Short Story – 4,000 Words – Title: “Faded Flowers” – Unedited – Wartime Romance – 3/30/2021


“Helpless Disposal”

Why have the clouds come together? Is the heart ever the same?

He steps. He buries a foot in the soft earth, pushing himself against the gusts that tear into his middle-aged form. “I have to return home before the earth begins to tremble at the first sign of thunder.” Yet, the droplets drop. They begin to sail on their boats down from the Heavens, as though something discarded them. Helpless droplets dropping with their momentum, freed into falling with no seeming desire to turn around.

It is spring. Wartime is upon this land, even in these German forests where peace mainly dwells. Even from the occasional rotting pig under the curtains of brambles, needing dire cremation that swine influenza did not spread, all light of tranquility kept itself secure here. Even among the sound of a gunshot for a crippled horse, no one heard ongoing artillery fire and Allied Aircraft bombardments. No one bled, perhaps except for the man, here, with his footsteps. Except for the man with burial, of mud, of small beads of sweat mixed with the rain, with his feet trampling the glowing earth.

He thinks. As though these new streams of crystal lava flows upon the earth represent rapids, pacing at the speed for which he breeds these thoughts. Wandering back in the direction to his village, a swarm of embedded wonderings enter his skull, at the frenzy in which insects can pollute this arid air. He smiles at a moment, folding the shape of his mindful meanderings into a delicate curve. Familiar to the formation of rivers rolling down his cheeks, the smile is simply miscreant.

What pushes him? Would it be better to question what pulls him? Back to his village, to offer betterment for someone, perhaps not. The smile did not allude to any thought of rightness. Torn across his lips, whipped from his mind with the crack of thunder. Brainstorming without shelter, for nothing escapes him in the road of thoughts. Not the smile, to the attention of himself.

“Is she there to reproach me? Give me the iron to my skull when all I’ve done is leave for a mere moment? All that woman comprehends is a slight tinge of grief, enough to collapse her. It is nerve-driving,” says he, until quitting his walk to the sounds of a thunderbolt. Looking up with response to the noise, the world seems to hurt him.

Now when a glimpse of facial compassion has replaced the former appearance of irritability, something catches the cloak away from the thoughts to a certain woman. Was he splashed with something more to wet his face than the rain? Something perhaps to wake his heart from its monotone timber of heartbeats against the cage of surrounding ribs? To say next, “Has the world always wept?” in the somber echoes of his lips tasting both salt of sweat mixed in fresh trickles forming with the downpour.

His eyes peer up to the arrangement of pearly-white clouds, entangled together with no way discern from which direction they connected. The rain washes his expression of blueish sadness, with streams making trails down from his eyes to the chin. As though, with this man’s question if whether the world has always wept, he has joined the circus of sobbing. As if, from his eyes to the Heavens, there’s some sense of yearning to seek insight into what angels truly know. Of those who’ve fallen, to then rise, to perhaps descend if the wings burn, this becomes his newest thought.

Contemplation soon draws itself to a close when apart from the swarm of thoughts, the hail of insects that have soon dispersed with the quickened winds, the burial of tracks now clogged with rainwater behind this man, a certain detail emerges. Upon his comprehension, despite what has been his focus as both the scenery of a thunderstorm and the thought of a woman, smoke has been sighted.

Smoke. Sighted in between the clouds. As if a painter saw fit to add story to the telling of a man and his short journey back to the village after a quick walk, by smudging the sky with a dark shade, here is smoke. A singular blackened cloud that drifts, that were it to be traced, just as this man begins to, can be followed down to the direction of his village.

“Just what is burning?” exclaims this man, in full awareness after stepping out from bathing in inner debate. “What burns? What burns?” he goes on, with a face twisted in concern.

He quickens his stride to a fast walk, then to a slow jog. At his age, being well in his late-fifties, comprehensive too of the conditions for which he allows this gait, he’ll not want to disable himself before reaching his destination. Since before him, the clearing to his village that would come into sight, will still be for a while melded over by trees, he must be aware of something. It is that this rain will extinguish whatever flames have caught the rooftops or tree branches to be ignited. However, if oil were to be what has set the blaze, then no water would extinguish the fires. Instead, water against oil would merely spread them. If this man begins to comprehend that, he would be forced to surge ahead.

