A Reason to Fight
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A Reason To Fight
Outside of what was left of the city, they discovered the great brick house, hidden in a thick grove of walnut trees. The grass was so high in the yard around it that the blades had fallen over into brown clumps beneath their weight.
They assumed the house was abandoned, a prime target for a hiatus from the tedious routine of marching and standing for reveille three times daily to identify stragglers. Since the young lieutenant was away tending to another small matter, they drifted closer and found themselves in an alternative world of silence and loneliness.
The war had not touched the house with slugs or shells. Rather, an invisible icy hand had peeled paint away and wilted flowers, leaving a dead flavor to it, as if it were somehow like one of the thousands of soldier corpses left on the battlefield unburied to slowly rot away.
They walked right up to the porchвЂ™s entrance and started to push open the oak door. Someone inside, however, plucked it open first.
“What do you want?”
A withered, lazy, old woman stared at them blankly.
“What do you want?” she said again, more irritably.
Chris stepped across the threshold and brushed her aside. The darkened hallway smelled of cinnamon and wool, a combination that made him think of mummies. He reasoned that the kitchen would probably be near the back of the house, so he started that direction, careful not to trip over any hidden obstacles.
“Theres nothing back there,” the old woman protested, pulling at his sleeve.
Chris ripped his arm away and ignored her. There was a yellow light further along that contained the promise of something hidden.
“The only food I have is out in the cellar,” she said, her voice cracking, something dying in it.
Chris pushed a door open and discovered the kitchen, a bright room filled with hanging pots, a long bare table, and a cavernous stone fireplace which didnt appear to have been used in a great deal of time.
He also discovered a remarkable woman standing in the corner beside a large cupboard, poised as if about to climb inside. She was frozen in a moment of unbridled fear, though Chris could see immediately that she was unusually beautiful, like a rare flower on the cusp of blooming.
He stopped to study her and found that all thoughts and desires for food had evaporated into the silence. It had been months since he had seen anything that could awaken his instincts and have him realize beauty in life. In fact, he had been at home, with his daughter, when the last such surge occurred.
Now he looked at her sun colored dress, which made her velvet hair look like a flowery disk surrounded by daisy petals, and he realized that it was absurd to ignore it. He moved several steps closer and she still remained as motionless as a statue, though definitely warm and alive.
“What are you doing?” Chris asked her softly.
“Leave her alone!” the old woman said, appearing behind him suddenly with clenched fists and black marble eyes.
“Get her out of here,” Chris said, and the other soldiers complied, the door shutting behind them as they left. Chris moved another step closer.
“What are you doing?” he asked again.
She still refused to look at him, though he could see movement now; her slender hands trembling and her lips mouthing attempts at some kind of speech.
“Im just looking after my grandmother,” she said suddenly.
Chris snorted. “It looks the other way around to me.”