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  • From a nearby mountain top, one may be forgiven for mistaking it for a puppet show. Or perhaps –if one has exceptionally poor vision – for some kind of children’s prank having to do with fire crackers and explosions. ‘It’ being, of course, the exertion of substantial resources and energies by two groups of people, each towards the violent and comprehensive extermination of the other.

    Down below, on the field of battle, a finger stained with blood and sweat and dirt, trembling, erratically strokes the cool polymer trigger on a rifle before firing. A soldier's eyes peer over the edge of the bunker just in time to see a soldier, in the pride of his youth, fall to the ground. Somehow the killer knows this man he has felled was just and courageous, that he loved his family and his country, and his empty eyes sink slowly back into the bunker.

    Meanwhile the sound waves from the explosion that propelled the bullet forward at such frighteningly high speeds as can change the world; these sound waves travel up and out of the valley, to the top of one such nearby mountain as we were considering moments ago, where they reach the ears of one young man as nothing more than a faint ‘Pop!’ He wonders about that pop for a while; wonders about the whole spectacle taking place on the very same valley floor that he has so often looked over for the few decades of his life. Never before had he seen even a single person cross the fields below. A cricket lands on his right knee, but he doesn’t even quite notice it. Several hours pass, and still he does not move. Day becomes dusk becomes night, and the popping sounds cease, and dozens of campfires spring up on either side of the field. Still he sits, in the coarse working clothes his wife made for him, straining his mind – which has never yet been touched even by the concept of a gun – to unravel the impossible puzzle set for him that afternoon.

    At long last he shakes his head as though to clear it of fog. Back in his house he lies with his woman. Afterwards he watches her pale blue eyes as they catch the dancing red energy of the fire, which shine so brightly in her dark face in the dark house. He might have thought he could see to her very soul, if he had known that sometimes people speak of a thing called a soul. Or he might have reflected in passing on how heaven must be at least a bit like this, a bit like lying beside this woman and watching the color in her eyes, if he had know that sometimes people speak of a thing called heaven. Instead he just inhales slowly, feeling the cool mountain air inside and outside of him, feeling himself between the air, his strong sinewy body sinking deep into the straw mattress.

    I love you, he says to the woman in a language no one has ever been able to write down and very few have ever heard.

    Yes, she says. Yes.

    Once, several years ago, a man they do not know came to them. He spoke a language they could not understand and was dressed in some strange and elaborate way. Our man thinks about this visit. His eyes are closed; he feels the weight of his own forearm against his forehead and the warmth of her body along his side. He senses the house all around him, exactly as it is, even through his closed eyes.

    Remember the man with the strange shirt and the thin/sharp mouth and nose and eyes?

    She is puzzled for a moment and then perhaps disturbed. She wonders why he asks about such things. I do, she says.

    I think they are back, he tells her, after a pause.

    She sighs. She does not ask why he thinks they are back, or what he thinks it means. Time will tell, and these thoughts make her uncomfortable now. She brings the bed cover over the both of them as the fire dies out, pulling herself close to him in the night.
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