The heat lashed out in great grey spasms of rage; the sun, a grotesque parody, flickered with a dull malevolence as it darted behind the coiling columns of black oil-smoke. In the trench that he had dug – violating the parched sanctity of this forsaken land – he sat, waiting, staring at the bodies of his three brothers. He sat, as a curiously chill wind – stained by the diseased stench of the inferno – danced, violently, across the parapet, showering the perverse tryptic of bodies with a dull barrage of sand. He sat, and the rictus grin of the eldest – the blackened lips flecked with blood and, already, obscured beneath layers of grime and dust and blown dirt – stared back at him. He smiled at his brothers, and blessed them, rising and twisting his head to confront the great dome of the sky; their sightless, desiccated eyes, too, raised to the heavens as if in some half finished invocation. He fired a round off, upward, into the pliant, accepting underbelly of an uncaring god, and sang, soft and meaninglessly sacred, beneath his fevered breath, then sat again, and cradled the warm, purring barrel of the Russian made weapon.

Beneath him, in the shadow of the fortified embankment, the road traced a dirty swathe across the landscape; old scar tissue cut deep into the atrophied desert flesh. Tired scrubs clung listlessly to the eroded dunes, the sand stretching off in mottled wavelets, the bruised surface aping the clouds which gathered, broodingly, overhead. He sat, waiting, and, when night fell he crept down to the road and buried string-tied grenades in the still warm earth with his bare hands, working silently as a gibbous moon crept, shrouded in wispy tendrils of yellow stained smoke, away from the protective grasp of the distant mountain peaks. He stood, bathed in the sickly glow, and sighed, and crawled back to the trench and sat, staring at the indistinct silhouettes of his immolated brethren. He sat, and slept, sitting, with the gun cradled in the crook of his arm.

Morning heralded the arrival of the convoy. Long expected, the rattling tread of the monstrous machines nevertheless startled him into wakefulness, and he, now straightened from his slumbering slouch, sat, stock still – as immobile as the corpses arrayed beside him – behind the shielding wall of the sandy parapet. He toyed abstractly with the trigger of the gun, murmuring quiet, reassuring nothings to its throbbing steel form, sitting. On the road below soldiers stumbled, human pack animals weighted with the miserable machines of war. The sight awoke something deep within him, some primal desire; too long alone – he glanced at his brothers – he felt the desire for human kinship, for fraternity and connection. The finger slipped from the trigger, and he rose, and smiled, and caught, for a moment, the surprised glance of a soldier – for one second, he felt the intangibly awesome immensity of desert slip away, and he was home again, amongst family and friends.

For one moment he stood there, against the dawn streaked sky, with oil smoke coiling in majestic forms behind him, smiling beatifically like some condescending messiah, and then the buried ordinance exploded, and the soldiers turned on him and the bullets sang and danced as the sand exploded in orgiastic fervour, receiving the leaden seed. He sang, too, alone again, and happier for it, as the gun spat death down upon the suppliants massed below; surrender seemed untenable, contact itself spelled certain death. As the heat lashed out in great grey spasms he set about being an individual.



Joined January 2008

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