After The War, When The Soldiers Come Home
by Christopher Clagg
After the War I came home and stood in the yard with my servo's idling. Waiting for 'Something' to make a sound...a sound that I was familiar with. There were no bombs, no weapons pushing radiation across the bandwidth of the open air.
Rain fell. I could no longer feel it.
My boys call to me from the fields, come into the yard and climb over me like some rusted hulking tractor sitting-rusting in the hot-hot sun.
I can feel their small hand pats and their footfalls and voices against my laminated plates like tiny sonars echoing against my 'once-was' skin.
Sometimes in the night, my wife will come to the door of the house. With moonlight over half the black night. Standing in her gown and bare feet in the cold soft dirt of the yard, she would come, put her arms around me, and lay her cheek against the turret of my face.
But I won't say a word.
The only voice I have left is an 88 mm voice.
It scares her if I move.
So I don't. I stand not saying a word. Don't move. Simply stand there in the cold air of the night and feel her breath against my plates.
Sometimes she cries.
Standing there in the long hours of the night, sometimes kneeling, eventually sitting against my feet in the darkness.
After hours she will retreat into the house, where the lights will slowly wink out. The sound of her breathing never lost in my amplified microphone ears.
I have walked in the places where cities stood. Now there is nothing except the residue of memories.
I have stood on green glass cracking beneath my weight. Glass that once was stone, sand, and dirt. Now it is fused with bones and people, homes and bricks, mortar and plastic toys -- all lost one into the other.
I have walked in radiation so high and mighty that even my metal groaned. Nothing stirred, not for days, and miles out beyond the blast zones where the cities once stood. No thing...no thing at all.
Not even rats nor roaches.
And the question that comes to mind, ever drifting on the hollow winds of my soul, over and over again is why?
Why does it happen?
Why did I go?
The World never answers.
It just keeps going on. From week to week and place to place.
Now I stand at home.
For days and weeks and months.
I came home. I listen to my boys sing in the fields. I listen to them scamper home.
I feel the softness of my wife, through her tears and my silence.
And so I made my own answer.
I know why I went. And, why I came home,... why I stand in the yard.
Even why I don't mind feeling so out of place, listening to the sound of the wind, through the turrets of my ears.
Copyright 1998 -- Author & Science Fiction Museum All rights reserved
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