“Is there any other way?”
The voice is a little anxious, searching, maybe expecting a compromise. But there is no other way.
“To be reborn means leaving behind all that was, to give up the old life, to forget.”
“Forget everything, even the good things?”
“Even the good things: renewal is a new start, the dead leaves are left behind, returned to dust.”
“But how do I know…”
“You cannot know, you won’t know before you really start, your new life.”
“Can I go back then?”
I have to smile. You see all sorts in this job!
We walk hand in hand in the peace of the morning. The river flows and reminds us of times past. We haven’t forgotten, but we have forgiven. For us, forgiveness has long been our way to give thanks. After all, the monsters are dead and we are alive, at least alive enough to admire the blue sky reflected in the calm water.
This can’t be real… No, of course not, this is a game… That object there, yes, that skull, they think, it may be a gate, you know, some kind of key, to get somewhere else? This is a game, of course. But it may also be a trap, something really nasty, that blows up in your face, you know…
I observe the fools from my observatory on the low hill, the sniper rifle comfortably cradled against my shoulder. I see all three of them, hideous trolls. I know what they are saying, in their vernacular. “This must be a game…” Idiots.
The first one, one disgusting character, approaches the skull. The bullet takes him right in the eye as he’s about to touch the bone. One down.
The other two look around, there is no escape, nowhere to hide, they don’t even run. I take my time. No unnecessary cruelty. A quick and neat death. Job done.
And it’s not even a real bone!
Low tide: it is as if the world, the ocean, had wanted to withdraw, to retire, at the other end, on the other side, perhaps to another galaxy.
The written words cannot be erased, nor the broken promises forgotten.
The heroes have gone, their shadows melted…
faraway, in an unknown land,
only remains the sound of small waves, lashing the rocks.
The moor already wears its autumn veil, and, soon, we will be home. I know what you will say, when we walk up the hill, towards the place we have chosen for our retreat.
“Look! He’s waiting for us, he’s there, can you see him?”
But I know that only you can see him, that he ever appears only for you, through the ancient mist of long gone times.
For you are his beloved, the one he lost, when the Earth was young, and I, poor mortal, was but dust in a distant star.
And, as always, I will say:
“Yes, I can see him, bless our guardian, the watcher over our fragile spirits…”
He knew where they had met, but he was less certain of when that was. He remembered the small town, and the woods, above all the woods, where they walked, kissed, watched the sun rise, the freezing dawns, enlaced, forever at one, with each other, and with the trees.
She was the one, and those were their beginnings. They watched the sun set, the skies on fire. Her grey eyes reflected the light. He had felt so strong then. He was, so they called him. She watched him go, such a breakup in her heart…
Now, after all the death, the sand, the blood, he was back. Alone, at the end, a fallen hero.
Soon all will be shrouded in darkness, or is her sense of light and shadow, of day and night now irremediably confused? After so long in space this would not be surprising, and what did they say on the training range? “When you’re landed, don’t expect to adjust without pain!” Slowly, the navigator removes the oxygen mask, then her helmet. Her long red hair is still held back, before she can relax she will have to wait and feel how she bears gravity on this planet. Her suit’s instruments said that the atmosphere was breathable. Perhaps the radioactivity level is on the high side for a planet with so few people around…
At least that is what her briefing said. She looks at the star sinking into the luminous clouds, on the horizon. “Earth sunsets can be stunning,” said the brief, “their atmosphere is saturated with thin particles of dust. It is not known if this is the result of volcanic eruptions, or of a human-made disaster, which may also explain the sparsely inhabited continents…”
For centuries the great abbaye had stood, in its majesty and glory, in the peaceful landscape. It was then a centre of faith and science, where wise men worked, and kept the flame of civilisation burning. They were frugal, up in the frosty mornings before dawn, ploughing the fields and teaching the children; their chants filled the vales and forests, rising to the sky.
Then the heretics had come, plundering, burning, torturing the faithful. A dark veil had fallen on the earth, the Dark Lord’s reign had begun.
But today, in the faint light of dawn, I can hear the monks’s voices, the soft footsteps of their sandals. I sense their presence, their curiosity, even, about this strange creature, this human being who survived the fall. Their anthem is but a light breeze through the icy air.
The arch stands, witness to a millennium of folly. And there, on the cold stones, I kneel, praying to the true God, in submission and piety, the last, shivering survivor of the war, that ended the evil empire.
Dedicated to the builders of the great abbayes of Yorkshire, and their defenders.
It was a wonderful day, walking along the ancient path, through the beloved hills. Closer to the village, a helpful farmer had left the way clear, in the middle of the fields of colza. The scent of the crop was strong in the cool air. They stopped, looking at each other.
“We will remember this instant of peace,” she said slowly, “when winter is back, and the ground is frozen…”
He smiled, and took her hand. “Not that long ago, I remember climbing that hill in the snow… And it must have been with you!” They laughed.
“This is exactly how I remembered the mausoleum,” she told him, as they crossed the immaculate lawn. “The trees are a lot taller… so many years have passed since our parents used to come here with us kids…”
“I no longer know whose statue it is,” replied her brother, “I just know we liked running around it, pretending that above the steps we were safe from the monsters, down in the woods!”
“You can see, the park is a lot smaller than in our memories! Then, we imagined all sorts of creatures living in the deep jungle, beyond our sanctuary…”
“… And now, now we know that there is no amazing creature, just us, and the birds, perhaps even a few squirrels!”
They smiled at each other, a very old couple revisiting their childhood.