I'm not heading back. So just watch the path.
Christ david, you can't even imagine going home.
Watch the path.
Just Watch the path. Alright.
The rifles shuddered against them as they would match in the blurs of men and woman on their path. The sky would ache grey rain and the snowy mud raised onto boots rising or falling. Each of them were ants and they scurried on two legs and polluted the snow with rags of breath and footprints that could sink knees. Watch them twitch and itch as if hands could stiffen onto rifles and hunt the enemy in the trees.
The woman called david would sythe the legs from her hips through the blue coldness of it. The pair of them cut through the snow as riots of hair lay under the helmet she wore. And below that she wore frowns and below that her face would be loud and grieving.
I know you don't want to go back. I knew since the ash-ford incident. Sherry is never going to see you Dave. She's never going to see you. You can't even imagine it anymore.
Watch the path.
I'm watching the path david. I'm watching it. We've always been watching it.
The speaker had torn grey iron on his scalp. It hung in short strands and a strange stillness was present in them. One hand was left at the strap of his rifle and the other was left at the stem of his service pistol, his fingers splayed Across the hatched surface patiently. And his queer stillness didn't leave his walk for he walked as if following game to kill and his body would be ready to raise itself and smite the game he followed. Compared to david he was taller and older and like others in their battalion he had jawbones and teeth from the infected he killed and placed upon his shoulders or would be hung across the neck of him.
This isn't like the first days David. Or the days when we left for the expedition. It's the damned days. Each day more damned than the last because the ash wasn't wood or paper or petrol.
What was the ash Phil.
Contrary to popular belief she is not weary when the words come from her. There is an energy in her voice when these words would spill from her. her stare would be across her side and tumbled into Phil.
You know the ash was skin and eyes and those other things with Latin names that constitute unarmed uninvolved people.
We did it Phil. We did it and now we've reached the south of that place. That kind of past is receding now Phil, there is less and less of infected in the plains and the world is moving. You're going to forget it. It's receding and drifting away from us.
All at once each one of the armed people's slowed their pace and let those behind stack into them while the rags of their breath collected and formed heavy rising wisps. The armour to the front and left of the column would Whisper with their engines as they slowed to the town. Hungry for the promise of the town some of them would laugh or weep quietly, while others would not leave that place that holds soldiers and would stand with their anger pointing to it.
The army surges into a town far south of Ashfield, and each soldier would trample spring snow into the black Tarmac. The armour would drift in first with skulls plated on the back of it and their tracked treads churning itself across the road. Their guns are matted into blackness but it shines on the snow and each operator stands from inside the hatch with binoculars on their hips and notches of kills wrote in spitter acid.
Afterwards the horses and after that the infantry. The Amy compresses itself into those spaces as the town swallowed them.
They call you david
Yes. They call me david
Because I killed Goliath
Yes I killed a tank and I'm a Jew so they called me david
Unorthodox name for a woman
That's the other reason they like it
I bet they do. What was your real name
The administrator sits with his face cleaned and open. His eyes were reddened and exposed awkwardly. The stench of suicide and doubt hangs on him.
What is your name ma'am
I took the oath
Ah. You choose to forget your name.
The same as half the army here.
It's for the better isn't it david
Yes , it's for the better isn't it. It's all for the better. I bet we feel better
Is there a problem David
No there is no problem
The administrator's chalky fingers and powdery breath. It would load and collapse feebly with each of the questions that slid off from his check list to the mouth. Paper forms would be bought before her and when she gave the right answers he stamped them with ink and folded them into envelopes stacked into cabinets. afterwards he would place his left hand on his breast as if his heart could leak out between his ribcage. In front of him a thousand soldiers formed a line toward his desk and each of them as fell and fierce as the woman he processed.
Your clear to pass enjoy your stay in grainsville.
You mean cure-town
I mean grainsville sergeant. It's this place's official name.
Enjoy your stay ma'am.
She reached the clearing behind the building while birds of vast sizes wheeled above in swathes of screeching. Then above the birds the sky would be a blindness in white and wind and vapour trails. Then above the sky planes flew in a endless ring in heaven.
She would move through the crowd and align herself to Phil. He was toying with the mandibles of a witch, his palm teasing the dried blood from the bleached stretch of bone. It was twisted in twine, with him calling it the lucky one since he killed the witch with a shard through its eye. Long ago he laughs and jokes of this.
