TEARS OF RED
It wasn't fast. It took only a second for me to turn around, yet if felt like my entire life had taken it's toll in that mere moment. Maybe it had. I was facing the dreaded scene in front of me, decaying bodies and decapitated souls drifting the land that we have been standing on for the last year. I was watching the gray clouds, thin and crispy, gently move away from the sun, and a peak of light catching my eye. The shiny rays hit me hard, my stomach filled with butterflies and I could feel the corner of my lips rise. An overwhelming feel of happiness that had been set aside for this very moment seeped into my body.
I sniffed my nose, and turned my head around. Checking over my shoulder to make sure that the other men were seeing this.
"Chance…" Spoke Haven quietly. All the men were scattered behind him. About 50 dressed soldiers standing tall, but tired. I could see their relief, shoulders slightly lowered, dirty faces cocked the slightest bit upwards at the daunting sky. This was it.
I felt the small tear trickle down my nose, and drip off my nose and onto the dirty, tainted ground. I didn't know you could cry when you were tired. When you were relieved to say the least. Once lush grass grew there, on the spot were my tear landed. Once maybe children played here. Once upon a time…
"Chance, buddy, don't let us spoil the moment. We all know exactly what you are feeling…" He leaned forward pausing, his rocky helmet tipping in front of his face, showing his darkened brown eyes. They always appeared like fire, a blazing brown with flecks of a strong red. At the moment, they were sullen and soulless. He was hollow. We are all hollow now.
I let my eyes skim his, and without an answer I let my eyes drop. I forced myself not to lift my hand up and wipe away the tear. No, I don't think I could even gather the energy if I wanted. Instead, I turned back around, and watched as the sky cleared. I could feel the silence drift the air, but silence was not a luxury here, what we called silence was the shuddering hollers and shouts of the men we shot. The men we beat and murdered. We didn't hear a single thought of reminiscence at that moment. What we felt was beyond anything else.
We felt the end of a mad massacre.
"Chance. I'm sorry." I didn't have to look back, I knew that voice, it was Mason, but for once it wasn't being forced over bombs and gun noises. It was genuine, soft like a creamy wind, and full of honesty. I never thought I could feel such a sensation from just a voice, that voice struck up my spine, and hit the back of my neck. I felt another tear skimming down my cheek, but also accompanied by another, and another, and another….
Soon enough I couldn't control my shoulders, they shrugged like a coyotes trot. I couldn't keep my head from tipping forwards, and my knees buckling;. I was under the control of my buckled emotions, my nerves were no more, and my thoughts have split. I was purely under the impression of relief.
I didn't have to kill anymore. No more.
I didn't have to shoot anymore. No more.
I didn't have to cry anymore, but the tears keep spilling…
I could suddenly feel a hush come over the crowd of men behind me, and a pair of steel toe boots pressing their toes into the earth. We all knew who was there, looking or not. It was our captain, he was quiet waiting for me to calm down, or for the men to stand salute. Either way, neither of that was going to happen, no, not at this moment in time.
"Good jobs boys." He placed his hand firmly onto Mason's shoulder. A strong shake, and a pat on the mans back.
"We won the war."
Time, was not in our lives, in our minds. We were living in the second that held us all so close together. We couldn't leave this moment, nor would we. I choked down another shudder and controlled my breath at the moment, spitting out words, sheepishly, and forcefully.
"We…are…not…hero's." I finally choked out, I shifted my head from it's place on my knees and peaked through my shaking fingers, glaring at the captain. The man halted his shoulders back, and a face of tension struck his face full. He was a hot tempered man, and bad word muttered to him was a death sentence.
"Boy! You better shut the hell up and stop crying like a baby! You outta be ashamed of yourself for ruining such a moment." He wiped his meaty finger forward, and pointed deadlock on me. Mason and Haven stepped forward, Mason looking at Haven, and Haven looking at Mason. Mason was black, whereas Haven was German, but in that very moment, they seemed to have so much in common that they shared a look that only they could understand.
"Sir." Haven spoke first. He walked in front of the man's pointing finger and said, "The poor boy has just seen a whole country die in front of his eyes. Give him a chance to handle the loss." Yes, let me wallow in this death of a dream. I don't think I could thank Haven enough. He was young too, and could understand my shock. Mason retreated back to his spot, and all the men watched as the captain thought over what Haven had suggested. Soon enough he leaned back, and composed himself once again.
"Alright cadet Michaels." Was all he could say. Maybe he really did understand? Or maybe he knew that I was only fourteen. I was still a child, and I had witnessed adult play. Maybe the captain saw my tears and remembered the men he shot. Maybe he heard the crying souls that captivated all our ears..?
"Alright boys, we are headin' back to base here shortly. Now head on over and collect your bags. Your going home.." Those last words were drawn out, those words were all we wanted to hear this whole time.
"How did those words taste coming out of your mouth captain?" Spoke a chuckling man, I always wondered how that man always stayed so damn happy. Maybe he imagined those words being said everyday, and kept that smile on his face knowing that one day he could taste the sentence in his mouth and soul.
"They taste like freedom John, they taste like freedom."
I lifted my head, and stood up. I flattened my shirt, and sniffled my nose. Most of the men had already left for base. But a few stranglers stayed with me, making sure that this wasn't another dream, that this was really happening and that these emotions were really right.
Words didn't need to be spoken, the sky spoke for us.
