The book crackled as it burned. I never thought I’d be one to burn books, but I never thought I’d live through a siege. The night was cold and I needed to stay warm. I’m sure the book contained some gem of knowledge, maybe the life’s work of some brilliant person. Now it would keep me from freezing in this shell of a building.
I looked up through the holes in what was once an apartment building. The snow fell lightly, dropping lazily from passing clouds. In between the flurries I saw a wealth of stars I never knew hung over the city. The power was off, intentionally or otherwise, and without light pollution the celestial firmament shown down on this city veiled in wrath and tears.
I cleaned my rifle, just to be safe, even though I was a ways back from the front. I would have to venture out onto the streets later to get to my barracks and I was in no need to be caught with a jammed rifle. I whistled a Beatles song I used to like years ago when I was in highschool. I don’t know why it came to mind, but it’s haunting melody echoed off the broken concrete.
The peace of the night betrayed the savagery that was always a moment away. The enemy was one who loved psychological tricks- allow a moment of peace a bit longer than usual, then end it with a spectacularly heavy barrage. That peace, as deceptive and fleeting as it was, was to be savored.
I took off my helmet and adjusted the uniform of scraps I’d cobbled together to fend off the cold. I sighed, weary, and leaned against a wall that still stood. The city is ruined, lives ruined, but there is no recourse except to continue. An occupation would be worse, surprising that something is worse than this, but it no doubt would be.
So we all sit, cold, hungry, tired, knowing more violence will descend from the sky, but carry on if for lack of alternatives. To even imagine something else is a waste of time. It won’t put food in your belly, nor keep bullets out of your ass. When you reach a point where buring a book is just what is done without second thought, you know you’re really fucked.
I decided to try to catch one of the big, wet snowflakes on my tongue. Who knows what pollution it might be laced with, but I doubt I’ll have the luxury of it killing me in thirty years. I laughed as I moved my head, tongue hanging out, in an unsuccessful exercise.
My laughter was silenced when the first whistles of incoming shells pierced the night. From the now all too familiar sound patterns I knew every part of the city was going to be hit, no targeted attack, just a general deluge meant to demoralize the populace. One could be headed for me, but there was nothing to be done.
As the explosion reports ripped through the air and concussive waves shook the ground I hummed the Beatles song again, closing my eyes and thinking of days when all of this would have been impossible.