This short story was originally published on richardholliday.co.uk on August 4th 2014.
Just Keep Running
by Richard Holliday
The sound of raindrops fell like shells, exploding many times each seconds into little clouds of water. Displaced. Thrown asunder.
The puddles in the concrete city were just the same as those on the mud-soaked battlefield. A boot came down, caked in dirty water.
A battle took place in his mind but he just kept running. Every gasp for breath could be his last. Death was an unknown spectre that could strike anytime and from around any corner. From unexpected angles and in the shape of red-hot shards of metal, death was everywhere. Descending all around like a gruesome cloud.
He’d seen men die. That sat with him – a fact of the situation. Men seemed so expendable in the machine of war. Countless lives ended without thought or consideration to the consciousness behind them, and in the most horrific ways thought unimaginable. Hot lead and artillery proved an inhumane end. This was industrial death and manufactured killing. Human ingenuity led to human destruction.
Four years had passed, evaporating the optimism of that time. The picnic had begun with his closest friends heading to new shores in search of glory. Instead they found horrors on an unimaginable scale. There was no duty to be found mixed with the blood, dirt and chlorine of harsh reality. The words of optimism and honour were haunted remnants of the ideals they once stood for, now alone like obelisks in the battlefield of his mind.
This had ceased to be Earth. The beauty had gone from its very existence.
Opening his eyes and looking into the gaze of street lamps, motor cars and a thousand shuffling bodies in post-battle life, he realised he’d swapped one battlefield for another. To him this illusion was grotesque.
Had they all forgotten?
He just kept on running toward the low-hanging fog in the distance, unsure if it was an illusion of his mind or real. Whichever it was became irrelevant – it signalled what was next.
© Richard Holliday, 2014