The Matfred Chronicles
Chapter 10: Perishable (suggested by Artificial Starlight)
Rating: T (for implied violence and heavily descriptive gore)
The squashed grass underfoot was sprayed in a vibrant scarlet, a hue so distinctively red, someone might've mistaken it for paint- if only paint were watery and had enough surface tension to remain in drop form and sluggishly inch down the blade like dew.
No, it wasn't paint. Oh, how America wished it were paint- anything but a fluid that should never be exposed to the outside world. The nation had his knees on the soil, the moisture soaking into already adulterated pants. His nostrils crinkled at the still prevalent smell of gunpowder and his ears could faintly remember the cries of anguish as soldiers fell to their untimely deaths. The thunderous boom of the cannons still throbbed in his head; he felt certain the amount of commands and the overall sense of fear that every single approaching heartbeat might be his last had sapped his energy, leaving behind a ghostly numbness that practically coursed through his veins.
Now he looked up from the grass, irises meeting a heart wrenching arrangement of cadavers. These lumps of flesh, the souls that were once contained inside having transcended somewhere beyond human description, were being made into feasts for the decomposers, flies already wriggling in the wounds, nibbling away at the guts and tissue that had once upon a time constituted a living thing.
America had seen carnage before, no doubt about it- every nation that had ever sucked in oxygen had witnessed corpses strewn across a battlefield at some point or another, and would continue to let the image be reflected onto their retinas until they bled into the pages of history books. Even so, he often found himself quivering at the mere thought of the death toll as a result of every war he fought. Despite his abhorrence of slaughter, he was, in one way or another, glad that the victory had gone to the Union, a luminous piece of hope that perhaps Alfred would remain whole and not be ripped in two by his own citizens. But there was that minuscule bit of him, way in the shadows of his opinions, that asked him constantly if hundreds of thousands of lives taken by lead could possibly be the true price to pay for the assurance that he would remain the United States of America.
As a young child, America had tilted his head to look into the knowledgeable face of his father, believing him to be an invincible force to be reckoned with. This viewpoint turned itself inside out the moment America came to terms with England's flaws and witnessed his impressive, insuperable father break down at his feet, sobbing uncontrollably, a phantom of his former glory.
The Revolution taught America the reality- that human lives were perishable. Take away a person's clothes, armor, and tools and all that is left is a poorly constructed mammal. There seemed to be no apparent physical ability that could possibly aid in survival; no claws to shred, no patterned pelt to conceal itself in defense, no rigid shell to deflect attacks, no venom to poison prey with, not even a fur coat to keep it warm. Its only two unequaled features, its opposable thumbs and developed brain, had been the sole advantages that had kept such a breakable, vulnerable, perishable species alive. Those two features had, over the course of time, created substitutes for the necessary components of survival nature had neglected to provide. Their ability to create something out of nothing is a key to their existence, but also the source of their downfall. With this power, intrinsic to only them, they claim themselves separated from other beings, feeling omnipotent and able to withstand any cataclysm life should dare to throw at them. But in truth, all things- humans included- are susceptible to decadence and death.
A strident caw-caw brought America out of his whirlwind of thoughts, his sight focusing on probably the goriest detail amongst the decay-ridden scene. An unusually brash raven had found its way to the battlefield while its brethren were off cowering from the chaos they still believed ensued. It was hopping briskly over the trampled meadow, a swollen tendon glistening in blood hanging from its red-tinged beak. It paused, black beady eyes fixated on America, seemingly curious before taking flight and vanishing into the foggy air.
If there had been any self-preservation left in Alfred at this point, now was the moment in which it abandoned him. First, he hurled, splattering the grass with more disgusting fluids then needed to be absorbed into the dirt. Then, he bawled, shoulders hitching, wails piercing the stony silence.
"Sir! What are you still doing here? You should be having someone tend to your wounds." America's glazed blue eyes stared into worn brown ones, belonging to one of the many nurses on site, working with the soldiers whom had seen the battle through to its end, but had been left behind with horrid gashes and cuts.
Alfred wanted to insist that, as a country, he didn't need immediate care when a multitude of others needed the care, but he allowed his weary body to be led away from the remnants of bloodshed.
. . .
"Are you okay, Al?"
America's eyelids shot open, cold sweat covering his body in the most uncomfortable of ways. He turned his head, finding himself immersed in Canada's worrisome, yet warm gaze. The mere sight of a human being not being consumed by maggots or moaning under the agonizing pain that filled its spirit was such an utter relief that he immediately roped Canada into his arms, burying his face into his golden hair.
Canada was rather taken aback by this abrupt action and had to remove his face from America t-shirt to breathe effectively. "I'm guessing you had a bad dream, huh?"
"Yeah….Pretty gory, too…." The nation convulsed in disgust, frowning in disdain at the musty memories that had replayed themselves in his sleeping brain.
Canada's eyebrows furrowed in concern as he pressed his lips gingerly against America's forehead. "What was it about?"
Canada had enough knowledge in American history to relate gore with the name that had just departed from his lips. "Ouch. Not the best battle to be reliving." His twin pools of molten violet softened in a perfect mix of sympathy and care. "Will you be alright?"
America nodded briskly, a trembling, but sincere smile on his lips. "Yup. I'll be fine." As he admired his partner's pale skin and thick locks, he noticed how his brother's own fragile state was what he adored the most, coupled with the fact that he allowed only Alfred to witness in his weakest, most assailable forms.
Nature had been never been- and never will be- in the business of tattooing every living thing with an expiration date, and if it did, perhaps death would be more of a phobia than it is today. Regardless, Alfred had to keep his eyes on Matthew, on Arthur, on Francis, on Kiku, on his citizens, on himself, on anything he cared about, so that when his time to perish rolled around, he could do so in confidence that he had enjoyed his days as a fresh, living, fragile nation.
Author's Note: This chapter was a product of my want to do something not quite so fluffy as the other nine chapters in this fic. At first, I wanted to make this more choppy and ambiguous than is it now, but I had a need to be descriptive. I don't think I've ever written anything quite as gory as this, and I understand some of you might be more into the fluffier stuff, (Not to worry! More of that coming up in latter chapters) but I felt obligated to give those of you out there into blood and guts a taste of that here.
Also: being that this is my first extremely graphic writing, I would appreciate feedback. If you feel I didn't do so hot of a job, don't be afraid to say so! I like to improve my skill when I can and you, my dear readers, are how I can perfect myself.
Historical Notes: For those of you slightly confused, the memory America was reliving took place during the American Civil War, in which states in the south of the country succeeded from the Union (AKA, the northern states) due to conflicts over economics, politics, and the like. This war is also the bloodiest in all of American history, with 640,000 soldiers lost (the highest death toll of American citizens involved in any war.) The Battle of Gettysburg was also the most vicious battle in the war.
See you all next update and keep those words coming!
Next Keyword (hopefully, it'll be this keyword OTL): Jealousy (submitted by Hikaru2322)