Just rubble, and ash. Everything’s grey.
Black meat peeling off twisted skeletons. How can these things be my family? How can I once have hugged and kissed these perversions of life?
I didn’t want to go to the memorial service this morning, but Eric dragged me along. I’ve been living in such a haze that I wasn’t entirely aware of where I was. I watched the proceedings as if they weren’t really happening to me – like it was on television. It wasn’t until they started showing the photos that I started waking up. There were people I knew, people I called friends, people I had waved to as I walked down the street.
When they showed Kat and the twins I lost it. It was like all that loss collapsed onto me at once, and I found myself on the ground, sobbing. Every time I tried to calm myself down I saw their beautiful faces and remembered what they had been turned into and the tears exploded out of me again.
Eric must have taken me to the refugee centre because I don’t remember how I got here.
Our leaders are spouting the usual rhetoric about justice. On the news screen in the refugee centre I saw Spokesman Tyle mention Kat, Chris and Salli by name as some of those who would be “avenged” by the right arm of Cirin. He wasn’t speaking to me; he was speaking to other people – people who believe that that sort of thing actually matters.
I’m seeing everything through a haze at the moment, as though I’m not entirely here.
No, no I’m not entirely here. Not any more. I often joked about Kat being my “better half”, at which point she’d smirk and roll her eyes… but I really meant it. She was the best part of me, she made me whole, and Chris and Salli were the best things I had ever done in my life. I told them I loved them, as all husbands and fathers do, but I don’t think they really knew how much they defined me. Every minute I served aboard the Respite all I thought of was how much I wanted to go planetside again, to get back to my real life.
Without them I don’t know who I am any more, I don’t know what to do. There’s nothing left.
Every day the refugee centre becomes more crowded. There were a hundred of us at first, now there must be over a thousand. During the day the hall is filled with stilted conversations and nervous laughter. The children either wail incessantly, or play chasing games between the beds, while their parents watch sadly. At night there are desperate whispers, tears and nightmares.
Eric’s been keeping close to me. He’s never been much for words, but I keep on finding food on my bed when I’m hungry.
This afternoon Bill came by. He said he saw me on the news coverage of the memorial and came to find me. Apparently the war isn’t going too well. News is scarce, but we understand that the CDF just doesn’t have enough ships at the moment to relieve Farhaven and defend the contested zone. The planetary defense force, what little remains of it at least, has been ordered to see to the needs of refugees, organise a resistance and do everything possible to make things difficult for the Republic. What we’re supposed to do against an orbital enemy is a mystery to me.
Bill said I should go back with him and join the resistance. I said there probably wouldn’t be much demand for freighter pilots in the planetary resistance, but he thinks my training in engineering may be of use.
I thanked him for the offer but said no. I think its great that Bill and people like him still have something worth fighting for, and I wish them the best of luck, but there’s nothing left for me.
Last night I went for a long walk through the city streets. I didn’t have any destination in mind; I just needed to get out of the centre for a while.
With non-essential power down, the buildings look like huge, black ghosts against the blue-green of the Biggs Cloud. I’ve never seen it quite so bright. I thought I saw a shooting star, but it might have been something more sinister.
I found myself on the Ark Bridge. I don’t know how long I stood there, watching the water raging past. Apparently the dam had been bombed the previous day and a lot of farmland had been flooded. I watched pieces of driftwood float past, black against the water, like bones.
It was where I proposed to Kat, back when we were still students. It was a planned proposal, we had already discussed marriage on the train to Uni, but Kat felt that as locations go it wasn’t romantic enough so she tasked me with proposing properly. During our mid-semester break I took her to every beautiful location in the city I could think of, but didn’t pop the question. I loved teasing her. On the last day I brought her here as the sun was setting over the river and the city lights were coming on.
Of course as soon as I presented the ring, it started to rain, but Kat insisted that we stay and do it properly. We were drenched, her hair clinging to her cheeks, but she looked as beautiful as I had ever seen her.
She said yes. We kissed. Then we ran for cover. I came down with a cold the next day, but it was worth it.
Last night I lost myself to such memories. As the night wore on I was tired and sore, leaning on the bridge railing, but I couldn’t walk away. I think I felt that walking away from the bridge would mean walking away from Kat, and I couldn’t do that.
After some time, hours I guess, it started to rain. A voice in the back of my mind told me to return to the refugee centre, that I was being stupid by standing here in the rain. I told that voice to shut up, and walked down to the riverbank where I took shelter under the bridge. I sat with my back against the stone supporting arch in almost complete blackness and listened to the rain falling on the river.
I woke as the sky started to brighten for morning. The rain had cleared but everything was gleaming wet. I stood slowly, my joints aching. The river was brown with floodwater.
As I looked across the riverbank I noticed an old woman, probably in her eighties or nineties. She was soaked, standing still like a statue, her long silver hair a tangled mess. She stared silently at the rushing water. There was a flower lying on the ground by her feet. She seemed unaware of my presence.
I walked across and stood beside her, watching the river as well. Neither of us said anything for several minutes until she spoke, her voice croaky from lack of use, “Did you lose someone too?”
I told her about Kat and the twins. She told me about her son and grand children. We remembered good times, and finally we ran out of words.
She was clearly exhausted and shivering with cold. I asked I asked where she was staying and she had no answer. Her home had been destroyed. I took her to the refugee centre.
When we returned Eric was relieved to see me. He said he had been worried that “I might have done something stupid”. Perhaps I might have, but not any more.
Bill came by again this afternoon with the same Political Officer on recruitment drive for the resistance. I stepped forward and signed up. I’m tired of being helpless under the guns of the Republic, it’s time to fight back. Not just for Kat and the Twins, not just for everyone who has died in the past three weeks, but for the future of our people. I was content to be just a freighter pilot, but the Republic has made me a soldier.