This is an excerpt from a science fiction book I have been trying to write for a long time. I watched a documentary on TVO based on Romeo Dellaire’s book “They fight like soldiers…” and I wrote a bit about heroes and the meaning of Remembrance Day but instead I think I will share this chapter. I think it stands well on it’s own. Warning: This is not a funny post. There are references to violence not appropriate for children, even though it is about a child.
They shaved my head and shaved the cat too. We make quite a pair, skin and bones and no hair.
I have to watch she doesn’t scratch too much. They might think she has fleas and take her away. I check her closely but you never know. There are so many things that can go wrong, parasites and such.
The food comes regularly, every four hours I think: Little bits of this and that and weak tea, always weak tea. Not that I’m complaining, at least you know it’s been boiled. The cat sips what I leave in my cup cooling on the floor under the cot. I never knew a cat to drink tea before.
I sleep pretty very well. It’s quiet here.
The floor is cold. Once or twice a day I put my bony ass on a pot and do my business. There’s even a box of sand for the cat. The nurse comes and empties both every day. I guess it’s embarrassing but what can I do? I only mention it here because there’s so little that happens day to day.
They keep the place very clean at least.
Sometimes the cat snores. Maybe she has some congestion in her lungs. That’s a worry. Right now she is sleeping. Her one leg is outstretched and her paw is on my calf. She likes to be near me. I’m am writing this sitting up in bed while she sleeps.
I will write a bit about my life before I woke up here.
When I first saw a wanderer I was so young I didn’t even know what he was.
I was still playing with sticks, making little houses and telling myself stories while my mother worked.
I was playing in the cellar where we stored the root vegetables. It was a hot day and it was nice and cool down there. First I saw his bony feet on the steps. They were the same colour as the dirt floor. He was dressed in bits of cloth, wrapped with ribbons, like he was a present. I wasn’t afraid because of this. His face had paint smeared across it and his hair was gathered on top of his head and looked like a bale of wheat when it is bundled in the field to dry. I think I smiled.
But then there was the loud crack of my mother’s rifle and he crumpled and then fell, right on top of me.
I must have been screaming for a long time. My mother said she was sorry over and over. She didn’t see me. She had to kill him she said. She made me tea with milk and lots of honey and held me and rocked me for a long time.
The next time I dared to go near the cold cellar, there was nothing left to show he’d ever been there.
The soup today smelled of garlic. I only mention it because the food here rarely smells of anything. I have no idea where these people are from but they seemed to have made a science of bland food.
We use to grow garlic. My mother made the best garlic soup. “People will always need to eat” my mother would say.
It makes me sad and happy to think about my mother. How can the two feelings happen at the same time?
Day eight/entry eight
I don’t think it has only been eight days that I have been here. I think I have been sleeping a long time. I am feeling better but I am also feeling worse.
I don’t believe there is much cause to go looking for things to feel sad about, but sometimes sad things pursue you.
I will tell you about walking and walking: If you walk long enough you become WALKING.
I will tell you about being pushed and shoved and about being afraid to cry. After a while you feel like you are made of wood.
I will tell you about seeing people get their heads cut off. It happens very fast but it also happens very slow. They look surprised. They look right at you even when their head isn’t attached any more.
It is always raining and when it is not raining it is snowing and when the weather is fair it is too hot or too cold. There is always hunger, anger and fear. Mostly, there are lots and lots of days of walking.
Sometimes we celebrate and our leaders make speeches and we drink and chant and dance.
We are soldiers. We are wanderers. Our war is against everything. We move like a storm from village to town, stealing and burning and then moving on.
The loudest is the Leader today. Tomorrow, maybe you get to be the leader. Maybe tomorrow you will get drunk and have sex with a girl and eat until you are full and then kill some more people.
We never stop for long. We move into a town or a city and after we kill anyone who will stand in our way, we line the boys up and ask them if they want to join us or if they want to die and lots of them die but lots of them join. We give them a gun and we make them shoot their families.
The boys that cry we cut off their heads. Most stop crying.
Everyone cheers and slaps the ones who join on their backs as if they have done something special, as if they are heroes. Some of them even smile. But they are not really smiling. They are not even really there anymore. The real boys are gone and in their place are the arms of the monster.
I know this because I killed a boy. He looks at me from the mirror, pale and frightened. He is asks me to testify but there is no one who can hear my confession.
I whisper all of this in the dark to my cat.
I can never go home. There is no home for me now.