The Strange Land

I’ve been here before. I’d almost forgotten, but I’ve walked these streets. Back when they were streets, defined by walls and pavements and order. I’ve met these people too, back when they were people.

Is that right? Did they stop being people at some point? Did they abandon their humanity with the first echoing shots of war? What does that make them now? Enemies? I suppose it must. That’s the idea anyway. But who has such pathetic enemies? Who can claim such raw vitriol as to wage war when confronted with these things? I’ve met them as people, when these streets had order, I didn’t hate them then and now they’re not people that hasn’t changed. Has it?

Maybe they’re animals? That might make sense. I can kill animals, yet they aren’t my enemies. I can walk amongst them, free of malice, I can even like them. But still find nothing in their death. A weak argument, I know. When I walked here before, when all of this had yet to happen, I felt none of the distance I feel in a farmyard. What else can I call them though? If they’re not people and not enemies? Even if they weren’t animals before they certainly act it now. Burrowing into rubble, scavenging in the debris. Dogs do that, pigs, vultures. The people I once saw here didn’t. Proof that they’ve left while I was away. Yes, I know why. I won’t touch that thought. Call it cowardice if you will but all that’s happened is for people to know. And they aren’t people. If they don’t need to know then why should I have to?

I’ve never walked these streets before. That must be the truth. I’ve never walked among these people before. Yes. Because there are no streets here, there are no people here. Just something else, something left over.

This is from No Cure for Shell Shock, a collection of short stories and poetry. It’s available as an eBook or paperback here.

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