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The smell of the fresh daisies tickled his nose, as he neared the field. The wagon crackled on the pebbles as it left the smooth road and entered the trail that led to his destination. His heart raced. Soon, he would be there, the bloodbath of the past two years finally behind him. The soldier was thankful for the aroma of daisies, enveloping him like a warm blanket, ridding him of the sour tinge of the battle.
The sky was high, blue, and full of fluffy white clouds. No shadows, no smoke, no threat. He was glad of the silence of the light breeze, which gently caressed his coarse face, scarred by untimely blades of sweat, blood, and sorrow. But the grave memories of his past did not gloom him right now -- his mind was as light as a feather, and he could have flown straight to the sky, unbound and free, had the weight of his armour and shield not held him down. First a stout mare, then a little house and finally a baby girl -- the clouds seemed to know the soldier’s mind, taking the shape of his fancies and flying alongside with him.
The pulsing beat of the wheels against the ground set the rhythm, in harmony with the cheerful greetings of Robins.. The soldier closed his eyes, and hummed along the birds in his mind, a song that reminded him of home, sweet home. In his mind, he could hear himself, a long time ago, humming this same tune while tending to the crops, carefree and blithe -- before the sorrow blemished his heart. He vividly remembered the warmth of the girl’s hands on his own, tugging him towards his little house. He could even see the smoke from the chimney dancing towards the sky, waving him home, towards the warmth, the love, and the chicken soup. But now he was cold. The sorrow had drowned out his voice, and he could no longer sing aloud. Yes, his heart was light -- but also empty, and terribly lonely.
The wagon trembled from the roughness of the ground, shaking the soldier awake from his trance. He opened his eyes, and found himself in the middle of the daisy field. The serenity of the meadow pulled him, like a bee irresistibly drawn to the honey, and he was powerless. He stopped, and bent down to pick up a blossom, its waxen petals smiling up at him. As he inhaled the fragrance of the daisy, he became the slave of its perpetual perfume, the beatific sweetness, and the angelic dizziness; he was defenceless, as a surge of images swept over him.
The soldier was no longer standing on the field, in his blood-covered armour. He had travelled through time and place, to a peaceful meadow -- far away, long ago -- one covered with golden daisies, fluttering butterflies, and bustling bumblebees, where he could lie down and close his eyes, without worrying about a sword jabbing at his throat, fire burning him alive, or a gun blasting in his ears. He wasn’t alone. Beside him was a rosy child with fair curls, dancing like a jolly fairy under the summer moon, with blossoms in her hands, celebrating the peaceful silence of the night.
“Papa, can you make me a flower necklace?” his golden princess asked.
With a glowing heart and a small smile, the father took from his girl her treasures. In the hands of the farmer -- the nurturer of the nature, the lord of the land -- the humble flowers were morphed into a golden wreath, worthy to be worn by the royalty, his princess.
“No, not a necklace. But a crown, for Your Highness,” he replied with a bow.
The merry laughter of the girl still ringing in his ears, he saw her disappear in the fiery flames of the fire. She was no longer in his arms, with her coronet on her head -- in her place only the smoke, and faint trace of her scent…
The farmer was alone with his mare. In his hands were a dress for the princess and a mirror for her mother, newly bought from the town. But neither of them welcomed him home. In the place of his loving family were black ashes, retching of death, stealth, and despair. His house burnt. The silo empty. The cattle stolen. And his wife, his daughter, extinguished like that bloodthirsty flame -- that grew and consumed the countryside, the state, the nation, and left only violence, torn families, and ashes behind. The enemy of the war left nothing behind. All gone, gone, gone.
He was alone in the meadow, with the empty wagon and an empty heart. Remembering didn’t hurt anymore. He just felt light -- much too light. He longed to lose himself in the cologne of the daisies, perhaps to fill his mind with something, or perhaps just to forget…but he couldn’t. He still had a way to go. He couldn’t rest yet.
And he was almost there.
Back in his cart, he plodded through the trail. He crossed the mourning stream that carried the blood of the battles in its bosom. He journeyed by the lamenting lake that held the world’s sorrow in its reflection. He climbed the snow-covered hill that suppressed the coldness of life under its impeccable blanket of white.
It was now getting dark; the sun was falling asleep, after a tiresome day standing vigil over the world. The soldier needed rest, but when he closed his eyes, the black, flameless bonfire in his eyes engulfed him, haunting him with the memories he wished to forget -- the faces he killed, and the faces he lost.
The soldier longed for the warmth of his mare. The lullaby of her breathing would have soothed his wounded, lonely soul. Like she had done countless times, in the ashes of his home, on the road to his revenge, and through the boundaries between the living and the dead, together facing the heaven or the hellâ€”and emerging victorious. But his companion no longer was with him. She had left him with the flash of a blade, under the scorching sun, on the bleeding ground. To a place he could not follow.
The horseless wagon kept on running.
It seemed that the ascent of the hill will never end. Then the ground changed. It was no longer covered in pebbles, and dirt -- instead, the path was of a smooth white marble, regal and majestic. Then his cart stopped, at the foot of a marble staircase. The soldier stepped down from his wagon, and started towards the top, his footsteps playing a fanfare for his return. A dove circled the soldier, brilliant like a shining star, and sang him welcome home.
The soldier was in front of a golden gate, embellished and framed by the clouds, and encrusted with a cross. As he reached towards the doorknob, a blinding light enveloped him. He could no longer see, hear, or feel; he was cloaked in the warmth of the light, powerless but safe, like a newborn baby wrapped around a sheet. The light caressed him, washing him of bitterness, sorrow, and loneliness. The bloody gash upon his chest -- the deadly blow that witnessed his end â€” healed without a scar. His eyes, left dim and dull since his death, regained their light. The mortal wound on his soul, a cut deeper than what any man’s sword can make, stopped bleeding. His heart, sliced in half since the fire, became whole again. And it filled up, with content and love.
The light faded, leaving him in front of a wooden doorknob. He was no longer wearing the bloody armour. Instead, he was in a white shirt and blue pants -- perfect for a life on a farm. He opened the door, and stepped into a new world.
He was in a wooden house, facing a fire place, crackling with the warmth of the household. The fresh aroma of the chicken soup, mingled with the fragrant bouquet of the daisy outside, delighted the farmer’s nose. Through the window, a ray of sunlight shined on his face. And through the light he saw his farm, abundant with ripe fruits and golden wheat, and then the meadow, where bumblebees and butterflies danced to the musical whisper of the gentle breeze.
Hearing hoof beats, the farmer stepped outside. Far away, on the horizon, he saw a brown mare trotted towards him. And with her were his golden princess and her beautiful mother.
He realized that he had arrived, at last.
His home, sweet home.