Flash Fiction – Battlefields 1

Standing at the right angle, the early morning mist and tree limbs disguise the wires of the power-lines and the poles might be trees. The hill dips low enough to hide the road when standing closer to the line of trees. Thunder from a far-off storm that will not strike the field for another several hours, rumbles faintly like approaching cannon-fire.

A strange calm settles on the plain as longer silences separate the birds’ calls to one another. All that can be heard is the low hum of the insects hidden among the whistling grasses. The clouds become a slightly brighter shade of gray, which must mean that the sun must have risen somewhere. The pools of mist thin but remain in the air making it thick with humidity. For a few moments, the shadows at the edges of the woods appear to be moving but whatever is hiding remains just out of sight.

Beads of sweat form along the nape of the neck, crawling their way down the spine before being absorbed by that fabric of our lives and joining skin to clothing in a sticky and uncomfortable mess.

Gravel jostles in the parking lot and the slamming of car doors rattles the illusion. A last sweep of the eyes along the horizon to try to preserve the impression halts on the silhouette of a man atop his horse, forever watching the ground where his men fought and fell.

He remains alert and stoic even when the landscape becomes peppered with the bright colors of locals in their jogging outfits with their decorated canines tethered to their sides and of tourists in their mass-produced, silk-screen gift shop t-shirts, churned out in a cheap steady stream and inversely marked up for sale. Instead of trumpets and drums calling the troops into formation and urging them on, an occasional car’s horn will reach his deaf, sculpted ears. Instead of the blaze of musket fire aimed at a foe, the gaudy flash of a camera in the hands of an over-eager visitor illuminates the hollows.

At regular intervals, a group of sightseers is forced into a weak imitation of what a formation should be and their guide leads them off down the hill to confront the past. The not-so-sudden clash overhead manages to startle the distracted travellers and the steadily building barrage of water sends them seeking cover where they can.

From his perch just outside the protection of the tree line, the vigilant rider shows no weakness, no surprise, only calm as the water washes the dust from his hat, from the stone creases of his uniform, and from the finely wrought mane of his horse. The modern chatter cannot be heard through the rain beating down on the over-heated grass and the struggling leaves. The echoes of an antiquated battle roll through the hills, wrestling with the thunder and with the stone man on his stone horse intensely scrutinizing the scene.

 

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