My lips will crack I'm alone No air comes And I taste the blood
Bleed in endless torment
Without what I know
I cannot breathe
Of centuries past
- Bloodbath -
No air comes
And I taste the blood
I walk among the fields. They shall soon be drenched in blood, and hot lead, I know it. I am in Gettysburg, the night before a battle. I am a soldier, Emma Hart; to my fellow soldiers, known as Edward, a male soldier. No one knows I am in fact female but for my dearest friend, James Amreet. He knows because he has been my closest friend and my confidante since we were very young. I came to war with James, hoping for glory, and hoping that perhaps I might be able to stem the slaughter and bring the country back together. That one soldier could end the war. I laugh in scorn now, for it has not been glorious. It has been disparaging, and it has worn on the nerves, on the heart.
Though he did not want to see the slaughter and the beautiful fields and rivers soaked in a fountain of blood, James came. And, as I love him and would protect him, I came with him. His father bid him to fight the war, and James did so. My father died in this war, and could not protest my leaving. His father sent him to face a bloodbath, a war his son did not long to fight. My father died to patch the rift between the Union and the Confederacy, and I come here for the same reason. This goddamn war separated our respective families, though James left trying not to be angry at his father, and I left my mother trying to believe I would see her again.
The free black men fight alongside me, and I cannot scorn them, those who fight so diligently against their masters, they who have feelings the same as the whites, and who have the same blue and red blood pounding in their bodies as my own people. These are the black men who are no different from the ones who segregate them. They who segregate should pay.
My mind turns in a circle, coming back to my original point. It's a bedamned war, and it should not be fought. We all know it, but we are 'men' of war, and we do as our commander tells us, and do not question orders. We are not idealistic, because if we were, we would be unable to kill, and we would think too much. It's not healthy to think in this war. Not healthy at all. This war pitted brother against sister, son against father, and husband against wife. It destroyed our families. The Southerners are part of this country and I much suspect that they have the same familial issues we have.
When this war is over, the ghosts of the dead will haunt us.
I wait for them. I almost long to know what they thought as they died. I long to know if freedom from life is as good as it sounds. Is there pain? I hope not. For I may die tomorrow. James may die. And I wish it comes upon me. I do not wish to suffer the ghosts and the pain that will come when I realize how many men or boys I have killed. When I can think again.
I am only nineteen. I should be married off and producing babies right now. I can't stand the thought, of the girls and women my age, bearing children that will be brought into the world in such a time. How many will be born tomorrow? How many young boys will die tomorrow, at the same time that some woman is in labor? I do not yearn to know. I think that if I were not in this war, if I were a proper young women, I would go quite mad with the realization that I was bringing a child into the world at the same time men were dying, and possibly an older son of mine, or an older brother, an uncle, or a cousin. I might hold the knife to my wrists, and see the blood soak the sheets I would be lying in. I would wonder how it could be in the next realm.
Would I go to Hell?
But I would be thinking then, as I should not be now. I should sleep now, in the tent I share with James. He is sleeping, but his face is troubled. He knows that we go to near certain death tomorrow. But he will go, because his father wanted him to, and he has always strived to please his father. But now, I will blow out the candle, and go to sleep, longing for a normal life, possibly married to James. Normal life will not come back to me after this war.
I beg for normal life, for death.
Someone take me away from here, make everything right again. Make me a little girl so I can sit on Papa's lap and let him deceive me by telling me everything is all right. Please, God, take me away. I do not care where. I beg for normal life.
I long to fall asleep.. And I cannot. I wonder in the darkness. I try to close my mind to devilish thoughts, but they invade my piece of mind anyway. Will all men of war go to Hell? I have to wonder. Killing is sin. But then, shouldn't God stop it? I don't know. Maybe He believes human suffering will drive them to better reasoning. But I look back across time and see battles still. And I can't see an end in sight. Did the soldiers burn in the eternal blames of Hell? I wonder ceaselessly. Did the Devil sort them into the levels, or did their souls find comfort in the levels themselves? I do not wish to go to Tartarus. No place for departed souls sounds appealing. Limbo is between the living and the dead, and Heaven is not acceptable. I do not believe my soul is pure anymore. But sleep comes, I feel it. Maybe I will know tomorrow where I will go.
An eagle flies, soaring on the updrafts above us. Its glorious wings are spread, and its eyes look down on us, scorning those who cannot solve animosity in a peaceful way. I long to be up there with it, circling and wheeling, feeling the strength in my wings, and reveling in the freedom of the sky. I wish that I could be up there, and come to death of old age, and not of suicide, of the lead in my stomach. I wish, I wish.
