Dib, Tak and Zim walked together through the row of tents at the Civil War reenactment camp. Since their return, for some unspoken reason, the three would travel together to each and every reenactment they could. They rarely spoke of their experience in 1863, and perhaps this gave them some sort of closure. Something about the atmosphere…the smells, the uniforms, the sound of muskets, it all gave them a small bit of comfort. And so, they would travel, sometimes a few hours, sometimes across the country, to visit these 'living histories' as they were called, and try to keep alive that ember inside them, and the memories that they shared. This time, they had flown all the way to an out of the way spot somewhere in the state of Kentucky. This is where the trio now walked through the living history camp, immersing themselves in the sights and sounds.
"You yella', no good for nuthin'…walrus!" Somebody called from inside a large officer's wall tent. They looked through the opening to see two large confederate reenactors bickering while trying to stay historically accurate. Zim smiled, and Dib raised an eyebrow. They walked on past an 1800's style blacksmith's wagon, complete with a forge. The mustached man was bellowing the fire as he puffed on a cigar. Nearby, a tall confederate cavalry officer was leaned back in a wooden folding chair, his booted feet propped up on a wooden box. Tak looked at the ground as they walked. Dib grasped her hand in his.
"Nothing at all like it, are they?" He said in a quiet voice. She looked into his eyes.
"Nothing is like it." She whispered. "How could it be?"
"At least they didn't forget." Zim said. "At least these humans remember." The three stopped at a large tent, the front open, showing various period accurate costumes and supplies for sale. They entered the tent, and browsed through the merchandise. Zim picked up a grey kepi and ran his fingers across it in a nostalgic manner.
"That kepi's twenty dollars." A man behind the small counter said. "I can put whatever trim or insignia on it for you for a little extra."
"I want it." Zim said. He looked at the hat. "But Zim only has eighteen monies."
"Hey Zim." Dib said. Zim turned. The boy handed him a ten dollar bill. "Go ahead. On me, I guess." Zim looked at the bill, then took it carefully.
"Thank you…Dib beast." Zim smiled. "Mr. shopkeep!" He called, walking toward the counter. "I want this cap decorated as that of a soldier in Pickett's Division, make it staff of Armistead's brigade!" The man smiled, and took the hat, along with Zim's money.
"Sure, son." He replied. "One kepi coming up."
"Hey…" Dib remarked. "Why don't we all get kepis? You know, kind of like a memento?" Tak smiled, and began searching for a hat she liked. Finding a union kepi, she walked to the counter, handing to the woman now running the shop while the man fixed up Zim's hat.
"Can you make this a 1st Corps kepi?" She asked.
"Any particular brigade or regiment?" The woman asked.
"Nah. Just staff like his." Tak replied, pointing toward Zim. A look crossed her face, as if remembering a great tragedy. "I like General Reynolds you know." The woman smiled, and took the blue wool cap back to the man. Dib now approached the counter with a blue kepi, a small smile on his face. "Let me guess…" Tak remarked. "Buford's cavalry, right?"
"Nah." Dib answered. "20th Maine." The man looked up from his work.
"Damn…" He commented with a smile. "We got a run on kepis today, don't we?"
A few minutes later, the group exited the tent, wearing their new hats. They passed a couple union soldiers cooking a pot of beans, a few pieces of hardtack on a box.
"Can I have a couple pieces of that?" Tak asked. A union reenactor with corporal stripes on his coat smiled.
"Sure, if 'yall want to attempt it." The other man chuckled as Tak took two pieces of the bread. She handed one to Dib, and started nibbling on her biscuit.
"I don't know how you do it." Dib remarked, looking at his piece as if it were potentially dangerous.
"I don't know why you humans hate hardtack so much." Tak said, breaking off another small bite. "I think it's the best food on the planet."
Up ahead, there were four small canvas tents. A large cannon and a smaller gun were parked in front of the structures. Near the cannons sat three reenactors, wearing confederate artillery uniforms. A confederate artillery officer sat under a nearby tree with a woman, evidently his wife, who was dressed in a period dress. A boy with red corporal stripes lat sleeping nearby. The three stopped and looked at the cannon like patrons of an art museum.
