“It does not make any sense,” says the child to her papa.
There is a touch of finality in her small voice that belies her tender age. The little girl in the polka dot dress, just like so many others in the throng that has gathered to watch, is hypnotized by the spectacle of the ginormous steel monster making its slow, lazy ascent. It’s a zeppelin, she overheard two ladies debate. Whatever it is, it’s exciting, stupid, noisy, funny, and scary all at once. Looks a lot like a caterpillar, she decides. Will it transform into a butterfly in the air, she wonders dreamily.
The sight of her blinds me. I close my eyes, yet there is no reprieve to be found in doing so, her contours etched onto my eyelids with blazing thread. So, I watch, because most of my other senses have taken their leave.
Two lovers lie entangled on the mattress, biding their time. Taking a deep breath, the kind you take right before plunging into the water and knowing you might become trapped under it for a while but still planning to resurface. They do too – there ought to be a tomorrow waiting for them.
Yet another sunset crawls by. It’s a striking sight, straight out of some mad 19th-century painter’s imagination while he attempts to render how the end of the world will look like, in an aquarelle of yellows, oranges, and reds. Looks like someone set off fireworks across the entire line of the horizon. The picture belongs in a museum, or at the least on someone’s social media feed. That’s where these things go now, don’t they? Into someone’s Saved images collection. Do people ever go back and flick through those, I wonder? Do they just swipe onto the next picture or stop to drink in the details? Like the person, me, sitting – no, slumped on the bench. Probably not. I’d crop myself out of the picture if I was the photographer. Like I cropped myself out of life.
Our naked feet dance, carrying us round and round in a circle, our steps deliberate, their pattern pre-meditated, their motion meaningful.
The music we make is an echo of a time long gone by, the song the gods of olden days breathed into this world when it was naught but an infant, the lullaby a mother would sing when putting her child to sleep, the verses a shepherd would hum under his breath to ward his flock. Healing. Protective. It is unending. It dwells under the surface, deep within. One can still hear it when shutting off the noise and opening the senses to the unexplainable.
There is something else about having a smoke all the way up here, amid the stars. A special kind of enjoyment. A treat for the senses right at the edge of words properly making it justice. I watch the nebula we’re sailing by eyes wide open. You’ve maybe seen a thousand different nebulae of unimaginable colors and shapes, but the thousand-and-first is no less jaw-dropping. With my butt comfortably seated in my commander’s chair and legs kicked out in front of me, a tumbler of scotch lodged in the other hand, this is my own personal theatre. Living the life. Inhaling death one short, slow lungful at a time to the backdrop of Guns n’ Roses’ Sweet Child of Mine braying in the loudspeakers, while watching a big-ass asteroid sail within a hairbreadth of the cruiser.
There’s something wrong with what I’m hearing, the same few syllables on repeat now, for the umpteenth time. Like listening to a broken record. Not sure whether the problem is the loudspeaker or if it’s you. Tell me something I haven’t heard before. No?
“Don’t take it personally, friend. It has never been about you. Fate conspired for you to meet me here today, in the middle of muddy fucking nowhere. That’s all there is to it,” the mercenary pats the shoulder of the dying enemy soldier propped against the crumbling wall. Continue reading “The Mercenary”