Sulfur and Stars

Finn struggled to lunge one boot in front of the other; his heels slipped on the smooth shards of obsidian that surrounded him.  Sweat trickled down the sides his forehead, tickling his cheeks.  In front of him, at the end of a charcoal black tunnel, glistening with reflections, was a bright wound into the open universe.  Below him, he could hear the discharge of muskets as they spit freedom and oppression at one another.  He heard the cries of men, the sobs, and the fire that caused them.  He heard the commanders, riding on their speckled grey steeds, yelling at their underlings to not forfeit the day.  But it all seemed so distant.  Finn was climbing away from the maelstrom, through a bleeding gash, a wound in the world he knew, to a place of stars, a place where the angels ponder the ways of crafting the universe, to the place of gods.

He crawled out of the tunnel’s gaping entrance onto a moon.  His red coat had been tattered, scraped by the climb, and he could feel the chill of space permeate through the tears.  He looked around in astonishment, it was if he had landed right among the stars to which he looked so often during his childhood.  He could remember the cold nights in the country, the crackling fire in his family’s log cabin.  The memories brought back pain.  He looked down to his chest and guts and saw that there was blood, it floated and shone in the deep pit of space, it took its own journey as if saying, “Farewell, old body, I’m moving to the heavens to be with god now.”  He continued to walk across the surface of the moon; it became cold, and when the cold became almost unbearable he found a light in the distance.  He decided that it was his only chance to survive this new hell.

As he limped across the jagged landscape of the moon, his thoughts turned to the battle below, to his comrades.  There was blood on his mind, the blood of boys.  He remembered firing his musket, getting down on one knee as he reloaded it.  The seconds seemed like minutes.  With each moment he could hear lead whistling by his face and manhood, each whistle causing his stomach to somersault back and forth.  He remembered firing his weapon, his comrades firing theirs.  The smell of gunpowder consumed his senses, numbing his fingers and his mind.  There was a pale white smoke around him and out of the cloud, he heard a man on a speckled horse yell, “Bayonets men!”  He stumbled to grab the sheathed dagger from his belt.  He heard the crackle of shots, the whistling of death as it passed him by, and then the men around him fell.  Friends.  They fell and they were replaced with more men.  More friends.  His stomach overtook him, the contents spewed all over his musket and his hands.  The flint and pan had been soaked.  It didn’t matter to him, he knew he wouldn’t fire it again.  Then out of the plume of smoke in front, he heard the cries of demons.  The demons leaped out of the unknown and charged with pitchforks and kitchen knives, hunting rifles and dogs.

He approached the light on the moon.  As he crawled over a ridge and slid down a rocky slope, the light became clear.  It was a cabin, a home to some silvery creatures which called the barren moon their home.  He saw a small creature playing among the rocks in front of the cabin, his eyes filled with the joy and curiosity of youth.  He stared up at the stars and named them and placed the rocks in small formations at his feet, mapping the universe.  As he watched, the small creature’s father appeared from another ridge in the distance.  He wobbled and fell and spilled a vile green liquid from a bottle clutched tightly in his hand.  As he approached his son, he smiled a crooked, tattered smile.  His son smiled back and ran up to him squeezing his leg.  “Where have you been father?” His father smelled of sulfur.  The wobbly man let out a long wheezing cough and tapped his son’s head lightly, “I must make plans son…” he slurred, “there’s a resistance, and believe it or not, they are going to make me king.  You do…do you even know where I was today? I was on the sun!  I’ve been working all day, and all I get is questions when I get home.”  The small silver skinned boy’s father just wobbled towards their cabin.  The boy looked in through the window to the yard and saw his mother cleaning, working hard.  Finn walked closer to the cabin and the boy ignored his presence.  He looked through the window at the boy’s mother.  Her silver skin was dirty, covered in stains.  Her clothing was tattered and she had deep and heavy marks under her eyes.  “She looks tired.” He said to the boy.  “Yes.  Mother works hard to keep the cabin in good order.  She cooks and cleans and teaches me mathematics and reading.  She also grows our food and buys the things we need to live.”  But the boy did not look at Finn.  His face grew solemn as his father violently pushed the door open and entered the cabin.  Finn heard a cry in the distance.  He heard a man, who sounded like just a boy, yell and screech like banshee. And he recognized the sounds as his own.  His mind traveled back to the battle.

He remembered the blood.  It covered his eyes and mouth.  He tasted the parts of another man’s mind and experiences and wisdom, as it lay spewed on his face, pieces of that mind in his mouth.  He looked over to find a headless corpse, its poise removed by a cannonball.  Only a bloodied white wig lay on the floor.  He looked down at his torso and saw holes, red and yellow, some pouring out blood, some little rays of light.  He looked behind him and heard the demons charging past, slaughtering all that stood in their way yelling, “For freedom! For Liberty!”  Finn grabbed his musket, covered in slime and liquids of his stomach and stumbled forward.  Warm blood soaked his legs and crept slowly towards his feet.  He couldn’t tell if he was warm from blood or urine.  The smell of sulfur returned, it covered even the stench of the corpses.  He walked forward, tripping on the bodies of friends.  More Friends.  Then he found, at the edge of the battlefield, an obsidian tunnel.  He did not know where it led, but he crawled into it and began ascending its steep walls towards the heavens.  He heard a loud crushing noise.

It was a wooden cupboard in the cabin, on the moon.  Its smooth mahogany had been crushed by the body of a slender sliver woman, worn and exhausted.  The boy’s father had thrown her against the kitchen cabinetry, smashing it, obliterating it, turning it into small slivers of wood.  The boy cried as he stared into the cabin.  His blue tears fell to the ground, and black rotten leaves grew from the puddles.  “Freedom! You don’t think it’s important that I’m working all day so you can sit around and do fuck all!” he man yelled.  His mind was made ruin by his pleasures.  The man groped the woman and threw her all over the house until every piece of furniture turned to sawdust.  The boy looked up at Finn.  “He’s joined that rebel army you know.  Fighting for freedom and peace you know.  He’s joined that man with the long blue coat though I’ve never seen him.  They drink sulfur all day until they can’t walk straight….swear they’re going to make the world better.”  Finn looked down at the boy, stared into his blue eyes, pulsing with tears, with agony.  The boy’s voice quivered through the tears, “I’ll fight them one day you know…. I’ll kill them for what they did to my father.  They are just savages.”

But Finn smiled a solemn thing.  “Young boy, they are not the monsters, the sulfur is not the monster.  Your Father is not the monster.”  The boy only cried and ran away towards the steep rocky slopes in the distance.  Finn fell through the stars and back to the battlefield.  He looked past the cloud of death around him, he heard past the screams and groans of men and boys.  He smelled past god, the universe, and hell.  He grumbled dying words, “Not wine, I don’t smell wine.  I smell cherry pie.  Sweet cherries like mom used to make.”  He felt a pan of sharpness in his heart and warm blood trickle down his ribs.  He looked to the grey sky and suddenly, he saw stars.