Consciousness slowly flowed into Seb, like the tide over the sand flats. Nothing is there, and then you notice the waves coming closer. Eventually the water is at your feet. Seb noticed the glow long before he became aware that he was awake. Hearing and feeling, like his consciousness, faded in a bit at a time. First it was a numbness that admitted “numb” was not necessarily “nothing”. It slowly grew to cold and pain, while the slight ringing in his ear grew to a ringing roar.
In the back of the roar Seb could hear the continuing battle. He could feel the ground shake from the concussions.
“But Mother,” Seb said, “You always say things like that. You call me special, and yet every child of every mother is special. If we are all special, then none of us are.”
“Ah, but to a mother they are all special,” she said. “And you are. You, Seb, are extraordinary.”
“No, I am a nothing, a nobody, like everybody else.”
Seb thought back. He tried to understand how he ended up face down in the cold field.
They were halted in the middle of a desolate plain. Word came down that the vast enemy army was nearby. They needed to dig in, prepare to defend themselves. The soldiers grumbled, but deep inside they were both excited that they would finally end the monotony of their long march and join in the battle, and afraid, since they knew they were exposed to a much larger force.
Before anybody could move to find or create defenses, flashes were seen on the horizon. Soon the booms of the artillery fire could be heard rolling across the field. There was no place to go. Seb heard the large guns behind him return fire.
And then he heard nothing.
“No, you are an individual, you are unique, you are your own self,” his mother had said. “It’s like… like…” she looked around, as if the analogy would find her. She smiled and walk to a tree. “Each of these leaves are different. They each have their own shape, the scars of life lie on each in a unique way. No two are the same.”
“But from here they all do look the same,” Seb said. He walked to the tree and violently grabbed a leaf. “And it makes no difference to the tree if I rip one off.” He threw the crumpled leaf to the ground. “It doesn’t matter if one falls. It matters even less to the forest what happens to a single leaf. The forest doesn’t care.”
Seb’s mother shook her head. “But the tree does notice.” She touched the branch from which Seb had taken his leaf. “And this limb misses that leaf as surely as your limb,” she pointed to his arm, “would miss it if someone ripped off a finger.”
Seb tried to move, but his efforts only caused more pain. A thought crossed his mind, asking if he should just lie back and wait for the end, or struggle on until the struggle was forced from him. Should he accept it, or fight?
Seb redoubled his efforts to move one of his limbs, to even know if the limbs were still there.
“I’m sorry,” Seb said, “but I’m sure you understand I must do this. It isn’t me anymore. I have to go, special or not.”
His mother nodded her head. “I know I can’t hold on. But be careful, or at least do nothing foolish.
Exhausted, Seb stopped struggling. Internally he laughed at the remembered words of his mother. “Do nothing foolish”? He never had time to do anything, let alone anything foolish. He was taken out battle before it had really begun.
He could feel the energy ebb, flowing form his body. The sound of battle started its slow fade, even the ringing in his ear grew less. The numbness started to creep back in. He felt an impact near him which shook the ground and covered him in a shower of dirt. His mind thought about the generals in the back, drawing on their maps, not knowing or caring that a few more leaves had just fallen from the tree.
Look at the drawing at the top of the page. Do you see the torso in it? It is a man’s back. His head is bent down into his chest, so you don’t see it. His left arm is stretched out and his right hangs by the side. I was looking at the drawing and thought of this dark tale….