Remember those 200-words-at-a-time writing challenges over the past few weeks? Well, what I didn’t mention was that for each piece I wrote, I actually continued and wove into a fuller story. Here is the longer, completed version of The Veteran.
Feedback always appreciated.
Lying nude in the middle of this cotton field, I sense things differently than I have in sometime. I’m cold. It’s the first time I’ve felt cold since she died. The air flows over my body like ice cold water from a stream. Somewhere in the back of my mind, I can’t help but to hope that I die in this field. I’m, however, smart enough to know that’s not going to happen.
Nothing has felt the same since they killed Adrianna. Every day I roam from city to city, hoping beyond hope that someone will recognize who I am and decide to take my life away. It never happens. Every now and then someone will recognize who I am, but usually they are too frightened to do anything about it.
I don’t blame them. I did some very nasty things at the end of the last war. Several countries banned me from entrance. I, however, did what I needed to do to make sure that the war ended. I did what I was paid for. Little did I know that the immortality they offered as payment would be spent in exile, trying to come up with ways to bring back Adrianna.
I lay there vaguely enjoying the sensation of feeling again after having been numb for so long. I was pondering my next move – I’d heard a rumour of a woman in a nearby village who might be able to help me – when I heard voices calling in the still morning air.
I moved quickly, careful not to disturb the cotton in my haste, on to my front bringing my knees up under me so I could spring up quickly if I needed to. As I did so my hand darted to the pile of clothes by my side and the slender yet deadly blade concealed beneath.
As the voices moved closer I sought the quiet place in my mind,the place where I could leave my self behind. I needed to disengage my emotions, to leave my humanity behind and find the monster within.
I had hoped to be able to leave that part of myself behind but it seemed I would have to hold onto it, for now.
I stood slowly, aware of my nudity and how it would affect my seekers, and held my blade out ready for whatever was thrown at me. Every sense on high alert.
“Over here. We’ve found her,” a voice called.
The morning sun filters through a ragged line of trees to my left, laying bands of apricot light across the field of cotton, and the cold morning air feels charged with the energy of a million lodestones.
About fifty yards to my right another voice takes up the call, and then another, transmitting across a line of a dozen men who wade slowly through the thorny sea. Some cradle their rifles, others walk stockade-style with their arms hanging loosely over the ends of the weapons slung across their shoulders.
I keep the knife handle tucked into my palm so that the blade rests against the length of my forearm and conceals it from view. I want to cover myself but reaching for my clothes right now isn’t a good idea.
When the men are within ten yards they stop and form a half-circle around me.
“Put down the knife.” A tall, flinty man with grey hair steps forward.
“And if I don’t?” I’m ready to spring. To see blood. To feel the pulpous give of fat and muscle.
“Then you’ll never see Adrianna again.” His smile parts the thin lips enough to reveal a pair of sharp, white canines and my blood turns to ice once again.
“Put it down,” the man commands, “or I’ll tell ’em to really let your pretty little girl have it this time.”
I place the knife on the ground.
“Kick it over here.”
“I’ll cut my foot,” I say, my voice even. “Aren’t antibiotics getting pretty expensive these days?”
“Christ,” the leader mutters. He gestures to a younger man nearby – a kid, really – who darts out from the circle and grabs the knife. I see beads of sweat glisten on his forehead, and he purposefully avoids my eyes.
Good – I need fear; perhaps it will be catching.
“Well, go on,” I say. They put a bag over my head but do not let me dress. I walk naked through the field. There is a slice against my bare skin and a trickle of warm blood. The sound of rotating blades approaches and a dart punctures my neck. I swat at it like it is an annoying gnat.
“Told you it wouldn’t work!” A voice cries out.
“She’s immortal, not invulnerable,” their leader says. “Triple it.”
When I wake, Adrianna is beside me.
Glass shatters. The building shakes. I can hear other people now, and they scream along with me. Things and people break because of me. I feel wrath, and I will not hold back, I will not restrain myself, I will not give into the myth of control, because next to me is Adrianna and she should be in terrible pain from what is happening. She should be in terrible pain because of me.
Adrianna lies still, her dark eyes unblinking. Her skin is pale ash, and when I touch her cheek I feel the coldness seep into me. It cuts through the fury and numbs me.
It was the hope that did it. Hope lifted me, made me think there was a chance.
“It’s the only way we knew we could get you there,” a voice crackles through a speaker. It must be the leader.
“Where am I?” I ask. “Why aren’t you here, too?”
“Isn’t it obvious?”
I feel it: the creeping quiet, the unfortunate serenity. Everyone in this building is dead except for me.
“It’s best you don’t know exactly what facility you’re in,” the voice continues, “but we’ll be there soon. Leave the room, take a right to the stairs, and keep going up until you see sunlight. We’ll be there.”
“I don’t want to leave her,” my voice shakes with the admission.
“I’m going to give you the only good reason you should,” the leader says. “It’s vengeance. Make the nations who did this to her – to you – pay for it.”
I do not speak. I do not move. An hour passes and I hear the echo of footsteps and the crunch of broken glass. Someone came for me.
The leader opens the door. He has my clothes and knife. He leaves them on the floor, along with a phone.
“The number’s programmed in, if you change your mind.”
I nod. I will call them, join them, and exact my revenge. But first, I have to resurrect Adrianna.