I thought I’d start with an old short story while I get started on my articles. Its far too boring to just leave the introductory post on its own.
Standing amongst the ashes, turning in slow circles; red hair falling like a sheet of flame, a tarnished halo providing the sole source of colour amongst the ash. Flakes settled on the buildings like a poisoned snow. The pain that had etched itself onto her features faded as she moved across the empty street, drifting like a rudderless ship as her eyes grew cold and grey, matching the waste before her.
At least it was.
So he just sat there, in the rain. He didn’t remember reaching the barn, nothing before he sank back against the wall and gazed at the monochrome world through the dripping strands of his hair.
His gaze travelled over the shadowy treeline at the edge of the field. As they settled on the road his senses were briefly overwhelmed by a memory of heat, and he was left panting as he blinked away the vision. His head felt heavy and numb; only her face and the memory of the flames still glowed within it.
A low chuckle escaped his lips. God the whole thing was insane. He was insane, or at least the void in his memory meant that he was missing something. He needed to try and wake himself up, she was dead and he was alone among the wreckage.
She stood in the road, drawing circles in the ash of the burnt out town looking for a sign of him. The bombs still fall and you care more about the fate of one lone idiot… She sighed and continued to drift, pain flaring as she moved on. The bruising was fading but her ribs still ached. It would be a while until the last of the cracks healed.
She slowed as she neared the end of the road and faced the trees. Their gnarled trunks cloaked in ash and skeletal branches held little in the way of leaves. Most of the shadows now came from the cloud of ash over this place. There was little light and not even the sun could be called upon for company, leaving her alone with her thoughts. Find him. Don’t let it end like this.
The ash continued to fall about her, settling on her shoulders and coating her hair in a layer of dust, gradually stealing her years, leaving hunched and greying figure. A single drop of blood fell from her bent head onto the ground, creating a small rust coloured crater in the layer of soot. Raising her hand she wiped at the blood and dust crusting on her forehead and matting her hairline. Pushing on through the pain in her head and ribs she strode into the trees with new purpose.
It wasn’t meant to end like this, alone. This farm was the last place left standing for miles. He winced as the pain flared for a moment before becoming strangely distant and unconnected to his own cold numbness. I wonder if the sky feels numb, the fogginess in his thoughts making his inner voice feel as distant as the clouds shielding the sky, shedding tears over the landscape to echo his own. Memories of burnt out houses assailed him and he slumped further down the wall.
Where were we going? What did we do?
The rain was slowing now, and few drops fell from his now matted hair. The barn wall was comfortable and at least now there was quiet. The ringing in his ears had ceased to be agonising and instead become merely deafening. Even the rain over the road seemed to fall more gently, almost like snow.
He almost didn’t care anymore; he just wanted to remember what happened. He wondered idly at the snow for a moment, it shouldn’t be grey, but he was tired and could puzzle it out later after he’d made sense of the running and shouting which had begun to play through his thoughts. Why did they run away? He shrugged the remains of his rifle strap over his head and let it sprawl about him and onto the dusty floor.
He let his eyes drift over to road again. The mud was churned and it looked barley passable, but it was important. He’d go home after he rested. The others didn’t need him along now.
The trees were bare and scorched in places; pitted here and there by debris. It was amazing that any were left standing.
Her small form was the only movement in the dead forest. The layer of dust muffled her footprints to near silence. There. Finally another set. The indentations rounded from the continuing ashen rain. She smiled slightly, cracking the layer of grime coating her face as she knelt to inspect the print.
In the monochrome world of the dead, she remained, a grey tracker hunting for the lost. It felt fitting.
He awoke in frozen darkness. Everything round him was soaked and he could barely breathe against the suffocating force of the pain. He sat slouched against the wall gasping and muttering.
The explosion wasn’t real. It wasn’t real wasn’t realitwasn’trealitwasn’trealitwasn’titwasn’t
But all he could see when he closed his eyes was the glow of the fires on her face and shining in her eyes. He bent his head and tried to stop the tears.
The explosion, her…it was too much; he needed space, needed to know. But he couldn’t bring himself to move. The stars were strange, almost red, mapping out fiery constellations against the empty night. They flickered like the memories which began to spark as his brain flared brighter and hotter than before. The sight of the lights and the road seemed to fan the flames of recollection. He could remember meeting her, speaking to her, and the way it felt when he had to watch her run from the fire in the road.
Along the edge of the treeline she could see the lights on the planes as they flew silently overhead, glowing harbingers of death. A meteor shower that brought everything to an end.
But there was the barn, meters from the road. Or what was left of it.
He wasn’t sure what was worse, the pain or the fragments of memory surfacing in his mind. The rapid marching had sapped at their spirits until it was interrupted by the explosion. Civilians ran and the troops were scattered. The army was clearly no longer welcome here.
He gritted his teeth. No. It’s the pain. Definitely the pain. He clasped his hands over the stump where his leg used to be and shut his eyes to block out the pain but she was still there.
He hoped she found him before the end…
Finally. She strode towards the barn and saw him. Broken, blood matted in his hair, forcing his fringe into rigid spikes and coating his face. He had dragged himself from the road, how she had no idea. She missed it in the confusion after the blast.
She’d been forced to run.
…He was going to spit in her eye
A knife flashed in her hand and she smiled. Her bomb may not have worked but she could do this. For the villages they slaughtered and those they had taken.
For the year she spent in their prisons, beaten and nearly broken.
She would do this.
He saw her in the dim light of the dawn, red hair a tarnished halo about her. His own personal angel of death. At least she’d come back. It was fitting.
The knife glowed orange in the morning light and he saw the reflections of burning buildings in her eyes.
She wiped the blade on the rifle strap and slid it into the holder as she walked away. Rudderless once again; a grey ghost in a desolate landscape.
The burnt out barn was all that remained.