make. My salute to them.