I crouched beneath the shelter of a large oak tree, covering my ears to block out the sound of anguished yells and death rattles. The tears streamed down my face and refused to cease. I rocked gently back and forth, hoping that the violence would end and the world would return to normal.|
This was war.
I wasn't sure how I had ended up here. It had all happened so fast. Maybe it was the instinct in me to tend to the wounded, or morbid curiosity. Either way, I had run mindlessly onto the field of battle, disregarding my own safety. It was a fatal error, and one I regretted the moment the first sword clashed alongside me.
I wanted to get home. Nothing more. I wanted to find refuge in the shelter of my own cottage, where I could pretend that the war that waged outside was not real. The death wasn't real. It was this panicked desperation that led me to stand and make a flying sprint out of harm's way.
Instead, I found myself directly in it. I don't remember which direction the arrow came from; just the burning sensation, like fire in my abdomen. The arrow struck deep in my side, and I came down to the earth with a crash. I could feel the sticky warmth of blood as it gushed from my side, but I couldn't see a thing...
I opened my eyes. There was no pain. There was no sensation at all. It was if I was floating outside the realm of reality. I looked down at my hands and could see they were there, but I could not feel a thing. I chanced a glance at the surrounding scenery: it was both terrifying and invigorating. I could barely find the words to describe what I saw, but it was like nothing I could have ever imagined. There were trees and clouds, but they were different. The colors were something I had never before seen, and there was an iridescent glow in the atmosphere. I knew it in my bones: I was dead.
I wanted to feel sad. To feel scared. But there was peace. A sense of calm that I had never before experienced. It was beauty incarnate. I didn't want to leave.
"It's not your time, child," a voice said to my right. I jumped, startled at the intrusion. It was a masked figure. There was something familiar about him, but I couldn't quite put my finger on it. His voice was warm, and I felt safe. An old friend? A brother? My mind was so foggy, I couldn't get a handle on my own memories.
"But I want to stay," I said, my voice a mere whisper against his. "I like it here."
He nodded. "It is beautiful, is it not? More than I could have imagined myself. But you need to go back."
"But you're here...why not me?" I pouted a little, feeling the calm separate.
"Because it's not your time yet. It was my time. We will meet again, love, I promise you." He reached out and brushed his fingers against my cheek. I smiled.
I opened my eyes to see the dark interior of a medical tent. They must have set it up for the fallen soldiers. My chest felt heavy and a stabbing pain tore at my body. But I was alive. Somehow...I had lived. And I knew I could never tell anyone the truth of my experience.
That I had met my lost friend once more...in the land of the dead.