Greetings and salutations, faithful reader! Welcome back to another offering of Story Time With Tim! This short story is called ‘Lost Sanctity’ and is a contest entry submission a few years back. It was all about channeling Ray Bradbury and writing a story that he might have written. So, that’s what this story is.
In it, the lead character arises from the dead after a war has desecrated Arlington Cemetery over in Washington. I like how it turned out myself, but, that just might be me. So, I hope you enjoy and, of course, stick around for the end to find links to where this story can be purchased (among other titles) to support the cause! I hope you enjoy and thanks for stopping by! Stay tuned for more readings and I look forward to reading to you again soon!
You stand on the battle field trying desperately to blink. Smoke, and burning flesh, the pounding of warheads against the ancient soil, the screams of dying men (those who would be your friends), lay siege to the bitter taste that should be upon your tongue. Yet, it isn’t and you worry what this means.
You never wanted to be a soldier. Sure, the glory was a plus, but the benefits were hard to come by and questionable at best. Being pulled into this conflict wasn’t a surprise though and you can’t help but wonder what’s more abominable: me or this hell?
Answers don’t come easy as you hobble along on a locked up knee and stumble back when a mortar erupts not but steps from you.
Bastards! Bastards! How can you do this!? When will it end!? Bastards, you bastards!
Streaks of bright light zoom through the dark, wafting vitriol of a million men, thick and pregnant with zealotry and hate, the thirst for power and control. It’s choking in its black, thick state hovering across the landscape as a cancerous growth unable to be removed. But even this one luxury, to inhale the suffocating spent rage blinding your sight, eludes you. Your lungs just aren’t what they once were.
Out of the mire races desperate men (warriors for the cause), pumping their legs under the need for dominance and the resolute desire for revenge. They ignore you in their quest, cloaked as they are in blacks and browns, baring equipment you have never seen.
Wait… where is this? Who, who, who…
A hand reaches out of the murk, disembodied, it latches onto your shoulder but you do not fear. Fear is something that has long since fled your body. Now, a solemn numbness is your constant reward for services rendered, honored, respected, for braving the smoke, and the death, and the death, and the death, watching friend after friend join you in oblivion.
“Sir, are you hurt! Why are you here, sir!”
It was less a question than a command. To leave. But you belong here, you can feel it. But this should have been put far behind you, long, long, long ago. Far behind. Your lips are numb and the words seem lost. You look around you, his form materializing from the fog that every soldier knows, that follows every soldier to the grave, that haunts his every waking hour, making him question: What was it for? Will it never end?
“We have to get you out of here, sir!”
The piercing sounds of annihilation shatter the spine of some heroic column deep in the dark, dark, dark fog and the shouts of rage, panic, fear fall on your soul. You look to this young soldier dressed in his strange garb wearing an expression of sorrow, hope, despair, necessity. The ashy streaks running his smooth visage do nothing to hide the fresh, gentle soul still trying to stay pure. Another lamb to the slaughter.
“What, what, what…” you stammer, trying to blink, trying to inhale. “What… is… going… on?”
“What is going… Sir, you’re in a warzone! How did you get past the barricades?!”
“Bar… ri… cadessssss?”
The hiss passes your lips like the deflating of a bed of air that could no longer stand the pressure. Your teeth clench and bite down on dry lips and the soldier looks confused as he takes your arm.
“Let me get you out of here!”
You can barely hear his yelling, his voice laced with uncertainty, carrying a burden he never asked for, you never asked for, neither did. But you bore it. He bears it.
“Where… where… where is this?”
The shock is on his face. He wears it as if he’d never seen it before, this shock. It is the look of one who doubts you could not possibly not know.
He stands right at your ear, yet you barely hear him. Your body stops its movement. You are stiff, a board, numb by all rights.
“Ar, Ar, Ar, Arlington?”
“Vir, Vir, Vir, Virginia?”
The young soldier looks at you with concern. But you are more concerned than him for every pore in your stiff body tells you something is very, very, very wrong. Too wrong.
“Why… on… the… cem… e… tery?”
“That was removed years ago, sir!”
You turn to him sharply and stare with a rage that transcends time. The soldier has his hand on your shoulder and shakes his head gently.
“Why?” You finally ask, fearing the answer.
He squints and takes a step back, his grip on you loosening only a tiny bit. His lips twitch in contemplation of what answer he should deliver. You just wish he’d hurry up. The drifting tufts of virulent anguish, foreboding voids of leftover hate, obscure your view for a moment until your eyes meet once more.
“Well, I guess because we don’t really die anymore!”
You want to blink, will yourself to blink, but find the task impossible. How can people not die anymore? It was an unfathomable idea, a slap in the face of good, decent sense. How can you make him understand that you feel death all around you? That there are hundreds dying every moment all across the battle field? You try out the words again in your throat, the words you’ve spoken already have left you ever more parched, and twist your dried lips to form those words when a bright blue beam of shattering energy comes from behind the rage clouds and slams into the young soldier’s chest. He crumples to the ground lifeless, splintered, broken.
