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The Death Chronicles: Gettysburg
I never wanted this job. Taking the souls of the dead isn’t exactly the best job in the world. I know exactly when they die, so I get there early. But sometimes, I wish I didn’t have to watch. Because of the petty human’s never ending war for power, many people die so cruelly. But I will always remember the day when I watched the bloodiest battle of all.
I remember walking (well, more like floating) in the field. Yellow flowers grew up toward the sun. It was such a quaint little town Gettysburg was. I was there before the shots rang out. In the dead peacefulness before the slaughter.
The ribbons of my cloak swirled around me and killed everything it touched. If I could make noise, I would have sighed. Another reason I hated my job. I killed everything I touched. I did my best not to touch anything. I wished I could at least have something to cover me so I don’t make that mistake again. I wanted these humans to live until their final end. It was a privilege really. How easily I can take their soul from them. But I chose not to. I may be Death, by at least I had a heart (figuratively speaking).
Then the ground began to shake. Suddenly the birds went silent. They were watching along me. From the distance, I saw the line of men march forward. I could hear their faint yells for “March!” and “Stay together!”. It was sad really; watching them do this. Even at a distance, I could spot every person I knew would die here. They didn’t know this, but when men marched toward to the other army, they were actually marching toward me. Sometimes, I hated being the reason.
Then I turned my gaze to the other side. Faster than light could travel, I was standing before the men watching them. A small wall separated them and the cannons from the other army. Ash and dirt covered their sweaty faces. They all lay behind the wall together aiming at the other men, waiting for the order to fire. I tilted my head to the side and watched in interest. They were so in sync, as if one person. The same thoughts went through their heads. I looked back at the other army marching toward them, wishing I could tell them the outcome of this all.
A small gasp came from behind me. I turned lazily and looked at the me behind the wall. They all had their eyes fixed on the other army... all but one. The young soldier gripped his musket with sweaty hands. In the dead heat of that day, he was shaking. And he was staring right into me. I questioned it. No one saw me until the very end. But he wouldn’t die today. He would go home and tell people he saw death. Poor soul.
His bright blue eyes bore into me. Staring at him, I raised my finger and put it to my lips. Be quiet, I said into his head. You will not die today. Just lay down and fire when told to.
The moment lasted for a few seconds. To him, it was eternity. I knew now that whenever we met again, he would still see me. He was a gifted boy.
“Get down boy! Do you want the Rebs to shoot your head off? Lay down you oaf!” A gruff voice said. Only then did the boy take his eyes from me. Shaking like a leaf, He finally lay down with his army in rank.
Then, I was with the other army. I floated in step with them. I could tell by some of their expressions, they knew I was there. They shivered and walked closer together. I kept my distance though, it wasn’t their time yet. In dead silence, I faced forward with the men.
Then the cannons began to fire.
Now it was my role in this all. A cannon ball tore into the earth spraying dirt and bodies everywhere. I stepped away from the rank and took the souls from the bodies before they hit the ground. They didn’t feel a thing.
More cannons burrowed in the ground. More and more souls were picked up. In a moment, I set the souls down and watched them drift up. Then mens faced turned toward the sun, looking peaceful. Some smiled, others let their mouths hang open. Sadly, I was the only person to witness this beautiful display. Sometimes, I wished I could share my knowledge and views with others. Then, I turned away from the display and went back to work.
The generals called to their mens from their horses. Swords waved in the air with pride. Clearly, they were blind to the slaughter they were pushing their men into. Stupid humans, living their lives with their eyes closed. If they opened them, then there would be no war. No pain, no hunger, no sadness. Only few people every century are born with the gift of seeing. But not enough to change the world.
I pushed more souls to the sky, going as fast as I could. But sometimes I took to long. Some men felt the pain of it all, but I couldn’t reach them yet. There is an order that they must go in. It’s how the world works. Without an order, my job would be a lot harder.
Then there were the gunshots. Now came the harder part.
Men fell like leaves in the fall. Even my fast pace couldn’t get them fast enough. The shots from the men behind the wall took these men row after row. They didn’t have a chance. I hoped the end came quick for them. But for most, it couldn’t come quick enough.
The cannons and guns continued on. More and more mens souls floated in the air. But the line of men continued on. One general rode up front urging the men on. Even though I was not permitted to change the way, I spoke to him.
You are a fool, I said mentally. Look at your men! I demanded. Don’t you see them dying? It is your fault!
I watched him look over his shoulder at the soldiers. When I saw the look go across his face at their numbers, I knew my words struck hard. But then he turned back around and yelled at his men to march on. I shook my head and went with them.
The army got closer to the wall. When their opponents saw this, they all got up from their laying position and retreated. I looked around for the boy who saw me. The blur of their dark blue uniforms made them all look the same.
Then I spotted him. He stood by a tree, far from the advancing army. The look of fear still covered his face. Then I realized he was looking for me again. If I could laugh, I would. Such a foolish human. Who would want to see me twice? Especially on a battle field?
Then, they reached the wall.
The army began to swarm over the knee high wall like ants. Some men threw the butts of their guns into other mens faces. These men fought bravely, but I knew they held no chance. The dark blue men began to fight them back. Smoke and the smell of gunpowder filled the air. It stung at mens eyes. Their screams of pain filled my ears. At that moment, I wanted to disappear. I wanted to hide away from the killing. But I knew I couldn’t leave the souls there. There was no where that I could hide to get away from the human nature.
The army I traveled with began to retreat. The dark blue soldiers began to chant and laugh at the other army. The put their guns in the air and cheered. I thought it was quite sick. Cheer for killing people? This isn’t a sport. It was horrible.
For the next hour, I gathered the souls up and sent them on their way. Some of them saw me coming and didn’t fight it. Others, fought to see the sun again. For those people, I had to take them in mid-scream. Another reason to hate my job.
The sun set slowly behind the trees. The bodies that littered that field were clothed in darkness. Men would come and gather them up sometime. They would be buried together in one giant grave. I could hear the screams of sorrow of the mens mothers and lovers. I have seen a couple of those sad displays. I’d rather not see another.
I dusted my hands off from my long day of work. I knew I would be back later for the ones with the severe injuries. But after that, I never stepped in that field again. I was about to disappear to another place, then I felt someones gaze bore into me. I spun slowly and looked at the shadow by the tree. The boy put out his cigarette and took a shaking step toward me.
His bright blue eyes shone in the receding light. I felt the questions bubble in his head; but his lips never moved. His new ability troubled him, yet brought possibilities to his head. I nodded my hooded head as he made the connection. I may be powerless to change the fate of people, but he could. He knew that he could prevent me from taking more souls. And I hoped that he would.
In the future, I saw him over ten time. Only once could he not change the fate of the person. The last time I saw his face, I was helping him to the after life.
The boy nodded his head when he finally understood. With my job done, I made my way into the field. I felt his gaze follow after me until I stopped. I looked at shadowed town one last time. And with a wave of my tattered cloak, I was gone.