For Memorial Day and the Glorious 25th of May, for those who fought and died, in this world and in Discworld, the creation of Sir Terry Pratchett.
The Poppies and the Lilies
The ones who fought, the ones who died
Defending soil and freedom, home and truth,
On the barricades, snarled on barbs of no-man’s-land,
Red mist of caustic sand rupturing,
Etching man into memory,
The ones who stood, the ones who gave no ground
And those who, stumbling, died in headlong flight,
Those impaled by the hook and claw of revenge,
They scrambled across the beach, into the rubble,
Leapt from the bulwarks toward bow and blade,
Hope ripped away by turncoat and not foe,
Facing death and life, not knowing which—
Cascading into darkest light.
The poppy and the lilac bloom to silent speak again,
A task at hand, a job to do, and nothing more,
The heroes’ shades proclaim,
While round about the living still,
The scent of Remembrance remains.
He didn’t blink. He didn’t dare, because what he was seeing was impossible and he was afraid she would disappear. Dripping and shivering, he stood ankle deep in the center of the stream looking through the stone arch over which he had climbed so often as a child. All those times, he had never really looked before, even when his sister had disappeared ten years ago to the day. Now, peering back at him through a shimmering veil behind which lie what had to be another world, was a woman he would recognize at any age. He reached out towards her even as she extended her hand to him. His fingers tingled with static electricity as they approached the wavy distortion, and with a sudden flash, he vanished.
He paced, whining, the width of the stone bridge from one side to the next. Beneath him, water chuckled evilly.
He didn’t *have* to go over the bridge, which stank of Man and something worse. He could go back.
Why had he come out here? Why had he left the sanctuary of the Pack, and come to this awful bridge that stank of awful things? If he thought his Pack would have heard him, he might have lifted his muzzle to the sky and howled his fear. Would gladly have given into the shame that would come when they had to rescue him because he, a great wolf, could not cross even the most sluggish of streams without scenting it with the high stink of his fear.
Oh, whyyyy had he come here?
“You are a silly wolf, aren’t you? Come on this way. Yes, I know – you can smell the hurt. But it’s only for a second. Like pulling a prickleburr’s quill out of your nose. One, two, and done.”
*That’s* why he had come.
Because She had led him here.
And if She had crossed … well, then he could do it. She had led him on a merry chase, but she had always left more than enough of her scent – and her desire for him – to keep him coming, no matter how many twists and turns she had taken. He had come this far.
And She was there.
He scented the air, catching the woman-musk of her. Soon, the moon would rise, and they would hunt.
He felt no pain at all when he crossed that little bridge, leaving his world behind. What need had he for magic now, anyway?
She was all the magic he had ever needed.
Contractions like an army of fists punched Andrea’s uterus, and she dug her fingers into Dave’s upholstery. Three assaults ago, she’d figured out that her screams did nothing to part the red sea of brake lights stretching from one shore of the Hudson to the other.
When her child took his own foot off her internal accelerator, she pulled sweaty hair from her neck and asked Dave to at least open the window. “Can’t,” he said. “Police orders. Lock vehicles, keep windows closed. The guy’s armed and dangerous.”
“I’m gonna be armed and dangerous soon. Open the fucking window or I’m busting out of here. I am NOT having this baby in a goddamned car in the middle of the goddamned bridge.”
He cracked it a half inch. “Happy?”
“You’d rather get shot by some bank robber on the loose? Yeah. Awesome. Love you, too.”
“You’d rather sit here with the windows closed while this puddle of amniotic fluid bakes in ninety-degree heat and OUR CHILD falls out of me and onto your Yosemite Sam floor mats, which I don’t think you’ve cleaned in…forever? OWWWWW!!!!”
“How long was that?”
“Not a measurement of time.”
The whup-whup of a police chopper flew overhead. Andrea considered jumping out and flagging it down, but Dave had the goddamned childproof locks on. “I hate you.” She pressed her lips to the centimeter of space at the top of the window. “HEY! WOMAN IN LABOR HERE!”
Her plea resulted in a ruckus of shouting and honking. Then a soft tap on her door. Andrea peered over. A young, scared-looking man crouched next to the car. When their eyes met, they softened with kindness. “My sister, she had four kids,” he whispered. “I helped deliver two.” Something metallic flashed in the waistband of his jeans. “Look. This was all a big misunderstanding. If I help you…will you help me?”
“Open the door,” she told Dave.
Another contraction threatened. She dug her feet into Yosemite Sam’s face. “Open. The. Door. Now.”
The river stretched for a thousand miles, into what used to be dragon territory. Nobody had seen one of the formidably beasts for a century but the land still bled fiery, orange fumes every nightfall. Some believed this was an omen of things to come, that someday the dragons would return, born from the ashes and blood of violence and war. Superstitious fools. Nobody knew exactly why the sky was that faded reddish in that part of the world. The only thing they knew was the land was silent. Life, it appears, had abandoned those forsaken grounds and had not returned, not even when the Druids tried to muster the energy of the land.
Flashie Friday/Saturday/Sunday contribution, by me.
The compass rose points up and down Along the river’s banks, A border gurgling ‘mine’ and ‘thine’ Dividing into ranks The whole of everything and all, Joined here by hope’s stone arch A treaty-truce, a gathering, Where friend, not foe, may march. And yet, unseen by common eye, The compass rose does turn, The selfsame arch becomes the mark Where ‘dream’ and ‘real’ both yearn To mate and part and mate again As once in times of old The dreaming walked in broad daylight And real, the stories told. A door between two worlds, perhaps, A tenuous join at best. A way across for entering in May open on request.