the day the war had been declared she sat under the same tree.
The tree was older than the park that surrounded it, and older than
the city that surrounded the park. Once that tree and its
brothers were vital to support what grew into what was now that
city. No longer. She knew this, and she sat there, everyday,
since the day the war had been made official. Her lord and
creator commanded her to wait there, one cell lying stagnate in
the veins of a vast concrete organism.
her everyday, the other cells, some thinking about her sitting there,
most not. Most thought of their brothers, and some thought
of their fathers, fighting for them in a land they would never see
but grow to fear. She knew that these people separated from
their loved ones would never see one another again. She knew,
and she sat under that old tree, keeping her wings folded beneath
her tattered coat, just as her lord and creator had commanded her.
shaved all the hair off her head, save for one long, gray, lock,
which hung from the front. Her eyes were sunk and surrounded
by dark patches of strained skin. Her glass eyes never reflected
the patience she contained, contained for her lord and creator,
waiting under that tree since the day of the war began.
By the second
week of the war, the people were lining up for their churches and
synagogues’, mosques, temples and corner side candle light vigils.
She would see others, strangers, stop and exchange a glance, sometimes,
sometimes an embrace that would be surprisingly not awkward.
Her face never changed but she felt that she lived only for others,
and now, after all this time, that was not such a bad thing.
She thanked her lord and creator for this.
during the third week of the war, a mother and child passed her
while she sat and waited. There were few people in the park
that day. Most were watching the televisions, hoping for good
news from their beloved soldiers, hoping that the reports about
the weapons being used by the enemy were false. Reports that
this new weapon flew on the wind, grew in the food, was passed in
the water, fell from the sky. The reports said this weapon
made the internal organs of a human being ravenously consume each
other. The scientists were already working on a vaccine.
She knew they would never have it ready in time. Her lord
and creator told her so.
thinking of this weapon that her lord allowed those men to create
when the child spoke to her. The child asked what was in the
black case that she kept clutched under her arms. She smiled
and did not answer the child, and the mother pulled the child away,
warning her not to speak to strangers. The televisions told
the people that the war may not be fought only in the enemy’s land.
They were told by their leader that the war may come home, and he
asked them to all to brave and strong, like their fathers and brothers
were doing across the ocean.
On the fourth
week, the sky turned red and the weapon came. The cells that
ran through the veins of the city stopped, all turning in on themselves
in agony. Their bodies twisted in on themselves, and all men,
women, and children, felt themselves beginning to burn away.
No one was thinking of fathers and brothers across the ocean.
They lay on the ground, screaming, gasping, choking up blood.
Looking at each other they screamed for help, with the panic of
death not allowing them to accept that there was no one that could.
It was then
that she unclasped her black case, taking its contents out for the
first time since her lord and creator had given her the mission.
She took the mask out, with its large green eyes and round dotted
mouth. It was a tight fit over her shaved head, the straps
bit into her skin as she sealed her patient face off from the red
her dirty coat fall to the grass beneath the old tree where she
had waited for so long. She stood there naked, thin, yet strong.
Her wings hung limply behind her, the cardboard not supporting the
weight of the chicken feathers, the wire coming undone around her
neck. She took the sleek black machine from the case, the
machine that could expel pieces of lead at a rate of one hundred
and twenty per second. She fed it the small pieces of lead,
of which she had many, and began the work her lord and creator had
charged her with.
in the park, and then moved out towards the city streets.
One in the head, two in the heart, for each screaming, writhing
mass of flesh. They did not try to pull away. They did
not fear her. Those farthest away heard the short, explosive
bursts, louder than the collective wail of the dying. She
worked methodically, controlled, not with haste. She paused
only once, standing above the child who had asked what she had in
her case one week before. She did not allow it to be difficult
for herself. The child did not scream when she saw the women
standing above her. The mother did.
her work was that of her lord and creator. There was no vaccine
arriving. The enemy had been too smart, too quick. Now
she was left, cutting the misery short, using her weapon of mercy
to transform their suffering into her own. A trail of motionless
forms was left behind her, as she continued the work she knew she
couldn’t finish. Already, her throat began to burn and peel
and her eyes water and cloud. The mask could not keep the
red sky out for long.
toward her, reaching out as what had been internal for their whole
lives spilled out onto the pavement in slow bursts. Soon they
were all trying to reach her, crying out for release, as she reloaded
her machine and resumed her work. She felt the burning travel
down to her stomach, which only burned for a brief moment before
she felt something pop. The fire raged within her core, but
she stood still, expelling round after round of lead into each deteriorating
cell of the concrete being.
As all things
end, so did her supply of lead compassion. She saved not one
for herself. She would suffer with the rest, knowing that
she had released as many as she could. She knew before she
started that she could only save so many, that the work of her lord
and creator would forever remain undone. She coughed up blood
and muscle lining from her organs, but still she managed to crawl
back to the tree that she had waited under since the war began.
There she waited among the red streets under the red sky.
She waited patiently under that tree older than the city, waiting
for her lord and creator’s reward.