Warrior Pose

The smoke from the fire is pungent as it floats in a dark column towards deep blue sky. The sun sinks slowly to the horizon, gasping with yellows and orange. The waves of the river lap rhythmically on the shore. Its waters flow sure and calm, belying a force roiling just beneath the surface. The river moves steadfastly through the landscape to its final resting place in the ocean.

The air is filled with the crackling of the bonfire, and the crying of men and women. A wailing of a lover. Of many lovers huddled on the dirt, as the hero’s body is carried on the shoulders of four towards the fire.

A baby’s scream pierces the purple dusk as the hero’s body burns furiously into crispy shards. Ashes that were once skin, bone, and hair float into the air, disintegrating into wisps of nothing.

*****

There was a lot of blood when the hero fell. No one imagined he could die, but rather live. Everything that happened in his life was in preparation for this moment. And yet he was defeated. The blood that left his body seeped into the ground, eagerly lapped up by the earth.

His lover had been laying anxiously in his bed, waiting for his return. She did not know yet that he had departed to the place where all heroes eventually go.

*****

She’d seen an omen late that afternoon. She sat alone in a field. The grasses were dry, sharp, brittle. Yellowed by the onslaught of the summer sun. She basked in the shade of a tree, lingering in the afterglow of their lovemaking. The weight of his body still felt like a ghostly tingle that cooled her skin. She felt peaceful and satisfied. Everything was in its place, where it was meant to be. She had what belonged to her, it could never be taken away.

She watched a grasshopper crawl up the length of a stalk of grass. It was a green splotch against the faded yellow of the field. A streak of grey swooped down from the sky. The grass shuddered as the grey blur arched back up towards the sun. The grasshopper was no longer there. She looked up to where the grey streak had gone, and saw a flutter of feathers.

She ran to her lover, begging him not to go to battle.

*****

They were at war. There had always been a war. One being always exerted a force upon another. Sometimes the two forces balanced and completed each other. Often, one was found to be stronger, and one was extinguished.

Later, the hero would meet his foe. But for now, there was a moment of peace. It was early in the day, and she sought her lover. She found his tent. The flap was closed, but she knew he was inside. She approached, eager to see him. She heard the low rumble of his voice, but she also heard another’s. She paused, confused. She peeked through the flap, peering into the dimness inside. She could feel the warmth emanating from inside, amplified by the presence of two bodies. There was a sour smell of sweat and skin.

When her eyes adjusted to the darkness, she saw the familiar shadow of her lover standing against the far side. The sunlight filtering through the fabric of the tent drew the shape of his silhouette.

There was a movement in his bed, another shape taking form beneath the sheet, shifting. A body turned over. She made out the smooth, slim form of a young man emerging from the blankets, lifting himself off the bed. She dropped the tent flap and retreated to the shade of a tree by the edge of the encampment. She waited, watching until the hero’s other lover emerged from the tent, and walked off into the dust. She did not feel anger, but rather determination. She needed to assert what was hers, to usurp the other lover. She inhaled deeply in preparation, and entered the dimness of the tent.

*****

The sweat poured down the side of the hero’s face, dripping off the edge of his jaw. He was a young man, on the cusp of adulthood. His life lay before him, a dusty, golden road stretching into the horizon. A life full of possibility, promise, and victories.

It was not quite noon, yet the heat of the sun climbing the blue sky beat down upon his brow. He assessed his opponent: a close companion from childhood, now an adversary. He contemplated how swiftly one becomes the other. A single being encompassing both friend and enemy.

The two boys circled warily. It was unnerving how the other was both familiar and strange. The hero had been groomed all his life for greatness. His arc had been plotted by other people to rise forever. All their rage, hope, their sorrow, had been invested in him towards the fulfillment of some promise. He felt this promise surge through his body, and he lunged.

Nobody was surprised that the hero was the one left standing in the end. His foe lay on the dirt in front of him. The hero wiped his finger along the flatness of his blade, gathering the blood of his friend gleaming crimson in the sun. He gingerly touched it to his tongue. The metallic taste sent a jolt of sorrow through him. He looked up and saw his teacher smiling with approval. He turned his face to the sky and cried.

*****

When the hero emerged from his mother’s womb, he cried and screamed. His wail was full of defiance and rage. The men and women nearby shivered from the ferocity of his cry. It rattled their bones. Yet it was a scream each and every one of them knew, one they had been silently screaming their entire lives.

No one noticed the silence of his mother. She lay still and cold, her pale skin turning blue and covered in a film of sweat. A cloud of flies gathered above her body, hovering darkly in the air.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s