Beneath Grey Skies

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Other  |  House: Booksie Classic

I wrote this in an attempt to publish as a freelance writer, the magazine said it wasn't for them so maybe it will be for the readers here.

Grey. There is no other way to describe a day like this, and yet, even in the ice cold grey of the cloud covered light, there is a crowd. There is not a sound that ripples through the crowd as we sit an wait. We watch. The crowd is standing room only, but the air smells like rain and sorrow.

Not the sorrow that creeps in when you make a mistake, but rather the sorrow that penetrates your skin like ice and rattles your bones to their very foundation. The kind of sorrow that sets you on the edge of not knowing if you are going to cry or lose your lunch because in days like this, in the grey, in the cold. It is days like this that make the strongest men and women who now stand side by side consider breaking a barrier that holds them forever apart, bound by camaraderie and duty they watch on.

A flash of red strikes out through the field of blue and dropping the chill to unbearable. A weep cuts out across the silence that helps you decide if you are going to be sick or join in the despair. Maybe you decide to hold tight and be strong for just a while longer. Chilled to the core you can't tell if there is music playing or simply the sound of a hundred or more men and women who have seen the worst of man and woman alike and never batted an eye, suddenly, only human.

The red and white of the American flag holds over the form that passes through the great crowd of blue, the heads of the forms low as the heads of those bearing the flag-covered form force their own heads high. No more. The huddled forms that close the gap behind their brothers pray in their own rights for each event to be the last of its kind with no such luck. If only it were that easy to will away the hate and danger that plagues the days and nights of the men and women who fill the field. Red faces from either the cold or the tears. You may never know which.

Finally, the red lines fall to rest over a pedestal and rise above to show a box below, each time different but never the less recognizable. Wood or black, maybe even silver. Color doesn't matter with a shape like that. With every fold of the flag, it becomes harder for the men and women to stay controlled, the loss and pain too real. Hearts ache, but not so strong as that of the throat as every form watches. Your eyes sting from either the cold or the tears. That you know.

The weeping near the flag is now gone but before the folding and the box stands a wife, her child clutched close but stone-faced for her child who cries softly into her dark dress. A wind blows through the air and chills the crowd, but the sadness made the sting feel almost like a ghost passing along the crowd. You watch on as every person in the field does and watch, blinking only when needed. The wife mumbles to the man in blue who carries the now folded banner of hope to her and she takes it close to her breast, and those near can see the faintest glisten of a tear on her cheek. The once blazing color that grabbed the attention of the crowd now a single triangle of blue, the dashes of stars grey. The days like this are always so grey.

The men salute the wife, and one kneels to the child. The child has no intention of leaving the mother and the man stands to join back with his team of six who watched with faces of granite. You watch as the wife kneels to the child, the flag not moved from the tight press. That is nothing to stop the child from clutching the small blue form, the weak wail cutting itself from the throat as the child can no longer stifle the sorrow which so sharply twists the heart and stomach. Your eyes drop as the sound echoes and repeats, the true loss sinking in ever deeper like a knife deeply planted within. The pain is excruciating but to remove it, to remove yourself with not close the wound, with not heal the pain and damage done.

The man who knelt to the child before lets his granite face fall as he leaves the formation of his brothers and joins the wife and child of his brother. His partner. This angel. His sobs have no sound, but his body racked with each as he clings to the friends. Family. A breeze runs through the quiet crown, noses running and eyes red. You try to clear your throat but find no way to do so. The breeze lingers. The chill not giving way as the crowd fixes their eyes on the forms before them that begin to ride, gentle words filled with tears exchanged before the man join the formation, his face unable to return to the marble statue as before  as the mother and child walk down an open path a short ways and face the eternal box. There is never a way to mistake it.

The six men turn to face the box. Each takes his place to lift it and slowly lower the occupant into his bed. The grip of the man who was no longer stone but weak ice in the breeze falters for just a moment before he breathes deep and resumes the slow descent. You shut your eyes as the crest of the lid breaches the layer of ground. Out of sight. The only thing anyone can see. The only one anyone can think about. Another brother, sacred in his dream of duty and love of his city.

The ropes release and the men step back from the hole in the ground. A forever home. Far from a dream home. They form a formation of two rows of three and salute the wife and child who now stifle their tears. The mother simply shuts her eyes, lips pursed inward for no more than a moment before returning and opening her eyes. The men escort her and the weeping child, now silent in sorrow, through the crowd to a vehicle waiting, flanked in hundreds of vehicles. Lights off. The names read for cities near and far. As the sea of blue moves after her to the cars lined up along the road, there is only grey.

You did not drive a police car so you watch, the others marked for the city the fallen protected standing by as the grey and cold flashes with the lights of a hundred police cars, each somber and silent aside from the gentle hum of engines. You look at the line, colors of black white and blue making the patchwork or pure blue. The faithful. The honorable. Today, the broken. You gaze to the sky and shut your eyes, the breeze coming again, stronger as if to push the remaining men and women who mourn a fallen brother home to heal.

