Author: David Covington

Thousands had died, cities devastated, but the war was not real until that day. It had been fought at a distance with drones and missiles. None of the fighters ever saw the others. Weapons were fired and the results of the firings were seen: in real-time, through a camera lens, over radio waves, on monitors hundreds of miles away.

The initial military engagements had been indecisive. Drones were built in the hundreds of thousands. They flew, crawled, and swam their way towards the enemies. They blasted each other into expensive pieces on countless battlefields. The generals moved their pieces with complete abandon, throwing great masses of machinery at each other, hoping to wear down their enemy’s pocketbooks.

When the fighting did not stop other means were taken. Drones slipped across borders, up rivers, along canyons; they struck bunkers, airfields, roads, bridges, power station, factories, dams, government halls, town halls, county courts, assembly halls. The list goes on.

Still, the bombs and rockets fell. Yet both sides kept calm and carried on, despite the mounting deaths and the devastation to their lives. The war became real in one sudden violent second. A general had been killed. Hundreds of commanders, pilots, mechanics, and even generals had died in targeted strikes on both sides. Their hiding places had been sniffed out by satellites or drones or through cyberspace and a missile or bomb had been duly dispatched with the expectation that this one strike would turn the tide. Nothing had changed in those strikes, but this was different. The general had been giving an announcement on social media. That was how these things were done now, everyone was connected to everywhere. Even the generals had to maintain a public presence to ensure that the public was reassured that the war was going as planned. War-watching was a growing past-time for the people huddled in their bomb-shelters. The general was speaking on the significance of some territory that was being fought over by the bold drone operators and fearless machines of their glorious nation.

The sudden flash of a knife. A scream. The blood.

A knife; bright and polished. One of the oldest pieces of machinery, the first manufactured tool.

The suddenness of it, the surprise, the shock of the viewers.

The blood speckled on the assassin’s face, a face frozen in a look of determined, visceral rage. That look on their face, of an enemy’s face, that is what made the war real.