Even in the meantime
I will always stand by
A mirror on the shelf
"All Eyes On You" St Lucia (2012)
The campaign had been a long one, and ugly. The detritus from the battle would take years to clear. She felt as though she had been bled, an archaic custom once thought to be good for one’s health. Not that, of course, modern practices were all that much better. It was far too easy to mock what those in medieval times had done when armed with little to no scientific knowledge. What excuse did any of us have today, in the face of so much fact and truth? And yet, persistently, so many mistakes, including her own. She’d made so many.
It bruised her soul to recall them, each loss etched on her mind like a birthmark every time she closed her eyes. The friends she had lost, the lives she had known; how many had she buried and how many more would she? She thought this when her eyes were closed; her arms felt heavy, as though the weapons of war were still strapped to her flesh.
Alone with her thoughts, the ghost of every regret stalked her, relentless, like an enemy.
She stood in the horizontal light of the setting sun, warm and yellow, the day too bright for such dark thoughts, but the night was rising soon, and the cold. Wordlessly, her general waited for her outside the roofless headquarters, knowing the dark and the wind would soon drive her from her post, and she would come to him.
Reports must be made, and bodies burned. These were the things he understood. Ever the dutiful soldier, he took up the tasks under her command without question or complaint. It was not for him to understand anything beyond battle and, in this, she had his unyielding respect. That there were now too many bodies on the dancefloor was meaningless to him. This was war. Such a heavy harvest only meant more flesh for feast, and it was time to start burning it all.
The pyres reached way above the horizon after dark, the smoke around them redolent with the smut of loss and decay.
She stood far above the others, alone on the balcony with a cold wind for comfort. Her general watched her from where he was below, surrounded by her legions of soldiers and his supreme confidence in her. She might mourn tonight; maybe even tomorrow, while her broken shadows danced on the white wall behind her, full of an energy she did not have, but she would rise one morning, or another. He watched her knowing this.
A sudden chill cut through his wool surcoat, causing him to shiver and cough.
She did not look down at him though. All through the long, cold night she did not once glance downward. Instead, when the winter sun finally rose, she looked up.
She loved the sunrise more than the sunset, a secret she harbored not very well. Beneath her feet, the icy wind danced through the leftover pyres, lifting the ashes of the dead into the cold winter air and causing them to dance in towering swirls.
The ashes fell upon her face like snow.
And she smiled.