August 14, 2020

A Dream of Waking in the Afterglow

posted on: Thursday March 18, 2010

Bobby Bretz ’12 / Portfolio Staff

The sky wore a sickly virescent hue these days. The boy woke early, as usual, and staring out the window at the vomit-green horizon he allowed his thoughts to wander before returning to the routine anticipation of breakfast and the day’s work. He was most fortunate, they had said. His parents, both of them, had succumbed to the sickness and died slowly before his eyes. His father went first. On her last day, his mother held him in her arms with what little energy she yet retained, without a single utterance, until she too passed with an apologetic tear and a protracted exhalation.For a short time there was peaceful anarchy. He lived unmolested by all things living—though of these there was a scarcity—on what various rations he could procure. A patrol eventually found him in the backyard, digging the grave. He had been at it a few days, but the hard autumn earth and the mangled roots beneath the shattered oak tree were a hindrance to progress. The excavation was nearly done when they found him. The bodies were staged nearby, achromatic and heavy, bearer and begetter. Eagerly and gratefully they seemed to await internment, emancipation from the cold and from the inevitable rats. His good health impressed them—he was most fortunate, they said. When the request was put to them, they promised to see his last chore to fruition. They burned the bodies to save time, and took him away from there.He met men who asked him stupidly if he was a good boy, and he said yes, he was. This pleased the men and they promised he would not be sent to a place of strenuous physical labor. They promised clerical work—nice and easy. The next morning he awoke upon the rusty cot that would become so familiar, the one upon which he now lay.

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