Wordcount: 384 words
Rating/Warnings/Genre: PG-13, Death, Historical Fantasy
Summary: Oh, Danny boy, the pipes, the pipes are calling.
War was a bloody, muddy hell that we’d all lived in far longer than sanity allowed. One man screaming for his mother as he died entangled in the roar of gunfire and the whistle of motors, just a single note in a much larger song.
Until it suddenly wasn’t.
“Oh, child,” said the woman who walked out of nothingness to join the dying man. “Has it come to this already?”
Hair as black as night and skin as pale as death, enrobed in mists she was as unnatural as she was human and the contradiction ached along our bones. The war had frozen around her– we had frozen, immobile but aware, all save for one.
“It hurts!” He reached for her, desperate.
“I told you it would,” she knelt beside him, embracing the remnants of her son and wiping his bloody, tear-stained face. “I told you being mortal was a mistake.”
“Take it back, I don’t want it anymore, I want to go home!”
“I can’t,” she said and she gathered the sobbing man into her lap as if he weighed nothing more than a child. “You made a bad bargain, my love, but it was a bargain.”
“I just want to go home.”
“I know, I know.” She kissed his head and held him close, singing lullabies so full of love and loss it burnt like coals into our memories, those notes not meant for mortal ears.
The whole world waited while he died.
When it was over and the battlefield was still and silent, she stood and carried him back into the nothingness she’d stepped from.
The war continued as if it had never paused and we continued because what else could we do? We never spoke about it because it hadn’t happened– because it couldn’t have happened, but after that, we’d always hear the screams.
Those few of us who survived the long bloody years that followed, gathered now and then on that unmarked hillside to not talk about the things we hadn’t seen. We’d raise a glass and swap stories of life, families, work– the normal boring mundanity of the ‘happily ever after’ that so many never got to see.
Because maybe she could hear us, somehow, and take comfort in the fact that sometimes the bad bargains ended well.
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