Sunday, 5 November 2017

The first of my many entries for this year's Pod and Planet. The first eight are all very short fictions, entered in the 'Eight Thousand Suns in New Eden' category. This one is 451 words.

The Visit

They usher him in through the back door. It's dingy and quiet, but it avoids the spectacle. They enter after dusk, as his bodyguards prefer. A lifetime avoiding the spotlight has taught him the power of discretion.  A place like this doesn't have too many doors, what with the risks, and his staff appreciate that too. The lighting is low on the lower floors; The Crystal Boulevard this isn't. It serves, and that's enough.
A lift takes him to darkened floors above.  Less darkness here, but the shadow of death lies heavy. Pale walls leading to green doors leading to moonlight-tinted wards. A complex weaving of pale shadow and paler life surrounds the beds. He gestures, and his bodyguards retreat. They have served, have gone far enough.
He goes the final distance alone. A single nurse, used to his visits, stands, nods silently, and turns away. The room is dark, but it is not quiet. The inconsistent breathing of the wounded is a chorus of consequences, of battles won and lost. There aren't so many casualties in this modern war; like divine fire, the weapons of such gods purge every trace of their victims. The shattered bodies that rest here are those left un-raptured, luckily or unluckily. They will not wake, but that matters not: They have served, and sacrificed, and that is enough.
He takes a seat amongst them; the victims of divinity, of war. His war: the war of self-defence, of right and wrong, of good and evil. The war he commands them to fight. Around him, the darkness intensifies: the hospital has reached the darkest point of its night cycle, and within the darkness, his eyes glimmer an eldritch green. They take in the mortal frames of the resting casualties, their ranks and names, their smiling faces, the sterile machinery which envelops them, the decorations of the ships they served on, their families' flowers, the windows and, past them, the blood stained stars. He mouths ranks, names and faces, forever committed to memory: Charniz Theron, Lieutenant; Thella en Ishakan, First Mate; Palu Whaluda, Gunner. He recites them all. His brow hardens, his face darkens. One hand comes to rest against a metal cheek, as the eyes study a slowly-shifting, limbless cadaver. A deep sigh, the shoulders square. He promises himself, "I will serve, and that must be enough."
Around him, the mortals do not stir. What do they care? What can an immortal know of mortal sacrifice?
His back straight, his eyes bright, his arms ram-rods at his side, Jacus Roden stands and takes their measure. He has stood before them before, and will again.  A nod, a turn on his heel, He withdraws.
He will be back.

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