This story was inspired by a series of events, though by no means exactly chronicles those events. Note that this was a writing exercise.
There are times when words flow easily and times when they stick. “Thank You” is something everyone has said, but sometimes it just feels too simple.
She stared at the words, her eyes tracing over the curving script that flowed across the blue page. She barely noticed the sounds around her: the clink of glasses, the constant swearing, a burst of laughter, the shuffle of feet and the scrape of chairs on the floor. She barely noticed how people swerved around her as she stood in the middle of the room, her hand clutching the piece of thick paper. She barely noticed that no one else noticed at all.
Perhaps this is what made it worth it. Perhaps some lives were worth more than others. The blood, the pain, the suffering: These were the things that were necessary to save the few.
The man screamed in agony, his body twisting as spittle flew from his mouth. Blood seeped through his dark grey uniform, spattering the ground in droplets and pools that glistened in the dim light.
“Tell us what you know.”
A group stood around the man, their faces twisted into smiles and grins. One of them loomed over the fallen soldier, his heavy boot pressing onto the man’s leg. He shifted his weight, leaning harder, causing the man to scream again, “I know nothing! God help me!”
Alexa watched quietly beyond the group, her fist clenching slightly as she heard the sickening crack of the man’s bone. There was another scream, and she saw something white suddenly stick from the man’s skin, its jagged edges covered in red. She remained silent as someone punched his face with a thud that guaranteed a broken nose.
“Please! I know nothing! I am just a soldier!”
“Tell us what you know!”
There was another sickening crack. This time it was from his ankle. The man shrieked, his body spasming as blood poured from his nose to the ground. He made a faint gurgling noise in the back of his throat, his eyes rolling in the back of his head.
I am alive and unharmed because of you: thank you.
Alexa lay in the darkness. Her heart beat quickly as she kept as still as possible, trying to ignore the dust tickling her nose from the road. Feet tramped mere inches from her face; heavy boots thudded and kicked up stones in their wake, the sound of soldiers on the march.
Others lay around her, their quiet breathing sounding like a hushed wind. They didn’t move when they were stepped on, didn’t change position as the army walked past.
Finally, the last of the soldiers were gone. Alexa pushed herself to her feet, grabbing her sword from the ground. The hilt felt cool in her sweaty palm as she glanced to her companions, silently rising from the road. One of them lifted a hand, gesturing to the woods with a nod.
Then they were running. Alexa ducked beneath branches, her feet flying over fallen leaves and logs. She didn’t allow herself to think, didn’t allow herself to stop; all that mattered was the constant motion, the feeling of wind against her face as they barreled toward the backs of the soldiers.
They were already fighting. Screams and shouts cut the night air, covering the sounds of their rush toward the battle. Alexa raised her sword, her eyes focused on the back of one man. He had time to turn his head slightly before she plunged the blade into his kidney. He toppled over with a faint whimper, his weapon flying from his hand. Alexa grabbed her blade and pulled it from his prone body, tugging it free from muscle and bone. Black ooze gleamed along the metal’s length in the dark. She stabbed again, ignoring the feel of it—as if she were stabbing into a piece of meat.
I wasn’t caught by Confederate forces, who would have branded me as property; the only cure is a terrible addiction; thank you.
The night was calm. Stars shone brightly overhead, their myriad patterns stark against the blackness. Trees whispered in the breeze, newly formed leaves rustling against one another as if imparting secrets. The swish of grass was almost inaudible as they walked through it, boots stepping lightly—creating no more sound than a passing deer.
Alexa followed in the wake of the others, her eyes focused on their backs as their forms melded with the shadows. A masked man walked slowly amidst them, his harsh voice whispering in the dark as he spoke to the group. She listened with the others, keeping her face impassive as he talked of the town, of the war, of who deserved to live and who deserved to die.
They paused for a moment, clustering together in a small circle. Alexa remained to the side of the others, wondering if she should even be there, if she was meant to hear any of this. Then again, information was power.
That’s when his mask turned toward her, the metal bending and warping the moonlight with its uneven surface. She could see only emptiness behind it—darkness that condensed and turned outward into the world, ever watching. There was a tense silence for a moment, unbroken by anything around them. Then she spoke, answering his unasked question.
“The problem is organization. If the town was militarized to some extent, we would stand a chance. We need a leader to step up and take control, one that knows guerilla tactics and can get a large group of people to do as he says. We need someone that can rally Hayven and actually unite them.”
The mask regarded her silently as the others stared at her. She bit her tongue, wondering if she’d gone too far. There was a fine line you had to walk, a tight rope with fire beneath it—and the edges were slowly burning.
Alexa almost didn’t realize he was speaking for a moment. The husky whisper was nearly inaudible, even with the benefit of silence. And yet the words flowed, leaving her empty inside.
“If I were in charge, do you know what I would do?”
The man paused, as if considering his choice of words, perhaps deciding how to explain. Then he continued.
“I would take all of the town’s farmers, all of their shopkeepers and cooks and barmaids. I would line them up and place guns in their hands as I taught them how to shoot. And as the cooks bantered back and forth, and as the barmaids tittered and giggled as they loaded their rifles, I would step up to the first girl and shoot her in the head.”
The group watched the man impassively as he looked downward, the empty eye sockets of his mask staring at the grass before they slowly turned toward Alexa.
“I promise you that after that, they would all be soldiers.”
I found myself in the dark, scared and alone in a panic. You helped me through those moments with a swift, pragmatic and compassionate poise. Thank you.
It was chaos, madness. It was the sharp crack of guns, the steely crash of metal, the screams of the dying and the pounding of feet. It was war.
Alexa could hear the thud of her heart, threatening to explode from her chest as her breathing forced itself through her lips. She whirled, ducking beneath a swing that would have decapitated her. Instinctively, she thrust her sword forward, hitting flesh as it slid between her would-be killer’s ribs. She looked up and received a momentary glimpse of blue eyes, shining brightly in a slack face. Then the man toppled to the ground, unmoving.
There was no time to be still, no time to rest, no time to think. She sprinted through the forces, watching for openings as faces flashed by. She saw a blonde haired woman with a shield cut down a man, his arm hacked off at the shoulder. Blood spurted from the wound as he screamed in agony—until it was cut short. She heard the crunch of bone as a blue-haired man slammed the hilt of a sword into an enemy’s skull. His rotten lips twisted to show yellow teeth as the weapon thudded into the man’s prone body—over and over and over again.
She almost didn’t see the blow before it was too late. At the last moment, Alexa swerved to the side, her sword flashing out to catch the man in the side of the neck. He gurgled as bright red seeped into his white shirt. His hand fluttered to his throat in a vain attempt to staunch the tide. For a moment, they stared at one another, eyes locked.
Then he, too, fell.
I knew I had found a home, where people care about each other, instead of just watching one’s own back. Thank you.
Alexa stared at the words on the page. She could no longer hear the faint whine of the radio, the constant chatter and swearing, the chiming of breaking glass. All she could see was the message—a reminder of what was important.
She carefully folded the letter as she stared at the floor. Her eyes traced the stains of alcohol and blood, mixed together to form whirling patterns. They seemed to break and merge again, creating a picture that she couldn’t yet decipher.
Her lips whispered a few words, unheard by those nearby, “I wish it was true.”
No one noticed as she walked away.