To his face, so much noticeable in the tension it has adopted, the former smile has also returned. Though, its appearance has imposed a major difference. A difference, revealing this smile as a display of nervousness. His smile, now of nervousness, aligns with the circumstance for which floods against him. Even against him, and his aged body rides this newer storm.

He had pushed himself against the wind, using his form as a bull would towards what must be challenged. Now when the circumstance appears eclipsing and dire for him, he seems lulled. Even if not to understand the potential for whatever shall be sighted at the village, he is being more pulled than striving to rush against the danger.

His hair is but a wet stain of matted strands, stuck straight down his temples and beaming forehead in thinned-out clumped strands. Even if his clothes are to be wrought with mildew in the coming days, he plods this course within the wind and falling rain as though with an eagerness for discovery.

There is not conceit nor cruelty at all for the attitude of this display of slight thrill. There is not since we’d see this among all people to this age.

Late-fifties weighted off by loss of movement in limbs, oldness has conspired upon him. There is still enough to wonder on for this man, even towards the notion of something truly heinous that pertains to his headed direction. True fright lingers in these blue eyes, even if mingled over by a taste of curiosity.

Blossomed at either end of his slowing stride an arrangement of porcelain and dirtied-petaled irises, he has returned at the end of the downpour. He returns upon when the raindrops decide for the same in their maneuvers, in the turnaround and recognition of what can only be described through every shade of the night. Blackened into coal, glistening for the nearest vision by the onslaught of a thunderstorm, accompanied by the silence that sheds no amount of comfort, his village has died.

“My wife! My wife!” this man speaks, as an utterance to his grief.

Weeping now in place of the rain, something brushes through the wind that remains as a haunt. Something to be the petals of irises, carrying fragrance, leaving trilling sensations of gloom, are travelled about either in radiance or wandering color. His tears come running along with the pace to his legs, now in a full-on sprint to nowhere.

Through his mind, as it can only be from among this desolation of lives and blackened buildings, despair comes as the only written thought. Before, when the delicate pondering to himself took him from one prediction of trivial consternation to the brief debate on whether the world weeps, there is here something for truth’s sake. A true sense of curiosity is here as the necessary dosage, though while his stride shows all the signs of greater concern.

His feet take him not far before he halts. His breaths coming through shallow whispers, speaking significantly audible words to the air in this graveyard silence, “Have I forgotten?” to then pause. These contortions to his face, hurling around evidence of sheer perplexity in each gasp and heave of his lungs, is the noticeable expression of paranoia.

However, there’s another reason for this facial portrayal.

His question, depicting itself as one directed towards remembrance, is heard by no one and nothing. As though whatever occurred here, with each barn and shed and stable turned to little more than wet ash, could not even thrust a slight groan of twisted wood or frame as a response to that inquiry. It would not be as though the sounds, themselves, are completely absent. It is, however, to this man’s current level of attention that such a detail is indeed unimportant.

“Is anyone alive? Anyone?” comes the second question from this man, with the third acting only as support to its predecessor. He enters a speeding shuffle, to then a quickening jog. Motions as stiff and as weighted as the tension upon his countenance, wilting the porcelain upon his cheeks into one deathly frown.

A pounding to his heart soon comes alive into a reverb, perhaps during a second before or one after the clouds above begin to divide.


“Love by Holding Hands”

Running. A trek that will take miles to him, though is a mere rounding of a corner to sight of horror. “Will she? Will she be there? Here? Somewhere?” are the words he releases, torn off as shreds of paper at the corners of his mouth. Written in some place of his heart as the torment yearning induces, he has hurled the multiple questions forth without much for forethought. A rounding of a corner to spot something enough of a horror that it could or would gravitate his ongoing legs to their knees upon the soil.

