War Changed This Morning

The mist that carpeted the battle field glowed golden in the early morning sunlight. The battle that had begun before first light was surprisingly brief. Prince Bron yr Aurn had not commandeered a battle that short in all his life. There was something disquieting about it. Something felt all wrong but he couldn’t figure out what it was.

The Gnomen had been prepared for war, of that there was never a doubt. Elven Scouts had spied the encampments along the river banks. Over 200 Gnomen Troops were assembled, not the army Bron would have expected but then there was no way to estimate if and how many Gnomen lay in wait tunneled under the battle field ready to ambush their enemy. It was always safe to assume that there were at least twice as many subterranean Gnomen as there were those advancing in the field. But today this hadn’t proven to be the case; only around 100 erupted from the earth. More curious was their retreat. Bron had commandeered his Elven troops to surprise storm the Gnomen army from both flanks rather than meet them head on. The subterranean Gnomen should have been able to detect this movement but apparently they didn’t for the surface battalion was caught off guard. Even more odd, was the way they fought back in a quick retreat. It was not the tactics he was used to from this strange race.

Then there were the Scout’s reports of odd metal discs that the Gnomen were transporting. Obviously weapons, but they had no devices for which to hurl the plates in battle. They didn’t have the discs on the field either. This troubled Bron most of all, the Gnomen were much too clever a race to have come to battle with ammunition but no trebuchet to launch it.

Bron placed a foot upon the chest of a fallen Gnome lying before him in the blood slick grass. Bron’s long sword was jammed in the breast plate of the lifeless creature and it took considerable force to remove it. As the blade finally wrenched free it jarred the corpse and the creature’s head rolled to one side, it’s helm visor slid open. Soulless, dead eyes met Bron’s and for a moment Bron saw this body as something other than an enemy that must be slaughtered. There are those that claim the diminutive yet hardy frames of the Gnomen are evolved from the inter breeding of Elves and Dwarfs living far off in the uncharted territories of the East. For that moment Bron saw the facial characteristics of his kin beneath the facial hair of the Dwarfs and he shuddered.

Quickly he closed the visor with his heel then knelt beside the Gnome to pray as was his clan’s custom at the end of battle. The Elves respected that all creatures had souls and each creature’s soul had a home of some sort in one of the many shadow realms of the afterlife. For this reason they offered prayers of safe passage into the shadows, not just for their Elven kin, but for all living things that they may have had a hand in taking life from, even foes slain in battle.

Whispering the last syllables of prayer Bron stood and surveyed the field. Drifting to him from a distance he could hear the first notes of the ‘shadow realm dirge’ played on flutes and drum. The soft ethereal music called to confused souls that might not yet realize they have left their bodies, a song to ease the transition and indicate where to find the gateways of the after-life.

Across the wide field Elven Troops stood watching their Commander and waiting for him to signal their leave. Bron raised his open right hand and the   trumpeter standing ready blew the call that dismissed the Elven Troops from the field. Not far ahead of him, by the bottom of the hill that the Gnomen had expected the Elves to advance over, Bron saw one of his Captains standing up from prayer. He turned his head and saw Bron and smiled while turning to greet him then exploded in a cloud of armor, gore and flying limbs.

Bron threw himself to the ground and quickly surveyed the area. All around him his Troops had done the same. There was no sign of the enemy anywhere and he could make no sense of what had just happened. Jumping to his feet he called to his trumpeter who sounded a retreat to the hilltop. As he rushed to the hills edge Bron noticed unnatural lumps in the ground and feared it was Gnomen ready to burst from the ground in ambush. He stopped, surveyed a small mound and stamped down on it with all his might. The mound made a small clicking sound.