There is only grey when you open your eyes, the last of the line of cars leaving, and few remain standing. In the cold grey field. Eyes gaze to the mark in the ground, left open for a time as the first drops of rain from the sky can be felt. The world mourns the loss of another badge, a man who swore his life to his city. Who protected many a man in the field above as he rises higher. All too often cities grow used to the sight. The line of lights. The field of blue and grey. But for the men and women who stand somberly in the falling tears, it was still sharp. A knife. The knife of an assailant who ceases to strike. The knife hovers for a moment. Months. Days. But will always strike again. When the knife falls, it buries itself deep in the heart and mind of every human in blue.

The city is sometimes the one who holds the knife. The victim being those sworn to protect the blade it seems. Either way, the day is still grey, now that a brother of the badge has fallen once more.

You walk across the grass, the deep prints formed by the standing mass of officers make your steps uneven. You stop at a patch of freshly placed dirt, a mound you know that goes six feet deep. The same level your brother now lies at. Turning you follow the few forms that remain as the group is drawn to the hole, the dark shadows over the eternal box the only thing anyone can think to look at. Finally, up close without the field of hundreds, the few gathered can see the dark black enamel that encased the bed of true rest. Glistening blue patterns, ornate but simple, adorn the outer edge and dance around the lid.

Each member, all men, and women who stood side by side the fallen hero in life crouched to be closer in death. A slash of dirt skitters across the high gloss lid that made all gathered around stop and look up to see the man who soothed the grieving widow and child standing above the group. He spoke of the times he had spent with his partner, always covering for each other on the road. His true friend and closest partner. A female spoke up, taking a small handful of dirt of her own and sprinkling it along the lid as she spoke of a time when she was behind on paperwork and he had lent a hand to complete the work so she could go home to her kids.

One at a time the gathered, huddled crowd began to share tales of kindness and heroism they had seen in their years beside the man now below. You hear a weak voice crack behind you and turn to find a small child, her face smeared with tears and red. Perhaps from the cold, or from the tears. Only she would know. The crowd parts to let her approach, her gentle grey dress hugging her legs which were wrapped in dark blue leggings. Days like this could be so grey.

The girl spoke up with her name, her voice light. Innocent. She paused for a moment seeing the dark form in the ground and let out a sob. A brother near her touched her arm and she nods in an effort to calm herself. She told the group of her neighborhood, ridden with crime and trouble. She told of how her days were dark until an officer walked the streets after she came home from school. Every day she would wait for him at her bus stop and ask him to take her home. She would ask him questions and he would answer anything she asked and help her where he could.

When her neighbor was killed, she looked for the officer and found him at the scene. She was scared. She went to him and he held her and told her that she was safe. She believed him. The next day she found him walking again, and they smiled to greet each other. Those days were always clear, the sun always out in the hope and joy those two shared. She asked him time and again how safe she was, and he always told her that he would be there to keep her safe.

She stopped her story, a tear rolling along her bright red cheek as she picked up the biggest handful of dirt she could. the group watched on as she tossed the dirt with a sob. She looked up sobbing gently, looking at each man and woman in uniform around her before speaking. She told them that she had never asked him if he was safe, walking alone through her neighborhood. Alone where she lived. He told her that he would keep her safe, but she never knew that he was not safe. She grabbed more dirt and wiped her tears with the back of her hand, the mud smeared across her face as she stood as tall as she could before she declared in a way that shook the crowd around her.

You watch as she looks to the box, and then to the sky and swears that she will protect him. At that moment the grey seemed to clear if only for the crowd of blue and the little girl with the mud-lined face.  Dropping the dirt she declared her love for the man who walked her home, the man that always protected her, the man she wished only to protect. No person in that crowd could tell her it was too late, but watched as the clouds broke, only a sliver, as the rain continued to sprinkled down upon the crowd.

The light fell to rest upon the red eyes of the small child, the crowd there to see as over her heart was a golden badge, in her hand, a blade of light. Upon her back rested two great wings that held high above the halo that ringed her dark hair. The light faded and so did the golden marks that had adorned her body seconds before. Even with them gone, the men and women in blue all recognized the marks of Saint Michael, and the girl, marked for her love. The Saint protected the many who walk the streets as the girl had seen, and by siding with him he gifted her with protection in place or her hero.

The girl sagged her head slightly to see the box, but she was no longer crying. She had been gifted with the courage to pair with her love and understanding. Maybe one day she would wear the badge, but for now, she protected it, and that was enough the lift the grey of the day, only to know that no efforts were in vain. The lost life of a hero may hurt all who knew them, but it was the lives that they changed while walking the Earth that made their life all the more precious.

Submitted: March 31, 2021

© Copyright 2021 M.S Wolf. All rights reserved.

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