In the night...
by Mireille Jenvieve-Woodford
In the night, lit by fire and rage, a lonely woman weeps under a starless sky.
Broken by days of fruitless journey ending in torrents of tears, she falls one last time to earth, shattered and empty. Her message is no longer enough to fuel her desperation, her need to find him all but destroyed by the ravages of war.
For days, she traveled further from home. Struggling for every wretched step, a deep courage propelled her on, past villages torn asunder, past burned-out settlements echoing with the muffled whimpers of frightened children. Each crumbling wall was a jagged monument to death. The wells were tinged with blood, the air thick with tears, and no living thing dared speak for fear. The black and murky water barely satisfied her thirst; even the berries were rotted on the vine. She ate and slept in clusters of rocks or caved-in tree trunks that offered poor protection from the dark winds.
She woke midday, to a raging hunger. Weaving from bush to tree, she trudged, her feet numbing in her thinning shoes. The day passed in a daze of warming sun and somber rain, and just as she spotted a place to rest for the night, the sky fell ablaze in sunset. "How could there still be beauty in this ravaged world?" she wondered. In the silence, a wounded bird fluttered nearby and she spied a butterfly waving its wings on a wan flower; she moved on.
Nearing the hills, she spied flags waving in the hazy flash of light from glowing embers at the horizon, and - unbidden - hope rose. She forced herself to straighten her back, each vertebra clanking against the next until she stood tall once more. For one final time, she dragged her soul up the incline, shivering.
Walking through the gathering mist, she found yet another empty encampment - flames sputtering out, emptiness grabbing at her like death itself. She hated the vacant tents, the faint aroma of living men’s breath and sweat and blood that lingered in the camp. A whiff of spilled drink and the plundered carcass of boar, dripping drops of fat sizzling in the dying cinders repulsed her. An acid taste came to her lips and she spat, marking the ground with one last bit of life.
Forcing herself onward, stumbling down the path on rocks and remains of scattered armaments, she arrived at what surely must be the cemetery of hell. No closer to her goal, unable to whisper of their son’s death in her beloved’s ear, she crumpled to a mound of dirt and dress. She wept until there were no more tears to mingle with the stench of blood dried on the ground, the arid smell of bones cracking open in the waning fires, the sick odor of wet wool drying in the rising smoke.
Her moans came in great gasps of pain, resounding in the black night like thunder from the wrathful gods. They gave the only sound on the lifeless landscape of rock and soil and futile fury. Rotting flesh in half-made graves dotted the perimeter, a sad fence of dying and defeat.
They have gone…on to another battle. Camp after camp lay empty, save for the company of dead souls, their bodies strewn, some armorless, others entombed in iron for all eternity. She was spent, and lay to die amidst the aftermath, her last breath a vanquished whisper.
The fighting, the dying never end.
Poems and stories (2000w or less) can be submitted at the drop boxes on LEA 4, or by emailing them to caledoniaskytower at g mail (dot) com. And YES, feel free to illustrate your submissions!