He came on a large black float; it was rather plain apart from the fact that it had two levels on it, one barely elevated 20 centimetres of the other. You would have thought that such a float would be frightening at the time, but it wasn't. It was intimidating however and his permanent, hard, emotionless expression that he always wore matched it somewhat perfectly. His hair was short and platinum blonde, combed neatly to the side and his eyes were a light grey, but gave the impression that once, a long time ago that they had held colour or at least more life in them. He wore a military style uniform that looked old and worn, it was black apart from the gold and silver decoration, the gold had however now faded so it more resembled a yellowy colour almost like mustard staining but more regal somehow. He always looked pressured, like there was a time bomb about to go off, like he was running from something, but there was no obvious sign of any opposition.
The wind raged behind me, and because of the way I was sitting, back to the wind, you would have thought I was going to fall off the edge, but no. He wouldn't let me. Unlike me, he was in a standing position, looking down at the crowd his face clear of any emotion stared blankly at them as if there was nothing there, but there was. The odd sob could be heard from a woman, who was wearing a large black hat. No other noise was made, or if it was, it could not be heard above the howling of the wind which seemed to show the same discontent.
I had a perfect view from where I was sitting, and even from this distance I could pick out a few faces in the crowd. They were imprinted in my memory; then again I had spent the last sixteen years of my life with them. I noticed the small skinny figure of my brother, he was five but that didn't save him from witnessing the daily routine of our household. He was ghostly pale with dark brown eyes which still had a little sparkle in them on occasions, but I couldn't expect that to last for much longer, especially not now. My father, a rather short, fat man with a receding hair line, in his best suit which, coincidently was his only suit stood near the front, and dutifully on his arm, stood my mother. I once resented her, she would stand in the corner and cower, but I am now old enough to realise something. She couldn't have done anything about it, and that's the hard truth, it can just take a while to see it sometimes and even longer to accept.
After some time of just sitting and watching I noticed my father was addressing the crowd which had gathered, friends, family and the priest. I could distinctly hear his voice now as it was carried by the wind in my direction. His was the last voice I wanted to hear right now, but he insisted I was here to witness it. When I say he I am not referring to my father, I mean the man who is standing directly to my right, I don't know his name, he says he doesn't have one; he is just here to assist me. At first I thought that was rather foolish, to have no name, everybody has a name, and then I believed that he was just arrogant, but no, soon you cannot think of a single name that would best suit him, and in that way you learn to accept. Kind of like life.
Now my father's solemn voice ran high and the perfectly timed tears on his face would have given the impression, to those who didn't know the truth, that he truly was upset. Much of the crowd, who hadn't already caught onto his mood, now bowed their heads and wiped their eyes as he went on. I couldn't make out the words, but it was only damage control as I liked to call it. He will recall how he tried to stop it, how they did everything they could to stop the bleeding, in reality, he caused it, then he just returned to the one true relationship he had in his life. The one with a vodka bottle. True love.
After the heart wrenching speech, the coffin was lowered into the ground and then slowly but surely the crowd dispersed until the only person who remained was my brother. He dropped a single rose on top of my coffin and turned to walk away. To call after him would be fruitless, so I didn't even try.
I felt a stiff yet reassuring hand on my shoulder and turned my face up to look at him. His look said it all, we've got to go, he had never spoken to me, I doubted that he could, at one point I even doubted this was real. It did seem likely that I was dreaming, or at least going mental, but no, I didn't want to go back. I didn't know where we were going but I stood up and followed him the few yards to the float and then sat at the very front with my legs hanging off the end. My skin had wind burn so I pulled on my earlier disregarded jacket and zipped it up to my neck and huddled into a little ball.
The float moved purposefully and his gaze never faltered, straight ahead, as always. We crawled through the forest, quickly and silently, like a predator on the hunt, only, we weren't hunting...not as far as I knew. It was at least an hour of silence before the float stopped in a clearing which looked out onto a city.