"Like the howitzer, guys?" One of the reenactors asked. They looked up. A man in his mid-twenties with long black hair, who looked a bit like a cross between a native American and a confederate soldier had spoken. He had the red stripes of an artillery corporal, and his belt was laden with knives, pistols and a tomahawk.
"Tell you what I'd like," The reenactor sitting to his right, a strongly built younger man with sergeant stripes commented, standing and looking around. "I'm gonna go get me one of those big cups of mountain dew, and try to find that yankee girl. I'll be back."
"You'd better bring me a sarsaparilla back too, sergeant." The first reenactor commented. "I'll put a blacksnake in your tent while you're sleeping tonight."
"Uh huh…" The sergeant smiled challengingly. He walked off, and the corporal walked up to the trio. The third reenactor, a young woman, stayed behind, obviously happier under the shade of a canvas canopy. "Everyone seems to be drawn to the big guns, but when the battle starts, the infantry gets all the glory." The corporal smiled.
"Didn't matter much during the war." Tak replied. "Artillerymen fought and died with the rest of them." The reenactor nodded.
"Indeed." He mused. "All that mattered then was that you were willing to give everything for what you believed in, whether you were blue or gray."
"And so many did…" Dib said thoughtfully.
"Too many…" Zim added. The reenactor nodded.
"I'm glad you kids understand it." He said. "Too many people today don't even stop to think about the men who fought and died for them 150 years ago. I think some of the guys out here doing this don't even understand how important it is that we do this for them. To keep their memory alive, you know?"
"Hm." Tak said. "You know, you talk a lot like someone from back then."
"Heh. I get that sometimes." The man replied. "I'm so dreadfully old-fashioned. Some people wonder if I actually think I'm in the war." His smile revealed that he was joking. "Seriously. Some people think we should let it go, just forget the past and 'get with the future'…" He said the last part cynically. "I suppose that's why there's no heroes today." He gazed out at the camp a moment. "Hm. Only fossils like us playing heroes."
"Maybe some day there will be men like General Armistead and General Lee." Zim said.
"And great leaders like Hancock and Reynolds." Tak said.
"And Chamberlain." Dib added. "Yeah, I'm sure there will be people like that again.
"I hope so." The reenactor replied. "If we had more men like that in the world…" He paused. "…and more young people who thought like you three…" He chuckled. "I'd retire."
An afterword from the author: And so it ends, the Invader Zim Civil War epic 'Invader Zim, The Last Full Measure'. I hope you the reader have enjoyed reading this story as much as I have enjoyed writing it, and I hope that all the time and energy I've placed into making this literary endeavor a reality was well spent. I believe it was. I truly do. I had envisioned a fic in which not only the characters, but you the readers were transported to a small farming community that day so many years ago. Hopefully, you experienced the fear, the humor, the humanity and the heartbreak alongside the characters as the story progressed, and learned as they did, the real story behind the facts and pictures found in history books. I also hope that I have kindled some interest in you to learn more about the great war that tore our country apart for 5 years, and I hope that you will continue to look back into history to discover more about who we are as a nation and as individuals.
The reenactor the characters conversed with in the epilogue was yours truly. The other reenactors with me in the story are members of the Civil War reenactment group I belong to, in which I hold the rank of Corporal, and the duties of quartermaster and Indian scout. I believe in keeping history alive, especially the Civil War, which is what drove me to write this monumental fic in the first place. There are Civil War reenactments all over the United States, and hundreds of independent groups. If you do decide to travel to one, you will not soon forget it, and as most groups are always needing new members, maybe this fic inspires you to join one, and I may help create a new generation of living historians to replace me when I get too old to take the field anymore. Thank you for taking the time to read my work, and I wish you the best. Until my next attempt at fanfiction greatness, I bid you a fond cheerio. –Dr. Lovekill