He is your friend now. Joining you in death. But here there will be no solace for him. They all believe themselves immune to death, have done something to themselves in a vain attempt to defy their natural rights. You look to your friend not moving wondering if he will get up or remain so until thrown in the ground. Then, you realize, he will not join you there. Because they have done this thing.
So, you walk, and walk, and walk.
Until you come to a monument standing tall where stones of granite once rose to catch the first day’s light. And in their stead this monument reads as an epitaph to all who had come before:
In memoriam, ‘The Age that we should be lain to the ground has come and gone. Those who have fought and died for our need to stand strong in the face of adversity have given us our greatest discovery, to defy the end. No more disease, no more death, no more agony. We stand as gods, perfect in our very design. So, we cast to the fire, death. And remember who we once were by being more than we ever thought. We take our first brave steps into this new, unknown world and know that never again will we be subjected to the whims of death.’
~Alex J. Crawford
The rage boils in your soul. The arrogance, the arrogance, the arrogance. How dare they think to ruin the simple act of peace in the grave. You’ve earned your rest, yet now they have made a war over it. You do not know why this battle is being fought, but, does it matter? There’s an inkling of a thought creaking through what’s left of your mind that maybe you can stop this from coming to being.
You race back to your grave, hobbling like a mad pirate on two wooden legs. You can feel the tension, the eagerness, the need pulsing through your rancid bones.
It’s there! Yes, it’s there, and I can see it!
The name, Alex Crawford, massages your brain. You’ve heard it before, many years before from where you lain buried and at peace. It was a subtle mention but enough to fill you with desire and urgency. The tempest of time surges through you, every moment of every hour of every day since you were lowered into the hole you can feel. Everything slows down around you as you make your wormwood dash, nearly bouncing from one leg to the other. Explosions rock the landscape around you, bodies flowing into the air in a fluid state of motion so miniscule you could almost swear they were swimming through jelly. The dirt explodes in frozen arch, inching along with the fear wracked soldiers joining you in death. You can feel the time slipping back through another era, another moment to a point where this war was not even a glimmer in the mind of a madman.
The grave lies open where you clawed your way out and you clamber back inside, ready to put behind you this cacophony of false death. How they missed your coffin, missed your place of rest, you cannot say. You are just glad that they did. The mealworms claw at your brain picking your thoughts apart like maggots on raw flesh. And you see it. The flash of time. All that is, was, and is yet to be, lain before you like an all you can eat buffet. And you see it. Him. The one on the monument. He was there before.
It was a hundred years earlier, and so that was when you clawed your way out. You can see it clearly. The two young lovers walking through the cemetery laughing and carrying on. So disrespectful.
“One day, you see, all of this will be unnecessary,” Alex says to his sweetheart. You tremble at the words as you stand behind a tall, granite stone.
“Is that so? And how do you figure?” Her demure flirtations aggravate you. You scowl and hiss quietly.
“I’ve unlocked the genetic structure that tells our bodies when to die. I’ve figured out how to turn those off and how to enhance the quality of life that we, as a society, are always endeavoring to improve.”
“You’re so smart.”
She smiles at him and leans in for a kiss. This infuriates you past the point of sense, compassion, dignity. This is a place of peace for fallen warriors, not the hub of merrymaking and kissing. It is somber. Tired. Restful. Mourn the lost, pray for their peace, do not sully it. Your mind races as you step out after the two. You approach them quickly and neither see you until it is too late. One hard smack across the nape of the neck sends Alex to the ground. The girl screams and falls backwards from the sudden attack.
You bare your rotting teeth, snarl at her from flesh torn lips and she flees. You let her. She isn’t who you want.
He is. He is. He is.
He raises his hands before him, he draws into himself like a turtle on its back. Fear washes over him as he stares up at your towering form.
“What do you want?” he cries.
You want to laugh, to cry, to scream. He does not understand. None of them do. But it is what must be done.
“Let… them… rest…”
You grapple on top of him, rending flesh from bone, his screams ring out into the air. You don’t care if anyone hears. In moments, it is over and you are returning to your grave. Screaming voices signal the guardians coming to investigate. You smile darkly and lower back into the grave, the comforting, cool earth lulling you into a deep sleep. You hear the crawling of the insects burrowing through the verdant soil and peace washes over you.
Days pass. Months pass. Years pass. Centuries pass.
And your slumber is never disturbed again.
There we go. The end of another storytelling session. Below you’ll find where this story is available for purchase:
Tales From A Strange Mind Volume One:
and, of course, Three Short Stories collection found here –>https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B08KPLH6KY/ref=dbs_a_def_rwt_bibl_vppi_i5
While you’re here, check out my author’s page: https://www.amazon.com/Timothy-Purvis/e/B085Q62XRP?ref=sxts_sxwds-bia-wc-drs1_0&qid=1601825559&sr=1-1-f6b8d51f-2c55-4dc3-89ad-0c3639671b2d
Thanks for reading and I hope you come back soon!
~Timothy S Purvis
Hey, did you know I released several books this year? Well, here’s one of them now! Go check it out!