He whispers his breaths outward, stammering in whatever speech being mumbled, leaking sadness from his eyes. With the scents of iris petals all about, exiting from brush and collection of trees both, he takes awareness to that sight.

A pile of forms. Form to what? Only to be those that take on a human shape, with limbs as tousled hair, firm of rigor mortis, bled in the dirt from repeated gunshots.

Was he the only survivor?

Then, around another corner, though this time within his mind, the first question he put forth upon his arrival returns to be appropriate, “Have I forgotten?” followed by uttering both another inquiry along with a statement of, “Would I have forgotten her face? My wife’s face, though it would not be covered in this much mud,” referencing how the corpses before him have been tossed so haphazardly in this makeshift ditch. He approaches the collection of withered figures, though with a stride comparable to a turtle. Slow in the step with the possession of fear to his features, once more weighing them to lowness.

He then questions the sight with the words no one should speak, “Is she among this?”

Stopping his pace, he unleashes a wail of whatever repressed expressions he kept as a treasure of none. Sounds of cries all among the newness in such tears that water the soil beneath him, more for the identity of a flood than the energy of the previous thunderstorm. Raindrops from his eyes, with positioning to his body as a slight forward bend, he resembles any springtime growth of flora under the pull of what would drench it.

“I have forgotten. I have forgotten her. Where would she be, among all this?” says he, through his gusting sobs. Among all this, where each human form now is lit with glistening earth upon the skin, appear only with the identification of unpainted Russian dolls. How often would the cold be felt in the German’s flesh, here now to burrow eyesight in things of the deceased so accustomed to being frigid? Cold flesh. A cold war. A stone to the heart of one whose grief is the only replacement of something that once held fire.

It is only when the flames of a former love can be extinguished that a new sensation of being burned becomes as the bereavement for what has been buried. Though, among this? What has been buried, except for the heart of this man now stomped into the mud?

“Dead. All dead. She must be the same,” and then at these words, he raises his body to walk up to the stack of corpses. He grips his hands upon the shoulder of one. A body that is shaped to the proportion of being female, with long muddied tresses in tattered curls as if once in a braid.

Chosen, at random, from the pile of limp forms, crippled together in their deaths, a single tear from the man’s left eye hits the cheek of the taken corpse. A splash perhaps envisioned in other realms to awaken her. Though, not for the sake of surprise, it does not. She is truly dead, this randomly chosen female cadaver; though, by burning sorrow and favored desperation, this man of a heart that anchors itself to a sea has brought it. Lifted it, from the pile to his arms as if cradling a sleeping child. As if walking with a sack of rotten grain, tears keep their decline from his eyes, even with the vain hope that he has selected the correct body.

From the blend of broken frames to human shapes, this man with an armful of the contents to his desperation, dry of his cheeks the burning grief, enters through the door of a ruined home. He stands there, within presence of shadows. Shades cast by collapsed rooftops that rain in the sunlight, mocking his tunneling vision that extends to nothing specific. Taunting him with senseless warmth, while only heavy ice has encased his heart.

Nothing would weigh down the selective man further, given this specific ordeal, than to the incorrect petal plucked from the collection. Faded, just as the face of this grief-stricken once-husband, of the light that bled upwards from his once-teeming heart. All his tears to be wasted at the sight upon a wrong selection could send him sailing to unknowns.

Walking with the load cradled in his arms, much to be in relation to himself motioning on with nothing. Much in relation to how this form in his arms is to the heart in his chest. Beating now for nothing. Surging crimson through the veins, with the firm whispers belonging to current absence, of one missing piece. Where can the love belong? For him, it is merely a mystery. Stockpiled as it was for many others, now grasped by him in the blind guess. With eyes closed, as though in the drive to once more fall in love without doing so. To fall in love with the limp form that never responds, more in relation this time to a statue with either marble or bronze lips. To kiss them could bring no stretch of a sigh as a response with pleasure afloat.

