The Woods of War – Grade 10


I am walking. Walking on a frail path, from death to life. The way is unclear, filled with twists and turns. Obstructions around every corner, a root under each footstep, snags that attack each particle of clothing. Debris is all around, as are dead bodies. I lift my foot from a face, it smiles. Staggering I whisper, I can never forget that face. The face replies; memories all drift pulled by the current of time. Move on, you have been gifted freedom accept it.

War has crippled my surroundings. Grass watered by blood and the sweat of those fearing death. The hills echoing gunshots still, though the battles fought are over. The air reeks with the musk of death, it weighs the air down, increasing its density, increasing the difficulty of breath.

And yet nature, deformed as it is, is not the most mutilated thing, those are the people. Though the incapacitated tanks scream of despair and death, no one can hear them through their tears of psychic destitution. The news of death results in languor. Destruction has been imbued into our daily lives for too long, to the point where joy is the anomaly.

I am walking away from this place, the place of destruction and hell. The place where the innocent die and the innocent kill. Though there are bodies all around, living and dead, I look at none of them. All soldiers conflate in my mind. The dead deserve sympathy and the living deserve death. One of nature’s cruel ploys, kill or be killed, die righteously or live a murderer. It is a quintessential choice, extended life and extended torment or eternal life and painful death. This fundamental choice we all have to choose… and I chose wrong.

If I die, hell is my welcome or I elect hell on earth. I can’t think. When I think, I can’t cope so don’t think. Don’t think, just walk. Don’t think, don’t think, don’t think, DON’T THINK, at least not about that.

I drop the gun, the devil’s horn, then I walk for five minutes and drop each of the sins, which I was assigned to kill with, each bullet bursts with evil. I tear the terrible medallions of war, as they are truly markers of murderers. Finally I take off the cruel cap, the final piece of that all-to-calculated uniform, that caging uniform which has the capability to strangle the soul out of anyone.

Think about the beautiful breeze, whispering in your ear. The blood is behind; the woods, is the one way forward.

The efflorescence of the forest is fascinating. The green of the grass is opulent and trees are climbing overhead encircling me, bark woven with organic intricate carvings of abstract flowing rivers. The sweet scent of blossoms, rugged shrubs, all in their place. Some trees are mighty mountains, some dainty daisies, some are crippled by gravity, who keeps them in a headlock until they fall. They then lie still and slowly, slowly are enveloped by deceased leaves and other debris, which, in turn, are enveloped until even the tree’s remains are ruined, their particles turned to dust and then, nothing.

What is left of my physical body craves sustenance. I select a tree it is tall and shapely; far south of perfect and perfect in every way. Somehow I extract some tree sap from it. Sickly sweet to the point where I squint; both the tree and the sap are severely flawed; they are themselves, organic and true and for that reason I respect them an infinity more that I do myself.

I see a gap in the trees ahead, I feel I have become agoraphobic. Have I returned to civilization? Have they returned to me? Then I hear a wisp of a sound. Faintly, I hear a distilled sound, drips and drops; trilling trickles. It must be a brook, a stream; the felicity thereof has always been obvious to me, but you must always be careful, for it is a ripple at the core of a tsunami.

I duck under a mass wall of leaves which I can see no further from. I am encased by leaves, in a circular formation.

My hands still sticky from the sap, I run them steadily over the shell of a giant weeping willow. It feels wise, the deep folded wrinkles of time are engraved in the bark. I step towards the other side of the tree trunk when I note that the trickling is no longer in the distance. It is almost beneath my feet.

There it is the brook, water streaming slowly by; shining the rocks as it goes. The stones standing firm, guiding the water along its path, whilst the pebbles take on new lands with the water as their companion. I rest my bare feet therein. The water washing away blood, dirt and sweat; washing away a past life to which I will not return.

After a century or a second I step up to the challenge of life. I lift my hand and raise the thin branches sheathed in leaves to reveal…