The result of all these civil wars was complete destruction.
Maybe we should have taken a hint from all those wars we fought “over there” and the footage came back showing entire cities now only towering, shattered icons that stood in piles of rubble.
Yet this one woman stayed there. This was her new home, she repeated stubbornly. She wasn’t leaving. Even though it meant eventual death.
If the warring armies didn’t come back to fight again, bombing the remains to gravel, she’d eventually just waste away.
But that was the way she wanted it. She at least could remember how all this used to be.
When it still was a “land of the brave, home of the free.”
The Mystery of Meri – New Fiction Writing by S. H. Marpel
“I can’t take you closer than this. She’s ahead, over that hill.”
I looked at the rugged set of rocks, with almost no soil on it. Trees were just skeletons if they still stood. Plants were brown stalks where they peeked out of cracks toward always-overcast sky.
I looked at Tess, her strawberry blond hair streaming in the muggy wind. All her tessies flying around her without regard for the weather. “Can I ask you why you can’t introduce me?”
“All my time-space jumping irritates her. Reminds her of other times, I imagine. Better times, I hope.”
She looked down at the bundle I was carrying. “Sleeping roll, water jug. That’s smart. You might be here awhile.”
“Not hoping to. This is a strange one. Ben had nothing on her – other than some avatar-stories. Meaning she isn’t a usual ghost I started saving back when I was getting started. Too bad Jude and Sal aren’t here to help.”
“I’ve checked it out. You’ll be safe. She’s harmless. Other than just trying to waste away out here. Of course, that’s a problem for immortals. No matter how much you wish – you just wake up the next morning all over again.”
“Really bad ‘Groundhog Day’.”
Tess just shrugged. She got the joke, but it didn’t cheer her up any.
“OK, Tess. I’ve got my little amulet, so I’ll call if I need anything. Of course, Ben and my gals will be tracking me, anyway.”
Her glum face wasn’t typical. “‘Your gals.’ I bet that will make you Mr. Popular when this job is over.”
“I’m used to the ribbing. I’d get it, anyway. Look – why don’t you shift over to Hami’s and talk it over with Jean? He’s seen a lot worse than this one. And meanwhile, her burgers and fries will cheer you up. Have a chocolate shake on me – I hope to wrap this up, but like you pointed out. This bedroll might have to do for a while.”
She came over and hugged me. And tried to give me a comforting smile.
Then her tessies buzzed around her and she shimmered out of view.
And shoved the bedroll around to my back with its string across my shoulder. Swishing the water around in the stainless water jug wasn’t encouraging. A few day’s supply wasn’t in there.
Meaning it was over to me, now.
There was a thin trail up that rocky hillside. Between the bomb craters and rubble piles…
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