He lays her down. Without so much of an interest in moving forth past this limited pathway of dust and scattered debris, he lays the corpse that has been tethered to his sorrowed complexion and trembling arms. He lays her, as he would a gathering of timber for a fireplace. He lays the cold shape some distance from his feet, working himself slowly to the composure of eyeing what has been set upon this ash-coated floor.

Of a ruined building where sunlight comes in through the tree branches, then through the collapsed roof, being the replacement to the rain. As it was mentioned, the warmth merely taunts the man, here. Though, as he can already tell the dead woman before him is not his wife, he’ll cry all the same. He can tell, though confirmation is told in directness when he leans forward with a certain maneuver to the cadaver.

With his hand, he wipes away the mud from the eyes. He notices the irises. Brown.

Colored the same as the earth that coats all everywhere. The woman’s blood, the only mingling of difference in shade, being now a dried blotch upon the man’s chest, just a hue lighter than when it was spilled. From gunshots, thrice in the midsection of this woman, with another time struck through the abdomen. She perhaps was dead before collapsing to her knees in the shock of such a moment.

“I’d know. I would know it all by the shape of her, my wife,” begins this man, through a tremoring voice, swallowing gasps to not intrude upon his words. He adds, “I would. I could always tell how she looked, even from afar. Even while my eyesight began to fail, nothing would mistake me of her image. Even now as I look upon this woman before me for the blind choice it was to take her, I knew my wife to be gone. I knew. And, because I chose a corpse, at random, was for the reason I knew. A randomized choice. I selected because I knew from the start. Leaving my heart, and then I knew all I could endeavor for was the blindness of mine, during this swarming grief.”

Soon, after a moment collecting another thought, he says, “God has it for Himself to curse me, to pierce me from the back instead of the front. How else would departure feel this tormenting? How else, except for when all of me who was loved by her wilts forward?”

He’ll not fall. Even as the flower with a broken stem, he’ll not fall. Even as the man with a broken heart, he’ll not ache without spreading his pollen in a coming search.


“Love by Cleared Eyes”

How often? How often does love want to die? Perhaps it is not the love that dies, though the physical sensations of us against who we love. It would be that. It is flesh that dies, while it is always love that remains. It is while we hurt, that we remain to love. To love another, or to love remaining life near to us.

Near to us. For we fear the next departure.

We walk without looking backwards on what was buried, just as this man does. He had buried the woman he did not love, though still felt compassion for.

Someone loved that woman. Someone drew her close for an embrace, awakening her in the morning with a great many kisses. Someone loved. Though, it is now when the flesh of hers has been buried that love remains.

He remains. This man remains. He keeps himself standing upon this war-torn earth, to look.

Upon the road where memory takes him, on the same pathway he did trek when returning to see his dead village, he is keeping himself allured. He is keeping himself pulled, just as before when returning to a battered and barren collection of homes, discovering ash and fallen forms. Allured and pulled, onward towards another realm, a past one. Of other guesses and perhaps greater blindness, without much for the conclusion in wisdom’s supposed gain.

More guesses and randomized selections, though not towards the future that shall shock him. As was mentioned, he is travelling backwards, now. And, as it was mentioned, he is following a path of memories. Soaked and muddied by rain, though dried through the heat of former love. Former, as it is, trailed on the flames of great life, hidden in the soil.

From the earth, sprouts the irises. He had checked a pair, of those that belonged to the buried woman once loved to someone else. He checked them. They were brown, in color. Much like the mud. Much like what was never allowed of anything to grow.

A row of spots, crimson in their speckled hues. Dotted across that woman’s chest, though she’d not seen the bright flashes of gunfire before she was one more wilted flower. A beauty perhaps when she’d not been wasted in the grime. Now a sadness; now senseless. Needlessly crushed of her dreams to flourish to something more colorful than what of earth never raises, on its own. Brown eyes, beaming with their life, though given to the mingling of red with this shade to become rust.

All of love, among the irises, always rising. And the sun, among the showers of rain, always can keep eyes looking down to see what grows out of the ground.

He walks with a breath close to Heaven, drawn to the skies by an updraft. He is aware, though only of his pace. Stepping this time neither with the jog nor the slow and contemplative shuffle. He simply moves, middling in motion, putting his face as an arrowshot directly ahead.