A blue I have never seen in my life glowed along the horizon. The blue reminded me of the lake around my home back in Canada. The water always shone, sprinkling it's lovely blue around and crashing up against my legs. Those blues waves crashed onto the sky.
The colour of lilac flowers, and lavender were blending at the mid point in the sky. The sky was screaming sadness, and at the same time, beauty. That beauty held us in our positions, our gawking eyes, star struck for at least a full ten minutes.
We had won.
We won the killing game.
We were going home tomorrow.
Tomorrow is my birthday.
I will be turning fifteen.
"Come on Chance. You've gotta go home now and play games with all the other kids. Hug your momma, and kiss your little brother on the forehead." Haven gripped my shoulder, and his voice of kindness let me realize that I didn't have to stay here like this anymore. He helped me realize a lot of things lately. I couldn't sniffle a smile though, I repeated those same words to him for a year. I told him that I would play tag with the kids my age, that I would hug my momma every night after this, and I would kiss my little brother Chris on the forehead the day I seen him. And I will.
"Okay." Was all I could muffle out, my smile had vanished, but that is all they needed. Haven held onto my shoulder, and started guiding me away. I couldn't take my eyes off of that place, no matter how much I tried. It was like I was glued on that land, like if I looked away I would wake up back in the trenches and hear bombs drop. I swear I started seeing grave stones popping up on the ground every spot I looked to. The rest of the guys took their last looks as well, and turned away slowly. I wonder of they were seeing the same thing..
This was our victory moment. Not the moment where we shot the last bullet, not the moment where their white flag waved back and forth in the air. This moment here, this moment where we could breathe again. Where we could talk to each other and hear a voice of a human being. Our moment was when the sky cleared, and the world was hushed of all death.
Even though death itself still lingered, and the smells still held with us. The killing was done, for now. Our hands weren't going to grip anymore guns. This was out resting moment.
"Hey Chance, what chu thinking bout?" Spoke Mason, who was walking back with the men. His face was concerned, but that didn't seem to phase me a bit. I glanced over my shoulder and I scanned the sky one last time, and thought I seen a man in the corner of my eye. A black silhouette of a soldier with his gun facing down. I seen the shadow lift his head, and drop his gun. The spirits are feeling relief now as well, or I have gone completely crazy like the men I see around me.
"Nothing is solid Mason. Everything slips and slides together. Nothing can glue in support like we imagine it, we are just like water through a net. No matter how hard we try and stay in one place in time, we fly through anyways. Now we have the ability to feel the emotions from our past. But soon enough, we will be flying though another net. Scared that with each net, the strings will get thicker, and the nets get stronger. It may be harder for us to fall through, but we always will. It is just the way things are, and will always be." I didn't think of those words, I felt them come out.
Winning a war now, will change the world. Being apart of the war, will change a person forever. Hearing stories about the war will change your perspective on things. Maybe I can get through this net, and slide on through…
I walked out of the bus, heard it's engine grunt off and leave me standing alone in front of an apartment building in the middle of the city. People walked by with a carefree attitude, gossiping and extremely happy. I watched with my perhiperal as they walked away laughing at a rumor.
I focused my attention back at the rusty red tiled roof, and the creaky water pipe travelling down the side of the building. I tilted my head to see the exact height of the place. The sun was behind me, but it was strong today, and the world was lit up. The sky was filled with clarity, and the air seemed to slip in and out of my lungs like I was recycling life. I lifted my hand above my eyebrows, and examined the house, which was impressively tall but slender and placed in between other houses. I walked forward, my briefcase smoothly hanging from my sweaty hands. I climbed up the front stairs, each step agonizing and tapped on the wooden door with a bruised fist. A big number three block settled right over a small glass hole, and a rustle behind the door.
The door creaked open and I saw myself standing there. I blinked, gripping the fact that my same sandy blonde hair, fair skin and green eyes stared back at me. I saw as my expression change from casual to shock. That wasn't me of course, it couldn't be, this boy was to innocent to have witnessed the things I've seen. This kids mind hadn't been tainted yet.
"M-mom…!" The little boy croaked. He didn't turn away, he didn't even let go of the doorknob. We stood there both, examining each other over as momma's thundering foot steps came. She shouted that she would there in second, which in turn made the little boy gulp.
I set down my briefcase, and leaned forward, this kid was smaller than expected. He was at about my belly button, barely passing up from a toddlers height. This boy was going to be turning 10 soon! My knees cracked as I squatted down, and ruffled the boys hair.
"I told you I would be back."
I lifted the boys bangs, and kissed his warm forehead….
Maybe I could get over the fact that the leaders running the war I just participated in, thought that we could heal the second the war ended. They thought that all was good now. Like I said before, nothing is solid. Things will slip and slide on through, but you will always be faced with your emotions from yesterday. Maybe I can see the children as a screen of hope.
I always forget that I am still a child. I am hopeful, and so are the children around me, even if they don't know it yet. They are smarter than war can give them credit for. They are faced with the challenges of having no father or mother anymore. Everyone is affected by war, and even when it has ended, it will raid on into the future until our children's children declare peace.
Maybe not today, but starting tomorrow. I will let the blue skies heal me, and the gentle waves smooth my hardened skin.
I will always remember those tears of red that spilt on those days.
Even so, I will remember the men that stood by my side.
Mason, Haven, this is for you.