I feel like a young child, so alone, and so wanting. How do children handle it when some officer rides up to their door and asks to speak with their Mama?
The eagle lets out a piercing cry, a cry that stays in the sky, offering hope for the lonesome soldiers below. Offering comfort to some, and offering a chance to escape for others. We look up at eagles and think of freedom. A freedom we don't have, a freedom we'll never have.
I feel the weight of the gun in my hand. It is filled with enough lead to kill twenty men without fault. It makes me sick. I do not know if I will be able to shoot the boys who will march on us today. I do not know if I will follow orders, or if I will run, run far away.
James stands next to me. He has a grim look on his handsome features. A lock of his stark black hair has fallen into his eyes. He brushes it out of the way impatiently. The grip he has on his gun is steady, but his eyes are troubled. He turns his piercing gaze on me to see me watching him. I nudge him, and point up at the sky. He looks up at the eagle and smiles gently at me.
Do you know how I long to throw my arms around you and kiss you senseless?
His green eyes turn back to what will become a battleground for some, and a burial ground for others. I would pray that neither James nor I die, but I think I've given up believing in God. If He existed, why do I feel so alone? Why is this war continuing? Why, why, why? Questions never cease.
And here they come.
These people could be either my salvation or my demise. Do you really want to shoot at us? Or are you simply following orders, they way we are? Do you believe in your cause? Or are you simply here because the Confederacy has no more soldiers? I see no difference between us. You were our former countrymen, and now we fire upon each other, a hail of lead and shrapnel falling between us, creating the utmost border between us.
They walk through the mist, silent and catlike. Their drums are silent this dawn, but the young boys are there, holding rifles instead of drumsticks.
The Confederacy is desperate, and yet you still fight! I honestly must say that I think you brave.
The first shot rings out. It hits one of the men in the front line of my people. He does not cry out, only falls.
I do not want to fire.
My gun is loaded, and I let loose the trigger, the brutal kiss of death flying from the death machine I carry in my hands. A cannon lets loose somewhere near me. I can see the front lines of the Rebs are down. .
Blood will coat my hands soon. Blood of my people, of the enemy. Blood, on the hands of someone who should be becoming a lady.
And is it not funny, how we are calling people from our own country the enemy?
James fires beside me. He glances at my face, but quickly shifts his assessing glance forward. I'm out of bullets. I crouch with the dead and wounded. A man near me begs for mercy. I feel tears in my eyes, but I push them back and look at the man. I became friends with him. He looks at me now with pleading in his brown eyes. They are eyes that were once young and full of vibrancy, and now only longing for the final stroke to end the pain and turmoil. I unsheathe my dagger and slice his throat.
Too many dead, too many dying. Is it worth going with them? To Hell, to Heaven and God? Shall I, too, go with them? Or shall I stay here, and try to piece together what little I have left?
I turn my hand to look at the lovely red and blue veins running through my wrists, but I do not slice the delicate skin to reveal a personal bloodbath. I look around myself instead. I'd clean my dagger, but what's the use?
There is blood everywhere.
I feel desperate. My mind can only think of blood, and I want to be clear of this red haze, this battle haze that keeps me moving, even in my sleep. Please, to any and all deities listening, cleanse my mind.
I finish loading my gun, and gently kiss my fellow soldier's forehead. He was a good man. I look up with tears in my eyes at James, holding his hand down to me. I grab his hand and pull myself up. At the same time, someone slices their bayonet into my left shoulder and slams the butt of their gun into my chin. I see nothing but blackness.
As I wake, I still see blackness. But this time, there is light, pale and silvery. It is the moon, a sign of hope, of cold peace. I look around me, at the trees, and the thousands of bodies lying near me. I look to my left, and see a bandage around my shoulder. The bleeding has stopped. James must have done it for me, before letting me fall, and praying I would not die.
I sit up, and wait for the bout of dizziness to pass. I look around again. I am still on the Gettysburg battlefield.
This will become cemetery to too many boys and young men. I did not join them. Should I be glad, grateful even? I'm not sure.
I stand, leaning on a nearby tree, again waiting for my dizziness to pass. I must get back to camp. I must find out whether we were victorious. I yank and tug on a tree branch until it comes off and I've got something of a cane. I stick it under my right armpit and start hobbling toward camp. My shoulder burns and throbs alternately. I must tell James thank you, for binding my arm. I must find him.
I stumble into camp, and see faces I know well. They look at me, and come up to pound me on the back, grateful I am alive. I look through most of them. My mind is not clear.
