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A few hours had passed now since the bombs dropped. The once-green trees were dusted in a yellow film that continued on to the ground and over every hill and bump. The majority of these bumps were bodies: those unfortunate souls who were in the vicinity. Some of them were Matias' own countrymen, others were the invaders. The invaders own generals dropped bombs on their heads, regardless of the loss of their own forces. This was a war of attrition. The smell of the chemicals still lay in the air as Matias walked by. He hummed a drifting kind of song, one with a steady beat, pops of energy, and a haunting melody resonating above it all, to force the scent away from him. He sang the same song every time he walked this forest after a bombing, which lately, was far too often. After each bombing, both sides would avoid the area for weeks, while the invaders boasted about their supposed victory. After months, the wind would carry away the scent and sight and time itself would carry away the memory, so the atrocity could happen all over again. The first time it happened, after Matias finally emerged from his tears, he set up air containers around the woods for soldiers caught in the blast. The containers were made from canvas and kept the poisonous yellow dust out. Inside, they held clean, breathable air. Today, a man had found one of them. However, he had already inhaled a large amount of the dust. His hands clasped the tube that led to clean air, but his eyes were closed and his skin burned red. Even above the chemical smell, Matias could smell the acidic flesh. He detoured towards the man. As he came nearer, he saw the insignia of the invaders sewn onto a patch of what remained of the man's destroyed uniform. Without a moment's hesitation, Matias knelt near the man and put his fingers against his neck. There was a pulse, but his breathing was shallow and eratic. Matias leaned in close to the man's ear and started to sing. It was loud, energetic, and seemingly random. If anyone had heard it, they would not have been able to replicate the alternation of sharp notes and heavy pounding beats even if given their whole life to try. The bass of his voice went lower until it became a hum, unrecognizable as a human voice, and Matias' body shook with the effort of producing it. When he finished the song, the soldier's breathing steadied but it was still light. Matias dragged the man over his shoulder with a strength that was incongruous with his lithe frame, and walked to his home. He lived in a respectable shack, deep in the forest. Technically he still lived in land controlled by his countrymen, but he was so close to the border that the closest town was that of the invaders. In Matias' spare room, on a cot quite low to the ground, his patient woke up. The man looked around in a daze as his brain tried to recover from the yellow dust. On the wall he saw pictures of men in the uniform of his enemy. The thin white sheets wrapped around his body tucked him in tightly so that he could barely move, and he tore at them and tried to sit up. Almost immediately he started to choke, couldn't breath, and was forced to lay down again. Matias sat in his study room, and could hear the man struggling. As he came into the room, he saw the fear in the man's eyes: they darted back and forth as he looked for an escape route, his options limited by the pain in his body and his shortness of breath. Matias looked away from the man casually. He started to sing a light tune, with a consistent high beat. Lower notes emerged occasionally throughout the song and, as he finished, the man sat up in his bed, calm, and rapturously listening. Matias pulled a wooden chair up beside the bed, and asked the man his name.
"Everyone calls me Gen. It's short for Generic. I guess my parents couldn't decide by the time I came out, and chose the first humorous thing that came to mind." Gen laughed weakly, interrupted by his own coughing.
"Nice to meet you, Gen. My name is Matias. I found you, unconscious, slumped at one of my air containers, so I brought you here." Gen took a moment to study Matias. He had to figure out if he was telling the truth; his life depended on it. The man who saved him was tall. He only fit into the chair with awkward slouching and slanting of his body. The top of his head was bald, but thick hair on the side of his cheeks curled into the shapes of quarter notes. A moustache and beard wrapped around his mouth. Together with a patch of hair just beneath his lip, the hair on his face formed a fermata. Despite an odd fascination with music, Matias did not seem dangerous, and Gen relaxed his guard. Slightly.
"Why would you rescue me? You must've seen the sign on my uniform. The pictures in your cabin, the style of the building... You're obviously with the enemy, you should've killed me. Or maybe you're still going to!" Gen jumped from his bed, the realization hitting him only as he spoke it out loud. Matias interrupted the man's renewed frantic search for an escape with a few words.
"The only time I fight is for freedom. See, you believe in your government, but I believe in myself. They're calling it a class war, but I call it greed." He paused for a moment and let the words grow their own meaning in Gen's heart, then continued.
"For as long as I can remember, there have been wars. The only time I fight, however, is when it is against the war itself. I don't choose one side or the other; I choose the side of humanity." Gen couldn't pin down exactly what changed, or when, but as he spoke, Gen felt holes in his body fill up. There was less pain in his body but the feeling was greater than that. It was like the animosity he had always carried was lifted up and thrown away. He had one last shred of anger, one last dagger, to throw at Matias.
"When you save people like me, you're only making it so I can fight. I can cause more destruction!" he shouted.
"I don't believe that, and neither do you." Matias said calmly. Cowed, Gen lowered his head into his hands. Matias rubbed the top of his head to comfort him like he would a small child.
"How do you keep going? You say there have always been wars... and the best you can do is save a few of the enemy's soldiers?"
"Humans are stupid. They will always be stupid and thus there will always be wars. But humankind is also ingenious. We have created art, and dance, and music. In between the wars there are times of peace, and prosperity in the greatest sense of the word. It's those times where I humbly believe I have a strong effect on humanity, where we all have your best effect." The man simply nodded, but Matias knew he understood.
"By the way, you should be fully healed by now, you're free to go. In fact, you always have been."
I am currently working on my writing career, and as part of that, I'm re-writing a lot of my old works to bring them up to my own professional standard. The text here is the newer version of a story I wrote, with details below. This version doesn't have song lyrics to it anymore, so I can't be sued, yay! It also has more of a coherent storyline overall, as well as a much more understandable ending. Enjoy!


***original***
This piece wasdone for a good friend of mine, a fellow choir member, for a secret santa gift-giving thing we do each year. There are a list of a bunch of questions, and I tried to incorporate as many of his answers as possible, as well as a lot of his favourite music, into a cohesive piece, and I think it turned out really well!
******
As always, comments/critiques are very welcomed and enjoyed, as well as favouriting :)
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December 10, 2010
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