Cold Water

I'm awake, but it's too late to be. It's getting harder and harder for me to sleep. I think it's getting harder for everyone to sleep.

I can't even smell the spring on the air anymore; the sky is a lifeless grey blanket sweeping from horizon to jagged horizon. It feels like I'm surrounded by that, by steel. In a way, there's a truth. In the quiet space between my breaths, I can hear the scanner in my car, some dozen paces behind me with its door open. It breathes static and radio chatter that, a year ago, I wouldn't have been able to make sense of for its abbreviations and arcane, military idiosyncrasies.

I, like the rest of the populace, learned to listen and understand. The flattened words, filtered through too many speakers, travel through my brain like every day language. I listen ever for the order to evacuate. It hasn't come yet. Most, if not all of it isn't intended for the civilians… nonetheless, it's always there, throbbing in the background of our lives, having replaced both music and television in most homes.

So much has changed. Dinner-table banter, play, argument; each has vacated many homes. Elders and children alike sit around their shuttered rooms, relegated to careful silence, just in case the word should come.

Some of them listen for the voices of loved ones who are in the force, exchanging information in the perpetual stream of short communications between soldiers and officers. Like the rest, I am unable to shut it off, even in this time that should be private and silent. I used to stand over the ocean with everything closed to darkness, barely breathing so that I may better sense the voice of God. But now I am distracted - mortal, deaf, and dying.

My species has pushed war to the deepest and highest corners of earth and heaven. There is no inch of space, that we can reach, that has not felt the gouge of mankind's favorite sport. Even the untouchable sea, otherwise unconquerable by science, knows the devil's hand. Beneath the grey waves that pan out endlessly before me, thousands of pounds of ammunition waits in anxious hibernation for the impending moment of need. It's ideal… cheap, cool, and temperature-regulated by Mother Nature herself.

I bend to pick up a rock from the shore, damp with slight rainfall that I hadn't noticed until this moment. It is smooth and old, having traveled with ancient complacency through the vast and terrible sea. I can never know how many rivers it has stumbled down, the black depths to which it has been cast. I will take it from the sea, bring it home as a simple gift to my one love. We exchange these things, now, much more frequently than traditional symbols of affection. He once brought me a slender poplar branch laden with damp, half-sprouted leaves. I put it in a vase in my kitchen, right next to the window.

He pulled me into his arms, brushing the edge of his thumb over my cheek as he drew my lips to his. On his hands, I could smell the delicate, rainy balsam of budding poplar. I stand and press the smooth, grey stone to my heart. I look back to the sea.

"I'm so sorry." I say, and turn to go.

|[05.2005|Draft Two|Back]|