Author: Julian Miles, Staff Writer

The wind up here is gentle, bringing the smell of summer fields from the uplands. Below my bloodied feet the valley stretches from side to side as far as I can see, so wide I can only just make out the verdant walls that line the far side.
This precipice, I’ve always loved it. From standing with my face defiantly turned into the winter wind, to lying beside my first love with the stars of a spring night scattered above, I’ve always come up here when emotions exceed words.
The fires in the valley are dying. By tomorrow morning, they’ll be able walk in numbed awe between the wrecks, looking for relatives and seeking to rescue or to grant mercy. It’s been a bitter eight days and the crimes committed have no witnesses left to raise challenge totems in search of justice.
Justice. Both sides claimed to possess it. If actions speak louder than words, then what I’ve just walked from proves neither side cares about justice or even decency. We went in like berserkers, mood gougers driving us on, no thoughts of right or mercy amidst the induced pain and anger. Pain to make us blame, anger to make us fight, blame to keep us fighting. Mannequins of hate, driven by false emotions to do evil in the name of what others define as good.
When the gouging beams stopped, I wiped the blood from my eyes and beheld what we had wrought. It’s not something I’m convinced I can live with.
“Bitter blade, driven deep by hands serving that which the soul cannot countenance.”
Hesti’s voice is hoarse but soft, nought but an echo of innocence lost.
She slumps down by me, resting her head on my shoulder. I twitch from a different pain as the arm she would have draped across my other shoulder doesn’t land. That arm she left somewhere below, along with our kith and kin.
“Strive back, back from the dark that spills like blood upon this trammelled field.”
She studied poetry as her elective at the college: that quiet building, like a library where the books are delivered directly to mind, a holy font of limitless knowledge. Now revealed as a tainted fountain where conditioning arrives unrecognised among the pulses of enlightenment.
“Let go the fires that bind thee, take solace in the rising of the sun.”
I might see another dawn, now that she’s here. Had she not come, I would finally have taken the glorious dive from this place that has haunted my dreams since the first night I settled in my bed after coming down from this vantage point.
“Seek not the forgiveness of oblivion, for no blame accrues to a weapon.”
Her lips gently kiss my cheek, then she turns her face so I can feel the warmth of the tears that course down her face. That is the release, the cue for my tears to join hers.
“That we were unwitting blades drawn at last from dreaming sheaths is clear.”
I will not die. A challenge totem needs to be raised. A great totem to tell of this infamy.
“In knowing this cruel fate, we will not fall in shame. There is a tomorrow.”
She turns so she can place her remaining hand upon my blistered cheek, turning my head so she can rest her brow against mine.
“There is always tomorrow.”
We will see this night through.