Johnny-Come-Home – A Fragment of a Decaying World

Johnny-Come-Home

A Fragment of a Decaying World.

 

Marfin stood next to the statue which had, against all possible reason, survived the DecayWind.  The township it had once dominated the skyline of, had not.

Every building was reduced to rubble, splinters of wood and stone dust were all that remained and yet the statue had survived.

 

Marfin felt the tear rolling slowly down his cheek, an unbidden expression of emotion he had not meant to display. Carefully his lifted the recycling tube to his face and sucked the precious liquid into it.  Sweat and tears sustained him now, but he couldn’t last much longer on them.  As efficient as his recycling suit was, he still lost a percentage of his waste every day.  One more week and the loss would outstrip what he had left and Marfin would be just another husk in the desert.

 

Belmarnia had been his hope for an extension of life.  A township he had passed through many times over the years.  It had always seemed so secure, so safe. The decay never seemed to touch it.

Now it was gone, destroyed and the people scattered or smashed by the devastating winds of the storm.  The only thing to mark their existence was the statue which none of them could bear to look at.

A reminder of what the people of Belmarnia had always thought would be their darkest day.  Marfin knew the story, of course.  Every visitor had enquired and gotten a version of it.  Only those who asked time and again to different people could hope to piece the best possible version of it together.

 

It dated from some time just after the Finnser Wars.  The battles which had wrought so much damage to the world that people had thought it was going to end.  How ironic then that a marker of that dark time would survive what truly was the end of the world.

Marfin laughed as he struck a match against the base and looked up into the sad eyes of the woman as he lit his cigarro.

So many young men had marched out of their homes to be fitted with bulky suits and huge weapons they barely understood.  Only to fight an opposition that was as piss in their pants scared as they were.

Firing weapons that did more damage to the planet than it ever managed to do to their enemies.  The anti-pulse shields both had were so good that the beams would reflect and scorch whole swathes of earth.  Devastation followed devastation with no advantage to either side.

Then came the move to more primitive tactics, the rebirth of the blademasters, whose metal weapons could cut through the shields because they were not energy.

Blood and burning and death on a scale not seen since before the joining of the first Union.

All ending when the five warring sides came to realise that they were too evenly matched to ever find a decisive win without leaving themselves nothing to gain by their victory.

Instead of a great peace, there was an embarrassed petering out as the Union returned to its previous state, but with less land to grow food or house the refugees that war created.

 

The men that had survived returned home.  Some seemed normal apart from the sudden tears, some returned broken completely, in body or mind.  Many of them did not return at all.

One image summed up the futility of those wars and it had been taken in Belmarnia as their soldier sons returned home.  One woman had searched through all of those that slowly marched into town, receiving the grateful salutes of their friends and neighbours with barely concealed contempt and rage on their faces.  She searched and searched until it was clear that her son was not among them.

Then she had raced to the edge of the town, back along the route the returning soldiers had taken and looked out into the open fields, hoping to see her son.  There was nothing there for her, no hope, no returning hero.

She fell to her knees and reached out, pleading and begging with the Universe to give him back to her.  Her eyes, despairing and staring were the starkest image of how cruel the war had been.

 

Which meant the image became a hot property and made the photographer a very rich woman.  Posters of this woman and her misery were syndicated across the planet.  Tourists came from everywhere to see the town and began to hound her, wanting some of her emotion for themselves.

The poor woman, broken by the loss of her only son, her only family, was hounded for months until she killed herself with a knife in the centre of the town; right where the statue stood.

The photographer had felt some form of guilt, as did many of those who had come to see the woman.  Funds poured into the town for a memorial and of course, only one thing would do.

So they made a statue of the mother at her most vulnerable, on her knees, reaching out for a son that would never come home, despair etched into her metal eyes to last forever.

 

Marfin looked up at the woman for the last time “Ma’am, I’m truly sorry for what they did to you.  I’ll let you rest now, won’t be no-one else coming to claim some of your grief from now on.”

He pulled up his facemask and walked away, disgusted with the statue one last time.  Of all the things to call it, of all the words that could have gone on the plaque at its base, they had chosen the last words she had been screaming as she looked out for her son.  The words she had been crying as she slit her throat in the centre of town, so broken by her loss and the emotional vampirism of those who came to see her.

Marfin was glad he would never again set eyes on Johnny-Come-Home.

 

 

 

© Robert Spalding 2012

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