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War, as told by an unusual narrator.
Born from the shells, I rise up and into the air with every burst of fire and plume of smoke. The blasts are my beginning, each earth-shaking rumble tears a gaping wound into the ground and releases me from the capsule's metallic prison. It is finally my time. Weak at first, I grasp feebly at the air until I am ready to infect it. The bustling oxygen particles-already sick with the stench of filth and decay-crumble at my touch as I entangle myself with the bitter cold wind and venture forward as the fog. This world is a wasteland; everything as far as the horizon is tainted with the horrors of war. I slither through a tangled web of wire, past the dead that were caught in its barbed clutches long before I could reach them. Their heads loll limply, skin ripped to shreds from the spikes. The beads of blood litter their broken bodies like early morning dew and their hands remain outstretched towards the sky, fingers curled inwards like the withered petals of a long dead rose. I drift onward. The scrawny remains of trees stand rigid even against the howling gusts of wind, the coat of frost they bear keeping them stuck still. I weave between the coarse bark of their branches, over the bodies strewn haphazardly upon the ground and past mud-caked mounds of lost limbs and broken bayonets. A sudden spray of bullets whips through me, charging into the distance and an answering echo of hopeless screams floats lazily up to the heavens. I huff with irritation, my entire form rippling with anger. I intend to take their breaths today, the very notion of a gunshot taking my prey from me sends me into a fit of rage. I am spurred on.
I surge on forward, misty jaw yawning wide as I swallow everything in my path. The breathy gusts of wind are my voice, the writhing tendrils of fog are my outstretched arms and the sickly green of poison is my cloak. I am the coming storm, the rising tide. I tumble closer to them, as eager as the churning waves of the sea . I swallow up the sun's hopeful light like the dark of the ocean's depths. Of course those soldier boys know I am something to fear (how could they not?) it is clear even to them, though their minds are riddled with fatigue, that I am a foe of the deadliest sort. That is why they flee.
They can run, but I will always find them.
I watch with barely contained glee as silhouettes become hazy figures, and hazy figures turn more clear and detailed with every metre I cross until...
They are scrambling up and over the lumps of this untamed land, boots slipping in sludge and fingers clutching desperately at each other's coat-sleeves. I plunge into the stampede of men until I know I am all they can see, but quickly realise every face bears a shield of leather and glass. This is a hindrance, but my blood lust will not be tamed and I will simply wait for the lamb of the flock. There is always one. For now I cannot help but notice, the scent of life that oozes out of these men is enough to make me flinch away with disgust. Every part of them is so...so alive! I can see each sign of life now: The pulse, thundering against clammy skin with every throb of the heart; the breath, shallow and sharp from the exertion of running but nonetheless there; the fluttering eyelashes, dark and wet from the tears; and the flailing limbs that try in vain to bat me away. How strange it must feel, to know you are something more than a killing entity. To know that you are free to choose what you do . There is the difference, they are beings of true consciousness, I am a being of hate and devastation. I wonder briefly if I could ever learn what empathy tastes like, or feel life coursing beneath the flesh of a limb. I am imagine it would be extraordinary, and awful. They will always fascinate me, these humans that are so complex and undefined.
It seems that, in the end, the dark task upholding my very existence if only to be fulfilled by one death.
Still, I think placidly as I envelope the lone soldier, you take what you can get. I make no sound, but the young men senses my grip tightening around his crouched from and jerks his head up. Ah...now I can take a good look. He leaps to his feet, legs creaking with the hurried movement and jaw hanging slack. I take in chalk white skin, framed with golden curls that stick tight to his forehead with sweat. His gaze is unfocused, as he stares grimly into the swirling emerald depths of my embrace. We face each other with a thickening air of finality-the human and the Gas. He does not belong here, I see it in his eyes. He belongs in the sloping hillside and yellow wheat fields of the country, and I can feel it all as I lunge forward down his throat into his body.
I feel the heat of evening sun prickling at the back of my neck, the bristles of foliage brushing at my fingertips as I run barefoot through a silky bed of grass. Dappled light illuminates the woodland scene and dances on the surface of a babbling brook. The scent of fresh dew and pine floods my nose as I inhale, and let out a loud bark of blissful laughter.
The Soldier's body jerks and I am quickly pulled from the light and warmth of human senses, tumbling back out past his bloody tongue as he coughs wetly and falls to his side. He lies ensnared in the net of mist I created and I watch, motionless, as he slowly fades away. A vile broth of frothy white and scarlet erupts through his cracked lips, splattering onto the rain drenched ground like some foul syrup. His chest heaves as he searches hysterically for air, nostrils flaring and eyes frozen wide with deranging fear. I want to ask him if it tastes sweet, the blood spilled in the name of king and country. A small part of me hopes it does.
Dulce et Decorum est Pro Patria Mori.
I whisper it soothingly by his ear as he chokes and mumbles through the clot of blood for his mother. The faintest wisp of my being brushes lightly at the sheen of sweat and tears that glistens on his cheeks. Dulce et Decorum est pro Patria Mori, the shape of it curls around his ear as I whisper again and again. I do not know if it is true, the only things I know are the shadows I make as I swoop across this man-made hell, and the sensation of lungs bursting as I squeeze the life out of them. So I do not know if this cluster of words I heard them mumbling in hope of relief from their guilt is true, but I will whisper it silently to this dying man because it is the only good I will ever do. I stay by his side long enough to see him turn limp and as silent as the bird less sky, and then I am drifting away again, my journey is not over yet.
Although I wish it was.