A roaring explosion tore the ground away from beneath Bron’s feet. Suddenly all was silent and for Bron movement seemed to occur in slow motion.  He lost feeling in his body but understood he was now lying on the ground. His head rolled to it’s side and he wondered why the contorted and headless body lying near him was wearing his armor. Amidst an incredible ringing his hearing returned. He could hear other explosions around him accompanied by the terrified screams of his Troop but he could not move his mouth to shout a warning to them. And as this world faded from his view Bron thought to himself  war had  changed in horrible, horrible ways today.


worry about yourself.

you realize it’s probably a mistake when you stop for a hitchhiker. He’s an old man and you feel sorry for the guy. he climbs into your car grunting and wheezing while thanking you for your kindness. it’s not until after you’ve merged back onto the highway that you notice what might be wet blood on the left cuff of his tattered, filthy jeans. you’re thankful when he falls asleep a mile or so down the road.
as you reach for the radio button, you notice out of the corner of your eye, violent muscle twitching in his leg. he wakes screaming and grabbing desperately at his legs. he pulls his pant leg up. you see blood and exposed muscle and bone. there’s something long, thin and black, like a few extension cords twitching around in the bloodied area. he pulls the longest from out of his leg. it’s flailing around wildly in his hand. an opening at one end has an undulating array of needle like teeth. in it’s wild thrashing it brushes against your face, it’s teeth catching your cheek. immediately it begins devouring a hole in the side of your face and then bites up into the roof of your mouth. the last thing you hear is the sound of a tractor trailer air horn as your car careens across the road into oncoming traffic.

ice sheets

In the distance thick sheets of ice shatter and explode and then it’s very quiet, very cold, and the sky is always twilight. The Sad Men have torn apart much of their ice locked ship and used it’s timber to build small fires around which they huddle. Wrenching apart the ship to keep the fires burning consumes most of their day.

There’s little to do but think about dying out here on the ice and snow. Here your frozen corpse would lie under a few dim stars until spring. Your eyes wide, staring up through the perpetual twilight.

So for now you keep moving. Moving reassures you that you are not yet dead. Keep moving. Keep cursing through the breath that unfurls from your mouth. Keep moving while thinking about the woman you’ll never touch again. Keep moving and remember the children you’ll never see grow. Keep moving and whisper a toast to friends never to be seen again. Keep moving, dwelling on the life you’ll never live.

“Captain, the time has duly past, Sir.” The ship’s Lieutenant stumbled toward his superior, his left foot wrapped in blood stained cloth. He dragged his frostbitten limb past the bodies of the recently dead crewmen.”We’ve known where we are, Sir, and that IS LOST. And furthermore, we know our course from here and it IS NOWHERE, SIR”

“You WILL pipe down, Lieutenant. We have men in distress”, the hoarse whisper  rasped  from between the Captain’s chapped and bloodied lips, “and I will not have an officer incite more fear in these desperate men. Do you understand me?” He turned back to the bodies to review those lost overnight.

“Distressed? I’d worry not of their distress. It is their hunger that will hang you, Sir. The bodies at your feet are vacant. Their souls have taken leave and they need this meat no more. Were we home this soulless flesh  would be feeding worms. I ask you Captain, would you feed churchyard worms yet starve your crew?’

the clearing

we were confined to the bomb shelter for longer than anyone had anticipated. we started rationing food once we had eaten half of our supply but it soon became obvious that we wouldn’t have enough. it was difficult to live this way, 6 of us in a small dark, stuffy box underground. the worst was when we had to crap. there was no room for privacy. everyone looked away but no one talked so everyone heard your bowel movement. because of poor ventilation there was no where for the smell to go.
i used to dream about the forest while in the underground shelter. in dreams i would run freely through the trees, among the sweet smell of the pines and the dank cedar swamps. i would find friends there in the woods of my dreams. i would chase them through the dream forest but i would always wake before catching them.
one day in one of my dreams i followed lewis through the woods, ducking beneath low branches and jumping over large rocks and exposed roots. we were both laughing and shouting until we came to a clearing. the sun poured down through the leaves and limbs of the tree tops. it reached down to the ground in shafts of bright golden light and illumined the severed limbs and torn bodies of all the children and their families with whom lewis and i had attended school. it was a bloodied field of gore and body parts.
my father woke me from this dream. i told him where i had gone and what i saw. he assured me there was no field of gore in the middle of the forest. in fact, he said, the forests themselves were no more.