Author: R. J. Erbacher

He stood by the running stream, knees trembling, still panting, tears stinging his eyes, exhausted, wounded and numb with shock. And although the simple clear water was marvelous it wasn’t distracting enough. The weapon he held in his hand was stained black and coated with viscera, as was most of his body. So much death.

And why? His enemy did not differ from him. Their fur was the same gray color. They had two eyes to see the daylight, two arms to hold a loved one, four legs to race across the grassy plains. Yet their origins were in the high mountain ranges; that made them a peculiarity. They had odd rituals. Used stone armaments instead of bladed ones. Their howl was a deeper bark than his clan’s yippy cries. But they were the same species on the same planet separated only by varying geography.

They had lived peacefully yet isolated for who knows how long, only spoken of in legends and tall tales. A random encounter brought them together. A meeting filled with curiosity and a warm sense of discovery. Talks, shared meals, shared experiences. Then a disastrous circumstance lead to a misunderstanding, a squabble lead to a skirmish. Then a senseless killing.

Then to war. And now the sandy fields behind him were littered with corpses, so many that you couldn’t step a hoof without sinking into entrails.

He had been led out there by the elders of the clan, handed a weapon and ordered to abolish all. He imagined the other side of the battlement had been given similar instructions. A resounding bellow and then they charged into the melee. He jabbed in close quarters, swung frantically when he could. Soon he was immersed in the furious act of destruction. Death happened in front of him and on either side of him. He was sprayed with blood – his enemy’s, his friend’s, his own. They fought for what seemed like an endless day. Until there was only a scattering of survivors on either side. They all seemed to just stop at the same time and look about and realize what they had done. Those that were left staggered aimlessly away. He wandered from the battle, past the camp and into the thickness of the foliage, oblivious to everything around him. Until he came to this spot of serenity with the river bubbling easily over the rocks and the bugs carelessly fluttering about him.

He dipped his long blade down and the flow of the water washed the offense off, then held it up and examined it. It was the only thing that was clean. And he could not understand. Why any of this had happened? Or why he’d blindly done the things he did?

Impulsively he inverted the weapon around, jammed it into the muddy bank, took one deep breath and impaled his breast on it. He watched in a grimace as the blood rapidly traced down the shaft in a running line to meet with the clear water and swirl into mixed eddies of precious fluids. For an undetermined time, he just watched the liquescent blending. Then he stepped back off the blade, pain, and relief, clomped a couple of strides over to a shady patch below an enormous shrub and collapsed. He laid his head down, staring up at the sky as the mauve colors hypnotically whirled and pondered at how such a beautiful vision could idly watch what had happened here today and not darken with clouds in shame.

Soon, the awful memories of the day coiled into the blackness of nothing.