Muffled sounds of explosions and bullets echoed, at times, from the mountains to the north. My side had stopped bleeding and now a coagulated mass of dark, cracked blood had dried on my skin, crinkling with every step I took. I didn’t think the injury was too serious. My left arm had also bled somewhat from the bite marks of John’s skull. He had exploded, and his skinless skull had struck me with its mouth agape. It seemed like he had bitten me. You could say he bit me, only unintentionally and after death. Is it okay to talk about the actions of the bodies of dead people as if the original inhabiting soul had made the decision to act in some specific way?
The suns were high in the sky. In the distance, plumes of hot air contorted and contracted reality behind it. Through the warped visions of the endless desert before me, I caught a glimpse of a shining object. I walked towards it. There was no telling how far away it was, or how near, through the lens of heat. I took a step and then another, and so it was that my brain instructed my legs to flee. My throat was dry, my feet tired, and my arm pulsed with pain from John’s old bite. John’s unintentional bite. The bite I received from John as his head flew through the air at me. The tooth marks on my arm that came from John’s old head. They came from his old head. He was no longer in it, but it had been his not long before. The marks on my arm from the teeth on the head that had previously belonged to John made my arm pulse. Yes. I think that’s it. That may be the way to say. John was no longer there, but the teeth that previously belonged to him struck me, and bit me, and his old head splattered me with blood and paste from his old brain as well. John’s old brain. The one he had had before exploding, and which he had used to make decisions and talk. The very same brain that had previously been John’s, and who had been mostly John, and which had warned me to get down. I got down, but John’s brain, and John himself, mostly, did not. So the tooth marks on my arm remain, but the brain paste and the blood I have washed off. My own brain, the one who remained and was mostly me, instructed my feet, still, to walk. Another step and then another, through the warped curtains of heat from the midday suns.
In the sky, the twin stars shone upon me and the land, and sweat dripped down my face and arms and back, stinging the hundred or so tiny wounds. It stung the most on my side, where the blood was coagulated and dry and crinkled as I stepped on the barren dirt. I missed home, but it was far out of reach. I missed home. The shining object in the distance seemed farther away than before. Squinting my eyes helped only in alleviating a drowsiness that had been growing in me, so I squinted my eyes, pretending I was doing it to judge the distance to the shiny thing. I judged. It’s still quite a way, I thought. It still seems like it’s going to be quite a long walk. But the drowsiness, though alleviated, began to take me. Is it near now? I asked. Is it almost here, by my feet, shining its shine between my toes? Is it there? I asked, but I was no longer looking. My eyes were closed, and my feet were stepping up and down on the same spot, and before I could discern whether or not my brain was deceiving me, the owner of it, I dropped to the ground, and like a man who’s never killed another living thing, a man whose friends’ teeth have never exploded, I slept, peacefully.
I woke up later, during the dark hours of midnight, when both suns hid beyond the horizon. The sky was dense with clouds, and behind me, the muffled sounds of death continued. With the heat gone, the shiny object I had seen and which seemed so far away became clear. There, in the middle of the nothingness through which I had been walking, a house stood. My side pulsed now, and the tooth marks itched. I stood up, and in the veil of darkness and the cold, I walked the rest of the way. A man saw me as I approached and waved.
“Are you okay?”
The man walked into the house, leaving me outside in the cold. I didn’t know the culture. Perhaps it was customary to run away after such short conversations, and perhaps I ought to have done the same, but in truth, I felt abandoned. Was he not also human? Was there on that rock no sense of brotherhood or humanity? But before I gathered the energy to curse at the winds of my predicament, the man reappeared, this time with two women and a boy.
“Sorry.” I said, though I had not yet cursed at anything or anyone. Still, the guilt of my thoughts and ignorance swelled inside me and brought about the word. The guilt of John’s death, too. I was sorry. I was.
The man spoke in a language I could not understand, but human communication never was wholly spoken. Through the intonations and the actions of the people of that shiny house, I understood they were to help me, and I let myself be helped. I had wanted help for two or three days by then, and so, when they dragged me into the house and cut up my clothes and useless armor, I let them. I let myself. A suspicion arose within me, for a moment, that they would steal from me what I was wearing to sell it in some black market and leave me naked to fry in the light and the heat of the twin suns. I found it, only moments later, to be both ridiculous and acceptable. I had fled the battlefield and terrible death. If I were to die below the suns, then it would be okay, for I would not have died on the battlefield where indeed my nightmares from years past had come to be realized.
The night was long. I dreamed of many things. Most of all, I dreamed of John. His eyes bulging out of his skull, and his bloody skull biting me as it talked. “John”, the skull said, as if talking to itself, “come back.”