An O is an immortal entity made of pure oxygen. You can tell they are around when the air becomes clearer and the wind whispers with tiny voices you can’t quite make out. Strike a match. Start a fire. Loan them the energy to speak.
The day they took my father away was bright. The clouds hadn’t yet crested over the distant mountain range, nor had the traders come in for the spring festival, carting forth rare treasures from the distant port towns.
He didn’t say a word when they arrived. Just bowed his head, slumped slightly, and slid out the door. They took him in, just like they took in all of the other men. Women too.
Mom had been taken last spring. The road stretched far off into the horizon, ornamented with coral and only broken by the spreaded hooves of the hooved cats they stood upon.
I could still smell them long after I lingered in the door frame, staring off into the distance.
He hadn’t said a word or put up a fight. He just left. He saw his number and left.
Jeril, the boy next door, wasn’t so lucky. He stood in the doorframe, an eye squeezed shut, and blood running down his chin. His good eye caught mine, and he turned away.
Not a word.
The village was silent when I walked out. Not yet an adult, but not a child. My tongue stuck to the roof of my mouth. Something angry in my stride. Something defiant, wrathful.
The war raged on towards the north, where the end lay hiding in the shadow of the ridges, and distant whispers of it drifted by.
Through the village I crept. A few children cradled wounds and injuries. Not a whimper from their faces. They just watched me walk by. They knew their place.
I didn’t know mine, not anymore. The babbling of the stream knew silence. The birds sang no songs when I slid over to the forest. Step by step. Wind touching my skin, running across the edge of my shirt.
It whispered. The single solitary thing left behind that made noise. They’d taken Mother. They’d taken Father.
They’d left us behind to make sure everything got done. Another village disappearing into the night. More fodder for the front lines. A necessary sacrifice.
the matches left behind in my jacket pocket reminded me that I’d had an uncle once, before he had drifted away to fight in the end of all things, where the gnashing mouth of the void fed piece meal against the death and life, where it touched freely against souls and came about with nothing at all, where memory could be lost and rendered, where time ceased.
I’d seen him once more, and his eyes were gone, stuck fixated on the future where he knew the end.
the wind whispered.
I struck a match. Gods were gone.
Fuck it, might as well try something greater.
The forest roared, and the O smiled and granted my wish for an end.