His destination is one of mystery.

He’ll not talk, for with pursed lips, a sentence cannot arrive fueled enough. The expression he bares encompasses itself in the swear to silence. Strictness upon withholding the means to show even a sign that he comprehends his current whereabouts, his face expresses a necessity to not let a word free. Is it for him to be against the allowance of releasing the groping fears that have dangled over his heart as ornaments, for anyone else’s sight? For any other person to believe such a man as this would be in grief would come as just another guess.

Walking with a gait to be measured in neither quickness nor of a slow fashion, movements resemble leaves scattered by the wind. Onward in the destination of a mere guess, a decision that is blind enough to drop off unanswered questions behind. On the trail backwards, mere brokenness. With him, to his eyes, where he faces ahead, there is something warming his face, even among the tearstains.

Warming with the wind of this spring evening where droplets exit from their trickle upon skyward leaves. Yet, the metaphor of autumn is to the decay that accompanies change, from green verdure to the bitterness of felled rottenness. Warming. Within his heart, a small flame yet burns.

A candlelight. Put out by the wind at a sigh, though reignited to its bleak wick and there to spill in porcelain droplets of the wax at all sides. Candleflame, offering warmth even if through slightness. Something urges him.

Sensation. Warmness. Just as the waters ran from the sky to put out the fires that sent smoke towards the Heavens, he noticed all he contemplated. He comprehended that nothing disappears among the smoke, nor among the flames. He’ll know to his final day that only ever the smoke and flames vanish. With love for his spirit, to be allured by a moment in time when hands were held, when clear skies were to the petals of the correct iris, walking then on.

Tears are the moment. Tears are always the moment. All eyes become the hue of them, from the skies, so blue with the watery sadness that forever bleeds.

Still, to walk with a continued stride of middle-ground momentum, the earth beneath his feet becomes more wilted than himself.

All at once, a gasp.

What love? What sensation of warmness, of blue collected with red of a heart that swims, raised from the ground being to the brown of solid or drenched earth revels at a sight?

Her. Just her. Little, beautiful woman near a pond. Raking the sun closer to her heart, lifting a candlelight of his own to become a splendid bonfire. He still releases no words. He keeps his lips pursed, aiming for nothing spilled save for that gasp.

Beautiful to him, sculpted not of statue, though in pure flesh. Warm.

Of a sudden, a cold war becomes a running river of red to wet his palms in bleeding flow. Not of gunshot, nor of slashed throat, though by the simple sight of great beauty to his once-wondering gaze.

With his face turned to the wind, he can breathe.

He can quiver his lips, without shame for its expression.


“Rekindled Proposal”

“We were petals, broken from the main form, were we not?” says he, the man, to her, the woman. He then adds, “We were something altogether disconnected, even if for a moment. It had felt like an unnecessary eternity.”

“My love,” begins she, while holding eyes to the sunset before themselves. She corrects herself, with the words, “Our love,” adding at last, “It does flow. Flowing on. However, you crawled back on the river with hope upon your lips.”

He looks to her, breaking himself on each syllable to the words, “I looked for your eyes. However, I could not look up towards the blue barren clearness, nor down to the brownish earth. Instead, I sought to travel against that ‘river’ you mentioned, being the road, towards familiarity. In love, I am indeed blind. Though, I’d be further blind with only my grief, with random guesses instead of surety.”

“You had mentioned to have chosen a corpse,” says she, recalling his words not here described.

“One can only ever choose death, on purpose. I’ve loved you, always with accident,” and then, leaning forward, this man states with fragile tremors to the voice, “I could have chosen another route.”

“You’d not find me,” says she.

“Yet, I’ve always remembered how you appeared,” says he.

Autumn. Was it Autumn for this day of circumstance, or was it Spring? He looks, though does not see her. He sees what has changed.

Still on the road, pursuing hopeless guesses. Helpless wanderings. Darker proposals.

A heart in a mind, guessed to the path to take. Only the logical one.


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