I wretched violently, leaning against the counter I had been using as cover. I could not control the panicked spasms that overtook my body. My sense of reality began to fold in upon itself, creating a box that separated me from the world outside. Now the screaming and gunfire and explosions were only background noise, muffled by the walls of my introspective prison. I leaned over and vomited upon the blood soaked floor. I had killed them. I had killed all of them. Dozens charged through that door. Now only pulp remained. Shards of broken armour laid across the floor, a giant puzzle left forgotten. My eyes rapidly danced over my masterpiece, rolling across the whole of the small, war-torn room. The tiny concrete space seemed to never end. Gore splattered the walls, bodies drawn into fetal positions laid over every centimeter. Limbs were discarded randomly about, torn stomachs spilled innards across the floor. So many were dead. How could I have done this? How could I have unflinchingly murdered so many? How could I have run away from my only home, to take on a life like this? How could I have destroyed that home, destroyed it along with every single one of my memories, and every tiny evidence of a life that I may have had before?
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I was sore.
Despite my recently acquired wounds, my malnourished bodily state, the searing pain from the stitches in my shoulder, and my general discomfort with the situation at hand, Colonel Wilde had immediately passed me on to training.
Training was grueling. I had spent the entire afternoon at a station learning the function of assorted weapons and gadgets, and how to perfectly prime, construct, care for, and occasionally defuse each. But this was not even the worst of it. During the monotony of training on several occasions, I was subjected to spontaneous masquerades of emergency situations, along with my fellow trainees. The most recent drill was the most terrible for certain, I had somehow ended up underneath the feet of several other initiates. I was abandoned, left dazed and bruised, but I was not alone for long. As the training area filled with a stinging poison gas, a hulking gas-masked “attacker” appeared without warning, ripped me up to my feet, and a struggle ensued. If it hadn’t been for the initiate that had scrambled directly into our conflict and bewildered the monster of a man assaulting me, I may not have slipped away.
My knowledge of the weapons seemed to please the drill sergeant enough to allow me to pass on to the next station: target practice. I was excited by the possibility of something I might enjoy, and had just reached the armoury when it happened. Nearby, an explosion rang out, nearly tearing me from my feet. The concussive force of the blast rattled me to the very core, sending vibrations echoing down my limbs.
This was no drill.
On his back, the world seemed different. The sky was grey, blank, stagnant. It blanketed him with a deceptive peace. It made the world seem nearly quiet, nearly at ease. The peaks of flat, stone buildings put the grey stained sky within a grey frame, and his sight was bound within the prism of earth, edifice, and celestial sphere. His focus was not upon the heavens, though, but rather on a product of human conception.
Daniel stared up at the colossal stone man, standing mere meters from his head. A magnificent craft, he towered hundreds of feet high, a solid stone figure, boldly standing in the middle of the bloodied square. His arms were extended out into the air, as if he was inviting the juxtapositional stone building into a bear hug of titanic proportions. He was a bearded man, with a stony look in his eyes and a hood drawn over his head. His cloak was of the same stone that formed his body. In fact, his whole being was of a monotone stone, smooth and grey.
And there he stood, back straight, very tall, arms extended, still as ever. His sad expression cast over the tiring city, a city weary of ceaseless fighting. Continue reading