It wasn't like where I had come from, the skyscrapers pierced the sky and the scene was one of loss, as if the city held no life, but at a closer inspection I could see people moving through the city, most in a hurry in the back of some dismal scene, that's what this town looked like. It was like a graveyard, but the people were somehow still living, denying the grim call that echoed every word through the city. At this point that he walked up the float to stand beside me.
"Where are we going?" I turned to look at him; if he could talk he would answer my questions. His face never faltered, he looked me in the eyes momentarily, and they hesitated. That was the first sign of weakness I had ever seen him betray, and yet I wasn't enough. I wanted to see the human side of him, if there was one I wanted him to cry out in despair for the sight in front of him, for him to scream until, the last ounce of breathe had been stolen from him by the grim scene, but no. His gaze returned to the city immediately, and no more did he falter.
I was taken aback when he had actually answered, I had expected him to stay silent, I didn't expect him to do anything I wanted, he hadn't after all followed my previous wishes of humanising himself, because I'm pretty sure part of him was still remotely human, his eyes betrayed him. He sounded exactly as you would expect, a deep voice of authority, firm but not harsh, and in it was the tiniest hint of regret.
It was almost midnight, and we had still not escaped the scene of a broken city. It had gotten slowly worse and as the darkness progressed, my horror died because after witnessing thirty children lying on the side of the road joined by cries of pains and pleas for you to stop and help; you become immune to the pain it brings. Even if not completely, I learned to ignore it.
He was still silent, I had only ever heard his lips betray the one word which held so much confusion for me and I was certain that was all I would know for now. Strangely that was how I wanted it, my life's steady daily routine of horror was finally over and I wanted to get away from anything resembling routine.
Routine ruined my life, made me fear eight pm, made every time I was near hot coffee a death cry and above all every time Saturday came around made me push my bed up against my bedroom door, barricading me in for twenty four hours before Sunday, nine am. Church. A haven in more ways than one, that full hour where my family was together without a single punch being thrown, lacking drunken roars as we spoke out of turn, whimpers of my younger brother as my mother lay strewn on the kitchen floor and the same fate heading for me. I was always next in line.
We were now heading out of the city limits, greeted by a large sign that read
'Infractus terra-felicis dimitto per vestri vita!'
I couldn't read Latin, but the sign was the only thing of good condition left in this town, ad seemed to be much younger than it, and seemed to mean something important. I turned to my companion who was looking at the sign with a face of full seriousness, slowly nodding to himself with grief in his eyes. The float suddenly came to a stop just by the sign and he gracefully descended from the float, and began walking towards it. I was getting drowsy and he turned to look at me from where he stood. It was if he was ordering me to sleep. I never realised that the dead slept, but then again why wouldn't they, so I dutifully lay down on the floor of the float and staring at the silhouette of the trees a few miles off, found sleep easily.
I was crouching behind a small car; I had never felt such fear in my life. The sound of gunfire was only a few metres away and the three others next to me mirrored the fear I felt in their eyes. I motioned for the attack to begin, or was it a defence? Right now it didn't even matter. I pulled the trigger and a life of bullets flew at a man in a grey uniform a few metres off. I didn't stop to see if he was dead, probably, that was also irrelevant. Nothing else mattered to me than victory here and then getting out of here. The other three were to my right and had finished off that small attack. There weren't many this time, not as many as last time anyway, there were at least a few dozen then. This wasn't an attack as such, that was tactics. They worked. Now our position was given away and all at the expensive of 4 lives on their side.
I sat up to notice we were indeed on the move again. I looked over at him, standing at the back of the black float, facing forward his gaze never faltering, his face never betraying human emotion. There was a look of pride on his face, but not smugness, he was doing something right I just wish he would tell me, or even just talk to me. He was the shell of a man, a man who had a life before this? Maybe, but all this wondering couldn't answer my ever hanging questions; why had he come and gotten me, and where the Hell was home?