By Natalie Struble

Burning fingertips drag across scarlet tinged water stirring up visions of chaos where water meets the taint of blood.

I’m unable to focus.

There’s the beating of a drum in my ears, it’s rhythm is wrapping itself around my throat. I can feel the pulse of it’s soundless music at my wrists, thumping beneath my skin.

I’m unable to focus.

Death pales into pink, wrathful scarlet softening into pastel as it spins into still waters. The source of such sharp color has thousands of names and yet it remains nameless.

I’m unable to focus.

Twitching fingertips stirs up ripples that shatter the stillness of the water. Waves have wreaked less havoc. I strain to resist the urges that holds captive my wrists. They pull to my ears to block the sounds of the beating drum and the softest whispers that sing to it. They pull to my throat to claw apart the pounding from my heart, beat by miserable beat. They pull to my lips in failing efforts to rip them open wide enough to scream the sounds away. But they will not obey the commands of my mind, like wayward soldiers they refuse to march into a battle I have called them to.

Prisoner to my body, I am but a inheritor of a death I did not want, encased in the vulnerabilities of mortality. The vulnerabilities of man. But if this is humanity maybe I no longer wish to hold aloft such a crippling label forced upon me the moment I breathed my first breath. Human. Such a vile existence to live. And die.

I’m unable to focus.

The whispers grow in fervor, stretching wide the confines of my mind. Escape. But they cannot for there is no way out. Mumbling together their words slur into a slush of phrases I can’t keep up with. To pick apart a single sentence from the fray leaves a searing ache in the forefront of my thinking.

Blood soaked palms skimming the surface of muted pink water, my body is numb. Dizzyingly I seem to sway, my balance has abandoned me in my last moments. Back immersed in water, eyes staring unblinkingly, unseeingly, forward. I cannot lose my balance if I am not standing upon my own two feet. Not true.

I’m unable to balance.

Stinging pains bloom from my chest. There is not a wound I can see yet it feels as if the cells of my body are rebelling. A civil war in my bone marrow that strains to separate. Seeking my breaking point. I wonder in they do so just to see me. Unmoving. Me. Spiraling deeper into a disorienting torment.

I’m unable to focus.

My soul seems to teeter upon the fine line that separates life from death. I feel as if I am attempting to waltz on a tightrope of razor blades. The faintest of a breeze could disrupt my precarious position and send me slipping down into a pit so deep the bottom evades my eyesight still spinning in circles.

I’m unable to focus.

Purgatory. It has become the very definition of my confinement. Fading life lines seep from stilling blood veins to take root in depleted soil. Entrapped in the tangle of deadened roots whose once beings drained the last of them in the same field mine have.

I’m unable to focus.

Coarse and cold, the stuttering muscles of my hands feel dead enough to barely brush the ropes of life lines come to closure. They speak to me. When my dying warmth meets their cold for brief moments. I hear them. Executed echos of screams and dreams that died side by side. Last words. Lost words. Their words. Gone.

The melancholy of lives robbed from good people, there is no insurance that covers such tragedy. Final prayers, final words, final thoughts, uttered with final breaths. Open wounds, their mouths, they seep from. Dripping from the rotted corners of their lips, festering in acidic air. From half-pumping hearts still pulsing on the pavement after culled from the carnage of broken rib cages. From bloody eyes clawed open and weeping scarlet. From the yellow pus of wounds not yet healed. From disease riddled limbs and spoiled tongues. A battlefield that hath no mercy. But when do they ever.

Tears spring to my eyes. Despair. A war like a hurricane, taking all in its wake and leaving naught left but a field of crosses. The greed of world leaders raking their opinions and convictions, like fingernails, across nations and cultures their hands do not belong upon. Appendages stained with the aftermath of affairs they claim to have had no part in.

And boys. Girls. Children. Following the instruction of leaders who plead innocence before anyone ever accused them. Taking up burning armaments, but they are made of wax and never again shall they take the same shape.

Tears mingle with the rain that has begun to fall. I cannot get the images out of my head. It does not matter. That what I can’t unsee. Can’t un-remember. For I am to die on this field and that which I have witnessed will die with me.

I’m unable to focus.

My hands sink like anchors to the muddy depths of pink water steadily growing in intensity, it is no longer soft pastel. I can hear the since ceased whisperings. I can hear the rain against water and skin, mine and not. I can hear so much, yet I cannot differentiate them from the beating of my own heart.

I’m unable to focus.

Rage ripples through my arms and chest. It is not fair. Why am I to die for a government that bothers not to remember my name. And what of me. What will my unwilling sacrifice become? Another rewritten tragedy to fit the script of another politician’s speech? Leaders pulling at the burning of of my miserable end, fingers remaking themselves into shadows and dissolving to dust until all that’s left of their hands is blackened bones glowing beneath the film of skin turned to ash and my death is constructed into martyrdom. My existence; every breath, every step, every laugh, every cry, every day, boiled down to a siren song that will lead others to the same death of mine. Picking up a weapon with rage. Rage makes one daring. Rage makes one foolish. They will lift their gazes and their arms, under the belief they will bring about an end to such sadness. They won’t.

