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Status: Finished  |  Genre: War and Military  |  House: Booksie Classic
On a fantasy world or in a fantasy future a war has raged for as long as anyone can remember, and an old man comes along and suggests to a group of youngsters that there is no god.

Submitted: October 25, 2009

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Submitted: October 25, 2009




“If you had lived as long as I have lived,” observed the old man to a motley group of ragged children, sitting in the crater left by the latest bomb, “if you had lived as long as I have lived then you would know all about death.”

“How long have you lived then, mister?” ventured one ragamuffin tyke, scratching lice-ridden hair with an almost canine ferocity.

“I have lived a lifetime, and that’s long enough for anyone,” growled the oldster, and he removed a shining steel blade from under his cloak. “I have lived quite long enough,” he added almost to himself, and he drew the blade slowly across the wrinkled skin of his right cheek until little globules of blood appeared.

“You’ll hurt yourself, mister!” protested an urchin girl, a sudden look of horror darkening her eyes. “Look: you’re bleeding, and it ain’t nice.”

“I will heal,” assured the grey-haired old man, suddenly ashamed that he had frightened a child who was already suffering enough, what with the war and the bombs and the endless disease. Life wasn’t easy and here he was, making it harder.

“It ain’t nice,” repeated the girl, and a tear sprung from the corner of one eye, and trickled down her cheek. “Why does it all have to be like this?” she asked in trembling tones.

“Like the war?” asked the old man, and he frowned as she nodded her dirty head slowly in affirmation. “There’s always been war,” he said. “There has always been people dying and bombs and putrid air unfit for a child like you to breathe, and parents dying in hails of bullets and starving kids. It’s what life is all about. There’s no other way of living.”

“My folks were shot,” confirmed a scraggy boy, sallow cheeks and big round eyes like bruises on his face. “My folks were lined up against the wall, over there, where all the crappy chips of broken brick and stone are, and some soldiers shot them real dead. I watched, I did, and then I ran away because there was nothing else I could do. Just run away and know suddenly I was alone in the world.”

“My folks are dead too,” confirmed the girl as if the last thing she wanted was to be left out. “I buried them, I did, but the dogs came and scratched them up and ate ‘em. The dogs was hungry, that’s all. Better to feed on my folks than die themselves, I s’pose.”

“The dogs would,” said the old man, and he sighed. “The dogs need to live, I’ll give you that.”

“When will it end?” asked a little tyke with plastered blonde hair and a scar across his face where a bullet had all but missed him last time there had been an assault.

“The war?” asked the old man, and the tyke nodded.

“It’ll end when we’re all dead,” frowned the oldster. “That’s what wars do, kill the folks dead and then there’s peace. But it all gets spoiled when someone escapes and starts another war. It’s always been like that, ever since the very beginning of things, and it always will be.”

“But why?” insisted the blonde kid. “Why do folks shoot and fight and kill all the time?”

“It’s for glory and because God says,” said the old man, more firmly than he felt.

“There ain’t no glory,” said the girl, devoutly. “There ain’t no glory in death and blood and killing and bombs and stuff.”

“You’re right,” nodded the sage.

“So why does God want it?” she asked.

“There ain’t no God,” he replied, sadly, very sadly. “There ain’t.”

The kids, all of them, the boys and girls all scruffy and scrawny and lice-ridden looked at him in sudden horror. One boy, a little bit bigger than the rest, stood up.

“That’s a lie!” he spat. “That’s a bloody lie, you old fool!”

And he grabbed the man’s knife and its blood-stained blade, and he looked at it with eyes that were dry with too much crying. “You shouldn’t have said that, you really shouldn’t. Everyone knows there’s God. There’s got to be, or what’s the point of anything!” he shouted.

And he leapt on the sad old man and cut him with the shining blade, cut him really bad and really deep so that the blood spat out, red and like a liquid sunset at the end of a bombing dusty day, and the old man smiled a sudden gratitude and fell to the ground, whispering his thanks to a bloody day, and dying.

“You killed him!” gasped the girl.

“Serve him right,” murmured the slightly bigger boy. “He said there ain’t no God, that’s why!”

A moment of silence punctuated the day and then a bomb hurtled down from the torn and bleeding sky, and rapped itself around the little group of lost and wayward kids, and blotted them out in the merest of wretched moments like bombs do.

And the weary war raged on.

© Peter Rogerson, 08.10.09

© Copyright 2019 Peter Rogerson. All rights reserved.

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