Saturday, October 13, 2012

The Coin Thief

It's always raining, here in the half-dark. Drops ping on empty helmets, run down gun barrels, roll dripping from the tips of blades. Wet fabric of olive green and black and red and every other heraldric combination possible, all of it once worn so proudly. And yes, the rain soaks bones and torn skin and outstretched hands, all of it unmoving and silent in the endless wet.

It is not a beautiful country.

It has no frontier, no edges, no fences or walls beyond which lies some respite. Just the cold rain and endless ground, disrupted by the fallen.

Here they lie, as they fell in their wars, and conflicts and "special actions," unrotting, unchanging, and ultimately: unremembered.

Except by me. I watch them come, drifting like ash, sometimes slowly and sometimes sifting through the rain in countless thousands. This ground, this holy and terrible country, is theirs: the killed.

There is no sun and there is no day, so it seems strange to begin a story thus: one day I saw something I had not seen in all the long ages of my watching.


There was something moving where nothing had ever moved. Something that fluttered, like a thought made real, and it twisted and jerked over the fields of the dead.

It was shaped like a man. It knelt over down, plucked something from the ground, then hopped sideways as if dancing a jig. It jiggered and skipped and plucked, and when it was near enough I saw that it was indeed a man.

It straightened to face me. Arranged its face into a pale smile.

"Hello, watcher."

I nodded.

"You don't know me, do you?" The man gestured in a wide and loving circle. "I have sent you so many. So many."

He jingled something in his breeches and I realized what he'd been plucking from the ground: the coins from the eyes of the dead.

He saw me frown but did not quail although my rage can be terrible. "Ah," he stated. "The coins." The smile opened into a grin. "Waste not." And he wiped the rain from his lips. "Do you know my name?" he said. "Have you guessed it?"

I made no answer. An eternity of silence makes thought more habitual than speech.

He leaned closer. His eyes were so bright in that grey place, and he they were open, unblinking, in the rain.

"I am Calvar Rex."

"Go," I finally said. "This is not your place. This is holy--"

"Holy ground," he finished. "Yes, yes, It is not ours to consecrate, we cannot hallow this ground of the fallen, blah blah blah. It matters not."

I felt a heat growing in me where for so long there had only been cold.

"Your fallen," he said, his lips pulled back from his teeth, "Your fallen will burn. Your graveyard will burn. This country will burn. All of it."

The anger warmed me and one hot-breathed word erupted past scalding lips.

"GO!" And the terrible fire of the holy glowed in that dark place. It glowed long enough for me to see his grin as he tattered like fog and fled.

The rain and the dead still came, as they always had and always would. As my heat faded I swore I would remember his name.

1 comment:

Babs said...

WOW! You can certainly use those words to create vivid images!