I was a replica of my father and his father and his father’s father. And from me came a village. Close-knit and formidable.
I only have memories of my younger days. I remember racing through the grooves and valleys of the land. I would look up and for miles and miles the walls of the valleys would stretch with no end. My grandfather told me countless stories of what lies beyond the valley and what was waiting for us at the top.
My grandfather was larger than life. His charisma and personality were magnetic, drawing those around him closer than close. He always traveled in a pack, and I had never seen him with less than 20 other villagers surrounding him. They traveled through the valleys fearlessly. They knocked down the walls of the valley throughout the night and burrowed themselves in the makeshift holes during the day. These shelters made for good cover from the enemy, the men in white.
One day, my grandfather and I took the East valley rather than the West on our way home.
He was excited because we had a village that was nearly ready to activate our plan and wage war against the men in white. So, although the East was filled with the enemy, he didn’t mind taking the risk. By this time, our village had knocked down enough of the valley’s walls to make a small town rather than many small burrows separated by more walls. In our town, we prepared for the war that would take us to the top of the land and free us from the hand of the enemy. For months, villagers disappeared daily without a trace. But, the enemy couldn’t stop us from growing at exponential rates and forming bonds that were inseparable.
I stood shoulder to shoulder with my grandfather when we heard an unfamiliar sound. It was a steady streaming of liquid, but the thickness of the fluid created a soundless splash.
“Wait here” my grandfather said as he handed me the bags and scaled the walls to see what was lying beyond the turn of the valley.
The men in white were peculiar and evil so who knew what they were creating. The smell burned the inside of my nose and made my head spin. I heard his beating footsteps before I saw him. A look of despair and defeat ran across his face. It was unfitting for who he was. He yanked my arm, and my feet began to move at a pace I didn’t think possible. My legs gave out from underneath me as we reached the gates of the town. He kept moving.
Later that evening, my grandfather stood with hunched shoulders behind the podium, gripping its sides. “This plan was set to activate a few months from now, but I’m afraid we will have to move tonight.” Gasp and hysterical cries rippled through the crowd weighing down heavier on my grandfather’s shoulders. “Soldiers, you will leave your families and meet at the gates of the village at 04:00. You will not be a millisecond late as we are moving on borrowed time.” He turned his head and left the stage.
How did this happen? I slept through my alarm. I looked at my watch as I ran through the thickness of the night, 04:03. Surely, I would see him at the gates. He wouldn’t leave me. I arrived 10 minutes later, breathless and alone. They were moving fast and out of sight, but luckily, I knew the route they were taking and a faster way to get there. I hiked up the walls of the valley, hoping to reach the first checkpoint with just enough time to fall in line. It was 05:22 and I sat on the wet land waiting for them to arrive, they were late. I walked down the route they were supposed to be coming up when it hit me. First, it was the smell; stronger than our first encounter. My head spun the path in front of me and I crashed into the wet walls of the valley, determined to reach the troops. Next, came the deafening noise. And then I seen it. Its formless figure dancing around the lifeless body of the troops. The fluid swallowed them whole, disintegrating them and leaving only the memories. Finally, I felt it wash over my feet and send a burning sensation throughout my body. My legs moved faster than my tears until I reached the gates. Although I had made it to town, the sound and smell still haunted my every movement. The land was wet and the streets were still. There were no homes to search and no young ones to hush. The enemy’s mark dripped from the shingles of buildings creating puddles and a reflection of a town that once was. It was all gone.
I hated what they had created more than I hated them.
The Men in White
We defended this land with great honor and the best of hearts. We worked with the land to produce life and contribute to the goodness of what was beyond the dark and static sky. When the villagers were few and first invaded, we fought together to get rid of them. We were preparing to continue the fight and strengthen our defenses.
It first struck our homes, our families… it changed our lifestyles completely. Our troops began to call in sick to work. They returned days later, half their original size with sunken eyes and shaky legs. And then they never returned. The sickness raged through our community without remorse, leaving no evidence. There was only one to blame for this.
As I looked at the land I once knew, a bullet of betrayal pierced my heart. This substance coming from every crevice and fold of the land was destroying us. The cries and outrage that resulted from the death of our community fell upon the deaf ears of the land as she continued to produce the fluid that killed us slowly, but surely.
The few of us that remained walked the quiet valleys, aimlessly. We didn’t know why we had been spared from the grip of the enemy. But, still we resented this shapeless coward and hoped for its reign to end.
It had to stop. The burrowing and growing of the villagers. The fighting and wars that were soon to come. Our hand was forced, and we had to release it… for the greater good.
We thank the one that lies beyond the land for the fluid.
Beyond the Land
“Okay, how ya feeling?” she forced a smile while gently yanking out my IV.
“I’m doing great!” I felt horrible.
“Good! Well, we don’t want to see you here anymore.” she said, handing me my coat.
I don’t know what the first sign of the invasion was. My happiness that would turn to a sudden burst of anger or the pounding and aching of something burrowing its way deep into my brain. I was just happy it was over.
I left the room and was surprised by an array of people in different color scrubs lining the walls and cheering me on as I was wheeled out of the hospital. I wanted to smile. But brain cancer has a funny way of making you feel incapable of using your mind to conduct your own actions.
Chemotherapy was my nuclear weapon to wipe out the warrior cancer cells that had spread across the vast landscape of my brain. The docs said that some white cells in my body were wiped out too and that’s what was causing my sickness. But, my skin clinging to my bones and the ongoing sickness was worth ending the war happening in the grooves and thickets of my brain.
I had taken back over my body. Every single cancer cell had been annihilated. I hoped.