Artology

Drama Tragedy

4.4  

Artology

Drama Tragedy

Appirations

Appirations

7 mins
357


The nightmares weren't the worst part. 

 Sure, waking up each night in a cold sweat, gasping for air, trying to grasp onto something, anything, wasn't ideal, but that I could deal with. After all, there was some solace that at least I woke up, keeping death at bay for another day, as, in times of war, the Reaper was always at the door, waiting to assail at the first notion of weakness. Nothing a 15-year-old should ever have to deal with, but that's what it was. 

 It was the unceasing despair and paranoia that accompanied them.

Beneath my reticent demeanor, I was in complete control of myself and swore no urge would ever command me. It was almost neurotic for me to fine-tune my body like an instrument—or a weapon—and constantly stay on high alert for any sign of danger. Like a master of my puppet, I pulled the strings on every muscle and breath I owned. I wouldn't let the cravings get out of hand. Because it hurt too much to want something so badly that it conquered you. I was all too aware of what that was like. I’d been craving the impossible craving as a 14-year-old kid that had uncovered her parents' remains one stormy night. And though the cravings never really stopped, what mattered was that I was in control of myself.  

My country had nothing but empty golden plains that seemed to stretch on for eternity. I thought I was in hell, with the sun burning through my attire and the scorched patches of earth peppered throughout the fields—a telltale sign of the bombs that had rained down on the area not too long ago.

A summer thunderstorm last week had given me a brief reprieve from the intense heatwave, but it had still left me uncomfortably soaked in my own clothes. A week later, the sun was back with a fiery vengeance, and I was back to soaking through my clothes in my own stink and sweat, but this time with the muck of the marshlands clinging to my foot. 

 It had taken almost the whole day to sludge through the marshes and find shelter at a farmhouse that seemed to have been deserted days ago. I foraged for food and realized that all the livestock was either gone or was getting feasted on by the maggots. Most of the food in the pantry had long been raided save for a single jar of strawberry jam and a cracked egg left to spoil on a shelf. 

It wasn’t that I was starving—although I was famished after a day out straggling through a war zone—but a jar of sweet strawberry jam was practically bliss compared to undercooked meat on a spit. 

 We had never asked to get caught in the crossfire between warring countries, but our neutral territories had made our homes easy targets, our loyalties lying with neither side but our own. 

What were we supposed to do? Cry and mourn the loss of people who contributed nothing to society and were more of a fungal infection that needed to be taken care of? Sure, life was a life and I had no intention to play god and decide who lives and dies. But in a situation like this, there was no option. 

Every soldier out on the battlefield was doing that right now. Killing people to save people. It was a necessary evil for the greater good, but maybe I did not want to accept that. I was still young and naïve in a way, a proponent of idealism rather than realism. Maybe I still had yet totake off my rose-tinted glasses and see the world for what it was and not for what I wanted it to be.

So engrossed in my thoughts, I didn't notice when a light drizzle started and turned into a torrent.

Water sloshed across my toe peeking out of my shoe as I slogged through the backstreets. I splashed through a puddle to avoid a pair of rats struggling to clamber up a dumpster. Sure,summer thunderstorms weren’t unusual, but I hadn’t expected one tonight when I'd decided to sneak out to scourge for food.

Wiping away the hair clinging to my cheeks, I braved the wet lashes of the storm. The rags I

wore for clothes were soaked, but I focused on protecting myself as best as I could.

The alleys offered shortcuts across the city, making it easier to traverse without bumping into one of the soldiers. The bruises on my back were still healing from the last time a soldier had caught me traipsing about. But I was so caught up in scurrying back that I did not stop to consider that the seedy areas of the city came to life at this time.

My belly ached with a vengeful hunger, but I kept my head down and shoulders tucked together to keep myself as invisible as possible.

But of course, having food, and being a kid at that, every head in the crowded alleyway turned in my direction, sensing easy pickings.

I shrunk back when one of them lurched towards me on unsteady feet.

“Hey” the man grumbled, his fetid words slurred and weary. He pointed a shaky finger at the

stale bread I carried. “Whatcha got there?”


I gripped the bread loaves tighter, spilling some crumbs in the process. My first instinct was to turn around and take a detour, but the ‘splish splash’ from behind was enough warning. 

I looked to the woman slouched against the wall behind him—a silent plea for help or mercy. 

The woman merely gazed back, her eyes vacant of sympathy or anything else, even as the rain poured down her body and pooled beneath her feet. 

More crumbs of bread bounced onto my shoes as I clutched the loaf harder and shuffled back. 

The man staggered after me just as lightning flashed and lit up the alley, revealing an eyepatch almost hidden beneath greasy bangs. 


A soldier from the war. 


Not good. 


I pulled back, ready to flee in either direction with or without the bread loaf. My back bumped against something firm and I caught a whiff of that putrid stench just as a hand yanked me up into the air by the scruff of my collar. 

I yelped and the loaves splashed onto the puddle as I reached up to claw at his wrist. 

“Aww, what a waste of bread,” Eyepatch clucked his tongue at the muddied loaves sitting below my kicking feet. 

This close, I could see a little maggot wiggle its way out from beneath the eyepatch as if to greet me. This close, I could smell the faintest notes of rot beneath the funk of drugs and alcohol. This close, I could see the empty darkness in the man’s single eye. 

There was no light. No life. Just great enmity. 

A cold shiver ran down my back and I began to kick harder in retaliation. Eyepatch grunted when a kick caught him in the gut, but before he could retaliate, lightning sliced through the sky, blinding the alley with light. 


It seemed like nature was warning, beware. 


It's coming. 


And not taking any prisoners this time.    


It only took a split second in reality, but to me, time seemed to slow down. Smoke. 

 

I smelled smoke. 

 

The forest was burning and it was coming for me as well. The explosions paraded through the woodland, rocking the ground like an earthquake although anyone viewing from the cliffs would just see a spectacle of beautiful balls of light and destruction. 

 

“I’m dying.” I said to myself. As if to make sure it wasn't a dream. 

 

An inkling of fear tingled at the back of my mind, but it was soon quelled by the notion that I might finally get some rest. For good. No more fending for myself. No more nightmares, no more ghosts, no more pain. Just the numbing embrace of an eternal slumber. 

 

I liked that idea. 

 

I was tired. 

 

Stopping, at last, I raised my arms and closed my eyes to embrace defeat. Let the shadows take me too. I was tired of running, tired of fighting, and tired of surviving, always at the edge of sinking into a void. A life of cynicism wasn’t a life worth living, so why even bother living at all? 

        I'll finally be at peace. 


That was the fleeting thought through my mind before I surrendered to the arms of death. 


The ghosts of my past echoed that sentiment, finally put to rest.                              

 



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