I was tired, from something more than battle and fatigue and hunger. I was tired not just to my bones, but to my very soul. My heart felt like it was pumping sludge instead of blood.
Me and her, Lt. Parris, were sitting above our dug out bunker that was basically home, known, not at all affectionately, as The Tomb. We had tinned fish and bottled water, so we were in high cotton!
Lt. Parris, I dared never call her Taelor, was happily chowing on down on her tinned fish, as if she were on her lunch hour in the park, not a care in the world. Not that she was careless, and not that she wasn’t as wrung out and exhausted as I was, it was just the meat grinder of a war never seemed to dampen her brightness, she shone even in this night.
It was the last dregs of dusk, the last bits of golden and red light been washed out of the sky, and the teacup of the sky was almost completely turned over to close out the light. So many holes in the tea cup. So many stars.
Their was a cool wind coming off the desert. Always so cold at night. Very cold. But I felt something in that wind, almost, almost…….peaceful.
Lt. Parris finished her tinned fish, and washed down the salty aftertaste with the last few swigs from her bottled water. She looked out onto the bare horizon, which ghostly and uncertain under starlight and with no bright moon. There not fear in her eyes. Only peace. And resolve.
“Something to eat besides MRE’s are a rare treat Jones, you should have savored it more.” She says, wiping her mouth with the back of her hand.
“What are tinned fish when we’re all being devoured, and The Red Dragon is coming take us. We’re all burning. We’ll be ashes on this cold goddamn wind.”
Lt. Parris, sighed, still looking out on the horizon, but she saw something…..else out there. Something……beyond the night and the demons and all the bloodshed.
“Jones…..we’re facing a lot right now. Don’t think I don’t notice the state you’re in. Don’t think I don’t know the Principalaties are amassing, and we’re hemorrhaging soldiers, and that it’s seems like everything we’re fighting for is hopeless and lost.”
“How many years have we been at This Lt. Parris? How much has been lost and how many have we sent how in caskets? How many rivers of blood has flowed on these dusty hills? And for what? The Red Dragon is still pushing hard against us! The demons are everywhere! There’s no bloody end to them! Home, is almost lost!”
I was howling at this point, as if to offer a scream up the sky and heaven itself! Once again, I was getting to worked up. To emotional. To bloody moody and unstable. I sighed, and brought myself back to earth, I think.
Lt. Parris sighed, but didn’t react otherwise. She didn’t threaten to have me reported to the platoon priest for blasphemy, or threaten to have me court martialed for defeatism. All the same, this was stuff she’d heard before, often, and was exasperated with hearing. Almost as exasperated as I was for not being able to shut up about it. But this war I’d been fighting for so long, and nothing seemed to every change in a good way. All that changed was what poor sucker caught it that day and had to be sent home in a box, perhaps a box that contained many pieces.
“Jones, Home isn’t lost. We have held them. At cost, at pain and loss. But we have held. It will never end, not until The Revelation and The End of Time. We’re going to fight here until we can’t. The others who follow us will do the same. The Red Dragon will always be a threat, because just as we have the divine light in us, we also have the darkness in us. Demons were once us you know. They got seduced. They let themselves be taken.
“There will always be people who let themselves be taken.” She said.
She reached over and placed arm around my shoulders, and gave me a squeeze. I tensed, surprised by her showing any sort of affection. But I then melted into it, and felt the warmth of her, and I felt as if the light and the peace in her was pouring into me.
She disengaged herself, squeezed my knee, than looked up at the stars.
“Remember what you have won, and what you’ve saved, all that you’ve been, even here.” She says.
She collects her empty tin and bottle and goes back inside The Tomb.
I sit by myself for a long time, in the darkness, beneath the stars, and in the wind.