Author : Joshua Reynolds
VETERAN OF THE [CLASSIFIED] WARS
I/We are/am the last survivor. Hodge-podge helter-skelter jigsaw man/men/woman/women. I/We am/are not sure there’s anything left of me/us. I/We sit in this red, red room, alone with my/our thoughts. All of them. Swirling, stirring, whirling, whirring hummingbird thoughts of a thousand colors sparking and splashing. I/We are a brain in a bag of meat and bone, burned and battered, frail and dead. Wounds are all I’m/we’re made of. Machines keep me/us breathing. You want me/us alive. I/We am/are the last you see. The last of the atom babies.
I/We made sure of that.
I/We had to. It was the only way to win the War.
Eagle fights Bear. Hammer and Sickle fights Stars and Stripes. These and a thousand other implements ranged against each other in the mushroom’s shadow. Minds expand and unfold, blossoming like nuclear flowers and then they are clipped and caged, uprooted and replanted. The atom bomb gathers dust. The atom babies go to war. I/We fought for God/Queen/Country/Fatherland/the State/Uncle Sam…brains blazing like comets, neurons straining against neurons, minds clashing in the emptiness between seconds. Every minute a battlefield, every hour a campaign. Hooked into barracks like cattle, I/we fought without seeing, without hearing. I/We fought in our heads. Again and again and again. Cattle straining against cattle in the dark car, pushing but not moving.
The world rolled on but I/we was/were unaware. Little wars started and ended and I/we still fought. Because you commanded us to. Never ending. Minds were nearly snuffed as atom baby bodies-always weak, always sick-failed, but those white-hot corona minds could swim into others, making them stronger. Bigger. Better. And you saw and you smiled and you thought the stalemate was ended as they killed bodies and forced scattered minds to go, to funnel into one meat sack. A big, bad ballistic atom baby mind.
But the others did the same. And others after them.Until only a few were left, a few blazing brains where before there had been thousands. You consented to sublimate your atom babies to others, for the Big Push. Thousands to hundreds, hundreds to dozens, dozens to several, several became…
Only two. Two minds pushing and pulling. Two minds that cracked the sky and boiled the oceans, two minds full of thousands. Two minds. One failed.
I/We were the last. Wasn’t/Weren’t I/we? Or was/were I/we the first? Was this meat I/we wear the first or the last? Alpha or omega?
I/We can’t remember, really.
There’s only me/us now.
You want to know where I/we all went. Where the rest went…after. That’s why you keep us alive, now that the War is done. But I/we/us are all in here. Together again for the first/last time.
I/We are all on the same side now.
And it’s not yours.