Birds are big here David
Because their fat.
Oh yes. Their All fat here
What are you getting at
Their all fat here. I've got something to show you david.
He folds himself upwards into a walk. Briskly he gestures to david and she follows dourly. The lucky one hangs on twine to knock back against the the jacket and beads of teeth form a necklace which slopes forward from the neck.
So if your not going back. If you're not going back you can stay here with the garrison. It rotates every six months. But good work here as a freelancer. More loot. No one telling to not shoot things. We need no telling
You're right, you're right.
Alright we're here
A figure was hunched in snow and arms came out under it to grab handfuls of white. Around the figure five from the army held rifles and clubs and would lift the heavy ends of what they held and bring it down till the figure would weep. The five of them lifts it from the ground and have its arms held high while the rest of it droops and heaves. The figure held breathes lightly while the pain clings to it.
The five beaters
glare at david and Phil while david brings her fist balled, then runs five paces, then brings the fist to what the five held. And the punch was fell enough to bring a choking gasp from the figure so the soldiers laugh.
She stands smiling and the soldiers join here till they stare at what they hold in the centre of them. The figure wears a hoody with bandages across its eyes and Phil drags his hands down it, he feels breasts and brings a knee to her ribs while the laughter empties from his lungs.
A hunter. Oh a hunter. A hunter. A lady hunter. We used to call you lovers. You'd have to get close to them you see. You get close and take their ears with something. Do you want to see. Do you want me to take care of an ear.
Hunter chews on the blood in her mouth. The redness leaks as she finds words to call them. She calls them what they are and they laugh. One of the soldiers holding her brings their head high till it escapes the caged jacket they wore. His face is dour and when he laughs they are more bad impersonations of laughter. The veteran's scars vary from burns to stabs to gauges on the the pink from his neck to the collar. His mouth opens.
Is that what we are. You think that's what we are. We ain't no walking sickness. We are not fuckers. We're death. You can call us that because we killed all the hunters in the fires of Montreal. We found you with bullets and when you scattered we found you with bayonets and when you found us when we were sleeping we found you with our hands. And we took all of you in piles, dead, alive, dying we took you all in piles and laid you out on those streets like rituals. We took the fire to whole buildings and threw all of you in. See that's the joy of it because the soldiers who are masterful can take you alive. And when we did we chanted till the hill rung with your burning and our voices. Can you see it. The red over hills and the rising voices. Sometimes we drank and we would dance like Indians while we took your cooked bones and made vests from them. Some of the men and women would take you in dark places. You'd like that. You'd like us to take you to the dark. Come on.
In a silence that was worse than the laughter David took out her knife and the silent soldiers held hunter like a ritual. I'm a prayer thought david. I'm a prayer and this blood will be the icon of it and death would be the God of all things. And the bones and the ears and the teeth will be what God gives me.
A woman would raise her voice. She's 40 feet from them and held a book to her chest to hide herself behind it.
I'm sorry to bother you but I need to take her off your hands. My goodness what did you do to these soldiers hunter for them to this.
The woman has brown hair and plain dress around her limbs. Her face would be framed around the glasses perched to her face. An ingenue from the old days. Her voice fragments and squeaks. Like a mouse.
I'm with the civil administration.
The civil administration.
The ritual is released and hunter falls from their arms. The knife is lifted and held by David's scabbard. The collective of soldiers look to another then another. They hold the rifles tighter and frown.
Yes civil administration. We've been keeping the peace.
Keeping the peace.
Yeah. Yes that's what we do. Keep the peace.
Keeping the peace.
Yup that's us. Keeping the peace. We all do it ha. We keep the laws up to date on at least a state level. Can't be doing anything illegal. You know.
State. The state. Illegal. Things are illegal again.
Well we're leaving now. Keep up the good work. Ha. Okay. Goodbye now. Bye.
Hunter and mousy take steps from the crowd and only feel stares. The space widens into a distance that lessens the soldiers eyes. The soldiers would stand still and depleted with the hands off rifles and hanging to sides. The human flesh and bones they wore became unexplored landscapes their fingers tried to find a way out of. They mutter the words peace and law and illegal. If there was anything to remember with those words they had forgotten it. Home. Home is the crucial part and its missing. The words are strangers and it stays with them while mousy and hunter pale and stretch across the snow and to their eyes would be eaten by the whiteness.
Hunter and mousy look back and the soldiers are lost.