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Letter to E
We call our field commander Luna, perhaps because she is insane.
This is a work of fiction. It takes place in 1840 outside of Hînceşti, Moldova. Or perhaps in 2040, near Prestonsburg, Kentucky. Either way, we are all characters in the story.
How are you, my dear friend? Things have been so distant between us that time appears to have stopped. Perhaps this is characteristic of human conflict, but the toll is higher than mere statistics can report. Since we last spoke, the enemy (who, as you know, I will not name) has retreated, if only for a moment. Their rear guard crumbled to the ravages of our rangy fighters, whose leader gives no quarter despite not having reached the brink of full womanhood. How one so young assumes such weight is a mystery, but she seems born to it. I fear where she is taking us.
We have begun calling our field commander Luna, perhaps because she is insane. Does any twenty three year old enjoy killing as much as she does? There is blood under her nails. How it got there is said to involve ghastly and unspeakable acts. As you are fragile and sensitive, I will spare you the rumors which I fear are more truth than costume.
Her troops are motley and charcoal faced, some missing fingers, others whistling when they talk. But these poorly troopers are the dam holding back the waters of impending oblivion, that much we know for certain. I pray they hold the ragged line until help arrives, if such an intervention is possible.
The enemy has taken to dressing in white, ostensibly to project a sense of purity and righteousness. But there is nothing righteous about them; their orders are to exterminate us, plain and simple. What God would countenance such vengeance upon a people? Their deity must be a lonely and frustrated soul to allow such an unfolding. The idea of the heavens harboring such a beast troubles me greatly.
So we fear an extinction that seems inevitable at times, despite the recent skirmishes that have brought us a welcomed respite. Where does it end? How much blood will run before the rains come?
Something strange has happened to our water supply, which has always been the life force of our existence. There are days when the water smells of sulphur and others when its scent is that of honeysuckle. We lead the dogs to drink and watch carefully for signs of illness or pain but have noted nothing of value. Think of me when you next refresh yourself. Water must not become something we take for granted.
Some have taken to prayer as a full-time occupation, determined to sway the Creator’s tendencies; but such effort appears little more than grim soliloquies. Let them mutter their invocations, perhaps the God they suffer to believe in will turn his ear in our favor. How much tribulation does He require of us before granting a touch of salvation? Such thoughts are blasphemy, this is true. But I speak of what I know in my bones.
The Bishop arrived three days ago and has begun what can only be described as a wholesale exorcism. Whether he has any faith in what he is doing is beyond me, but no one can belittle his ferocious tenacity. If you could see him in his golden robe and puppet hat, waving his arms at the clouds as he intones the liturgy of expunging the spirits, you of all people, would laugh until your ribs ached. The man’s use of the ancient tongue is enough to scare the children half to death and I fear for their febrile dreams. But many are convinced that the forces of evil sense his power and begin to retrace their steps, releasing us from the forces of war and its attending calamities. As you can imagine, yours truly is not among the wooly sheep and their incessant hallelujahs. But a touch of theatrical fervor is a sort of welcomed interlude.
You always urged me to develop my drawing skills, which we both know are nil. Had I indulged you on that count, as I did on so many others, I would gladly send illustrations of the state of affairs here. I might yet attempt to portray the Bishop, if only for a splash of humor, which we are in dire need of at present.
You must use your imagination, which is richly fecund, and picture for yourself the village, its shutters closed against the future. The fields appear half-tended as so many are in marching order behind our pimple-faced heroine, their mouths fed by scavenging the fruits of the earth, not to mention what the enemy leaves beside their dead.
I dare admit to vague rumors of cannibalism, but cannot, will not, verify such atrocity. Is there some invisible switch in our makeup that turns us into monsters? I leave the answer to fend for itself, having no temperament for such thoughts. And I spare you the stories of violation that our women report. I fear our enemy is spreading its seed among us, bequeathing a legacy which cannot be erased by the mere passing of time. To see such an act would lead my heart to murderous intentions, despite my veneer of civility. We all have our limits; mine may be more elastic than I previously believed possible.
You will recall Caleb and Philomena? I am the lucky godparent to their two year old daughter who has the radiance of a marigold. As the skirmishes ensue, I find myself tending to Caleb’s brood while he trades bullets with the other side. And I confess in strictest confidence that my heart is drawn to Philomena. There have been occasions in the waning light of evening when I am sure she looks at me in an appraising way, summing me up, perhaps as a surrogate should her man fall to the sinister effects of war. I see you snicker even from here, but her gaze caresses my face in a tactile sense, leaving an impression upon
my skin even as I retire to my home alone. Should I repent of such thoughts? I think as long as we are in the grips of what may be our grand finale, I shall allow my feelings to run their course. What harm can it do now? That our attraction could be considered scandalous bothers me not at twig.
I long to see you, as you must know. The burdens of this life conspire to split us asunder, a torturous and petty punishment for crimes we have not committed nor even understand. I keep a picture of you on my dresser, reminding me of days I am sure were heaven sent, time stretching into an infinity that cannot be betrayed. The smell of your hair, your eyes the purest amethyst, your laughter ringing in my ears like the most glorious songs of the flickering stars. How could such an energy be annihilated in the blink of an eye, casting us into the cruel whims of a fate we do not deserve? Such things are beyond my capability to reason. Perhaps I am simply too poor in faith of endure such bereavement.
I must go, the sound of the evening bell calls us to our duties. It is with a heavy heart that I bid you adieu and hope you understand the sadness with which I write. Your reply is already my utmost concern; let it not be delayed. Please be well and know I am there for you, if only in spirit.
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Ned Mudd resides in Alabama where he engages in interspecies communication, rock collecting, and frequent cloud watching. He is the author of The Adventures of Dink and DVD (a space age comedy). Some of Ned’s best friends are raccoons.