Sour bitterness spreads warm through my chest like oil. I struggle to lift my head.

I cannot.

My fists clench and I labor to move them in any way at all but they are snarled in disjointed life lines turned to ice weighed with cinder blocks, tearing me down towards an inevitable death. My consciousness dips below that of the living, thoughts are no longer words but the absence of light.

I haven’t much time.

I’ve been robbed of my years by politicians who build themselves a comfortable seat upon them and deny that it’s a throne. It is not fair. It is not fair. It is not fair. I hope the entirety of this damned world burns in the flames of their hatred. I wish the seas will rise with the blood of their needless slaughter and entire nations will drown in it. I yearn with wild belligerence that as their skin peels away in the boiling cesspools of consequence their death will not not be quick.

I long to scream but my mouth is full of fire and blood. My mind turns to ice for just a moment.

Death grows ever near and sharp seconds seem an eternity for my shadow inked soul. Fear rips through my gut, tearing to pieces my half-formed anger. This is it. It is not fair. Nothing is. Not life. Not death. Nothing. My fading eyesight blurs at the edges, chemical overflow of emotions my brain could not process. Tears.

Am I ready to die?

Despite myself it seems so enticing. I am already so tired. Exhaustion spills across my already heavy limbs, an overflow so bountiful I almost can’t remember my anger. A typhoon to calm my forest fire.

Eyelids heavy, I wish to sleep here on the field of my slumbering comrades. Slain in a battle we were caught unprepared for. Yet I know, if they close, they will not open. Just like those of my brothers, my sisters, sleeping on this field around me. I am the only one left awake.

I am tired. So tired.

My rage is soft now, turned to weary fatigue as hopelessness settles in my bones. My harsh bitterness no longer bites at the back on my throat, who is there to be bitter towards on the threshold of Death. It is not a place I can pack with me the regrets of my flesh. I hope I do not remember. There is not a moment worth clinging to.

I am tired. So tired.

Ice frosts my fingertips, my body grows colder now. A measly fistful of degrees is all that separates me from the state hundreds of abandoned bodies have succumbed to around me. It’s getting harder for me to remember what living looks like.

My eyesight is wavering, colors swirl together and the world is a painting. He approaches. My vision sharpens for a split second and for a moment more I can see. Death. Robes of black that sink beneath the surface of earth, He is as much a part of it as the mountains and the sea. It is calm in His path. I hear naught, I see naught, I know naught but Him.

My eyes won’t focus.

My heart stutters. He is close enough to touch now but I dare not reach for Him. He reaches for me. Death is not as harsh I as once thought it to be.

I am ready to die.

Hands brush the skin of my cheek and it is soft. So much softer than the Death I had imagined. Breath whispers warm across my eyelids.  Soft hands venture to my throat and press against my skin. I had not thought Death would breathe.

“He has a pulse.” It speaks. He speaks? Something speaks.

“Over here! This one is still alive.” Eyelids jerk and flutter, open and closed. It is a labor to keep them aloft. “Hang in there, you will not die today.”

My eyes focus and it hurts. The light stings but I dare not close them. Death no longer kneels beside me, but Life. A angel haloed in the dusty light of the sun. Why would Death so peaceful abandon me when I had just accepted Him. What is there left of me for Life to stake Its claim on? Nothing.

I have become bitter and jaded. Laughter has not known my lips in many a night. My smile faded with a sunset many months ago and did not return to me in the morning. I am not deserving of another chance. Nobody is. So why?

Death why have You abandoned me?

Life looks down upon me then and smiles, it is crooked and imperfect.

This is not Life.

It is but a mear human being masquerading as something greater than itself. Who are they to rob me of my gentle death. I have been in this field for eons. Galaxies have died and birthed anew in my punishment sentenced to this field. A ruling for the ignorance and naivety I have dared continue to live in when my days stretched long. No longer am I naive. For I have seen the sins of man and stared back.

“It’s okay.” The masquerading man tells me, like it is supposed to mean something. “Help is on the way.”

A foreign feeling slicks down my cheeks. A wetness that feels familiar yet I can remember no name for. A hand. The hand. The soft hand, reaches and brushes away the dew drops clinging to my skin. Tears.

I want to stop but I cannot. They continue to flow. It is all my fault. I realize.

It is my fault because despite it all. Despite what I’ve seen. What I have realized. What I have felt. Maybe I didn’t see the whole picture. Maybe I only saw the side I was showed and maybe,

just maybe…

I want to live.

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