Lieutenant Colonel Wynkoop had not yet died, but it wouldn’t be long, now. He had failed to escape the hellfire. Like everyone else, he’d failed.
But it wasn’t quite over. Not quite yet. God had set aside for him a few final, seemingly infinite moments in which to experience the fullest measure of physical and spiritual agony; he had more than enough time to reflect upon this wasted life of his and upon the doom that had befallen the world. A world that he would soon leave behind.
Before he left, however, he thought to himself:
I am a stone; I am a man who lies… so still.
Wherefrom the silent words came, he couldn’t say. Were they memory? A vengeful angel speaking through him? He didn’t know. His grip on reality slipping, he—
Mere minutes before, he’d bellowed orders from atop his horse — “Stand, fools!”; “Fight! Fight!” — but, against the fully bared arms of Sacramento, there could be no victory. The attempt…
It had been madness from the start.
To think, they had choppers, the Sackies! After all this time, they’d kept safe and secret the armaments of the old world from before The Fall. They’d been saving these weapons of mass destruction for the utter end of need. Yuma thought it had brought threat of annihilation to Sacramento — so the king and the nobles and everyone let themselves believe. In reality, the only thing Yuma had accomplished with this war was motivate Sacramento to play its hidden ace.
And now, Wynkoop lay dying.
I am but a stone flung from a sling against a wall.
Nearby was strewn the remains of his right arm; with the twisted fingers of his left hand, he clutched the stump against his chest. Curled into a fetus, he thought, Am I nothing more than this, a sacrificial instrument to kill — a cold prayer — he coughed — a cold prayer hardened to a hollow-point?
The veil lifted and he saw: behind him, the unending suffering of humanity; ahead, a great, all-encompassing, white light. Strong, harsh, but also warm.
In this instant, as he breathed his fateful sigh, the breath slipped out in tandem with the words:
And yet, I cannot blame anyone but myself; I knew the purpose of a hill…
And I craved my justice, after all.
Lieutenant Colonel Wynkoop’s ruined stump of an arm slid down his torn shirt and shattered ribs; blood pooled in the dirt. His eyes looked into the middle distance — a swath of honey with only the occasional dollop of creamy cloud — looked, but saw no more.
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