The Gods did not do as I asked. My mind is still unclear. I still see all red, all red. I want to see the blackness of night, the green of James' eyes, the red and yellow of the fresh dawn.
I ask to see the commanding officer. They lead me to his tent. He looks shocked to see me in such a state.
I tell him hello, in a formation of formality. He looks back at me and replies that he and his men are surprised to see me and that they all thought me dead. I nod my understanding and wince at the pain in my shoulder. He whispers of victory, and I take caution. Then my biggest fear, the epitome of my fear hits me. I yell, pleading for the answer only he can give me. Where is James?
They thought I would know? I was knocked out, you bastard! James would not desert I tell him, not for anything. He would not abandon me in such a way, knowing of my eternal loneliness.
You told me you would never leave me. And now you have left me, left me all alone. What am I to do if I find you and you are dead? How will I manage?
And then he tells me I must have my wound checked. I shrug away from him and request permission to find James. He denies me that request. My eyes blaze and I demand it again. And he lets me go.
I run to my - No. Our tent and take a pistol and my dagger. I will not be killed until I knew, and if I must, I could turn the pistol on myself. I hobbled myself to the horse housing. It was a corral I had helped build, and I knew that my mare, Ice, would be in there. I whistled and she trotted through the herd to me. I opened the gate and let her out, closing it silently afterward. I tied a rope through her halter and, wincing in pain, climbed onto her back.
Please, do not desert me, no, do not leave me here! Do not leave me to go and fly high in the skies, the wind rustling through your feathers.
I rode her through camp with barely a noise, and then nudged her into a bouncing trot once we reached the road. It was not a good idea. I slowed her and winced several times over, biting my lip until it bled so I would not to scream in pain. We reached the battlefield quickly, and groaning, I dismounted. I tied Ice to a tree and left her. Her eyes were rolling, and she was sidling and backing up, anything to get away from the stench of hot lead, and blood. I related.
I want to be away, carried away from the smell of dead, decaying bodies, I want to be away from blood. I wish my mind were clear.
Most of all, I wish I had never come here. There was no glory. Why did I think that I would help when I came?
I searched the battleground, turning every body over, and looking near where I had lain. Three bodies over from where I had lain, was James. I screamed until my throat was raw when I found him, seeing all blood and decay, and nothing worthwhile. My friend was dead. I knew nothing more. I clung to his body, sobbing, shedding real tears for the first time in this entire war.
Numb shock crept over me. I was holding my best friend in my arms. He had died, died in a hopeless war, a war that needed not to happen. I looked up at the sky, imagining a God, somewhere looking down at me. Was he mocking me? In this moment of silence, broken only by my sobs, I wasn't sure. It felt like it, taking away a freedom that was never granted, taking away my best friend. It felt like there was no caring left in the world, no hope to be found. I was in a bottomless well, and no one was there beside me, no one to pull me back to the light. I looked down, feeling blood soaking into my britches. I'd had enough.
I'd seen the boy's face, the first one I killed. I shouldn't have killed him, knowing that he was only a lad of twelve. He was my cousin. His face would be etched into my mind forever, and while I became nothing short of a machine, I still remembered him. I should not have let myself have that privilege, I knew.
I feel your weight resting heavily in my lap. This is the only time I've ever held you in such a way, and it is the last. Why must it end this way, why me? Why did you have to leave me?
As I felt the dead weight of James, I knew I would remember him too. I might go mad with remembering faces, but I would never forget. Killing does that to a person.
'I vow to you, I will never forget you. You will be passed on through memory to my children, and their children. The Civil War, while ended from bloodshed will live on in the minds of children for years and years to come, my love,' I claimed. My soprano voice pitched unusually low, and death rode high on my mind. I let my friend, my dearest friend fall from my lap, and I slid him to the ground. I took my dagger and nicked his skin, then mine. I pressed our wrists together to seal the blood pact, and then bandaged my arm. The ravens would feed on these bodies, none of them with a proper grave.
I hobbled back to Ice and climbed clumsily to her back. I looked back on the fields; burned black, and highlighted with the calming chill of the pallid, silver moonlight. Before pressing Ice into a canter, I whispered back into the deceptive night, 'No more.'
A delicate situation
Lives on a horizontal branch
Out in the space of red giants
And degenerate white dwarfs
A place where dolphins
And humans never question
Existing and creating
A never-ending world
Where death and war
Live and roam
Freely on earth
And when our earth
The mother of our soul
Slips onto a tangent
Into time lost
The nighttime sky
To mix with charred flesh
And the crimson spray of blood