Burning The Nations: Part I

15. Burning

The man stood in formation with all the other uniformed men. Like the men on his left and right, he had no idea what they were doing outside under the blanket of gray darkness of the dawn. With their black and blue uniforms they looked like a congregation of Grim Reapers. The men in the equally vast row across from him appeared as equally confused about their reason for being out in an enormous courtyard and being ordered to dress in uniforms that they were handed upon being abruptly awakened. And from the way that the commanding officers paced in between their ranks most of them were wondering as well.
But, what the man found most mysterious was the vast number of flags that were piled up in between the two rows of uniformed men. At the top of the pile he saw the red, white, and blue of the American flag, the red flag of China with its golden stars an ugly mustard color under the still glowing moon. Everything was ghostly under its white light.

The man forced his back to straighten into a stiff posture as a high ranking officer stopped at the center of the gathering at the left end of the pile of flags. "I am assuming you all understand English," he said.

Nobody said a word. The man could not place the man's accent, but he could infer that he was likely American.

"I also take it that you do not know why you are here," the Officer said staring down the ranks.

The man felt a shiver as those piercing brown eyes that were black under the cloak of darkness swept over him. His black hair was darker than the sky itself. A scar was faintly visible on the left side of his neck. He was without question a man that had been through the worst that war had to offer to get to where he was now. That high ranking Officer was the most powerful man among him.

"No, Sir!" the man said in unison with everybody else.

"Men, I am going to ask you how to address me properly," the Officer said, "and I'm not referring to my ranking. No, I want you to simply call me by my name of Cyrus."

The man did not know what the man named Cyrus was doing. Never before had he heard of a Commanding Officer wanting to be called by his name. It didn't sound possible. No man in such a position would want to be addressed in such a manner. He had to be pulling their leg. The man braved a glance at the man to his right. Just as he thought, he wasn't believing any of this either.

"I understand most of you are wondering why I am asking this of you," Cyrus said pacing in between the rows. "But, that is why we are here, and those sewed together pieces of cloth on a stick that you see before you is why we are here as well."

The man directed his attention away from the imposing figure of Cyrus and down to the flags. Gazing at how they were all thrown together like a pile of fire wood sent a shiver down his spine and into the core of his body. Boots thumped on the concrete and the man returned to his rigid position of attention. Four Officers walked in front him. He noted that they were armed. Their shoulder holsters bulged with what had to be powerful handguns.

The man on his moved his shoulders. He felt like letting out a sigh. So many soldiers could not help but feel naked without their treasured firearms. He however, would have loved to lived in a world where guns and violence were nonexistent.

The Officers stopped as if they had come to an invisible wall when Cyrus turned to face them. "Soldiers, direct your attention to the pile of cotton and metal that you see in your midst," Cyrus said.

Yes, the man was sure that Cyrus was American. He didn't have any other accent that he could identify. As the man looked at the flags all clumped together he couldn't help but wonder if his homeland was somewhere in there. But, the one thing that he was desperate to know was why the flags were on the ground in the first place. They were all stationed in an international military base so naturally they had the flags of many nations. But, shouldn't they be standing upright on poles?

Instead they were on the ground like a pile of rubbish. "Now!" Cyrus barked, "give me your uttermost attention!"

Everyone threw their hand up in salute. The man could not even imagine being allowed to move another muscle until Cyrus gave him permission. Yes, it actually felt like Cyrus was talking directly to him. The men on the other side were equally intimidated by Cyrus.

The Officers that were in the center were the only ones who appeared at ease. "I am about to ask each of a you a very important question," Cyrus said. "Do you see your flag somewhere in those corpses of cotton and metal?"

The answer came in "yes sir," "no sir," "yes General," "no General," but the most prominent one was, "I do Cyrus." The man had bellowed the latter along the men on either side of him. He saw his flag in there all right. Just a stray piece of cloth, but it was there. Deep in the wrinkled mess of multi colored flags he saw the white of his flag with the red cross. The man couldn't stop his hands from shaking with emotion.

That flag represented everything that he held dear. Not the red cross, for he wasn't religious. No, it was his family who were in their beautiful England home. He missed his twin daughters Moony and Susan. The glowing moon did not help matters. His precious daughters had been born during the brightest of full moons. Just like today the times were hard. They had been that way for years before, and nothing seemed like it was about to change.

And it probably wouldn't. For how could it? An entire continent was burned by war. Africa was now Deaths playground. Death laughed when an incendiary bomb destroyed a dictator’s camp. He licked his fingers in satisfaction when starving villagers’ resorted to murder and cannibalism just to survive. The ba***rd jumped with joy when the United Nations and relief workers could do nothing. He spit on the blackened fire cooked bones of lions and every other creature that was killed by the flames of war. Where humanity had begun it was beginning to end.

The man remembered how his wife had told him how much she wanted to become one of those adventurous women who went on trips all around the world to the animal’s natural habits. But tragically that profession became as treacherous as serving in the armed forces.

Virtually no piece of the globe had been spared from the atrocities of war. In South America war between drug lords was be waged in the once luscious rain forests. Where humanity would could once hear the calls of birds that were of every color of the rainbow all that could be heard now were the pops of automatic weapons and the crackles of frag and nitrogen grenades. He recalled joking with his wife about how they at least had the decency to not use incendiary grenades. She found nothing funny on the matter.

After she had showed him photos of dead animals that had been within the range of the nitrogen grenades blast radius he hadn't found anything to joke about.

"I have another question to ask of you," Cyrus suddenly said.

The man had been so startled by his interrupted thoughts that he had nearly jumped in surprise. That wouldn't have gone well for a man in his position. He was a Major, and proud of it. But, he wasn't proud of what it took to get to where he was now. No matter how much he tried he could never wash the blood of his hands.

"But first I need Second Lieutenant Forrest to pick up one of the flags," Cyrus said.

One of the Officers who was standing in the middle of the ranks approached the pile of flags and picked one up. Cloth tangled with poles as the pile settled after being disturbed. The man recognized it as the North Korean Flag, its blue, and red color, with a trace of white was eerie under the moon.

"Lamont," Cyrus said, "hold the flag up for all to see."

The Second Lieutenant held up his left arm straight up into the air. The flag clung uselessly to the metal pole against the windless sky. It was a pitiful sight, like the cloth was trying to wrap itself around the pole. Like it feared something would happen. Maybe it would. Why else would they be out here? Cyrus approached the Lieutenant pointing his arm to the sky like a statue. He stopped three paces away.

"I need one of you men who's country is symbolized by this flag to step up!" said Cyrus.

A man immediately broke from the far right end of the row across from the man and walked toward the center where the flags were. "Cyrus?" the man said with a hint of a Korean accent.

"Are you proud of your country?"

The man seemed to hesitate before saying, "Yes! I am indeed Cyrus!"

"Are you up to the task of uniting humanity!"

"I am Cyrus! It is what me and my people have been trying to do for years! For too long we've been accused of doing nothing but wrong! How does only trying to make every citizen equal fall under that category! Democracy is political anarchy!"

"Sergeant Sakong, take that flag out off Lamont's hand!"

Sergeant Sakong did. There was no denying it, Sakong's arm was trembling as he retrieved the flag of his homeland.

The man couldn't help but feel sympathy for him. What was Cyrus going to have him do?

As if on cue Cyrus barked, "Titus! Hand me the fire!"

Another one of the Officers marched toward Cyrus and reached toward his shoulder holster and pulled out a black instrument that the man could not identify.

Sakong stared at the object as Cyrus held it in his hands. The man did not like the way things were looking.





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