Sunday, September 2, 2007

Somnolent Wishes

I prefer my dreams to reality lately. In my dreams, I am nearly always powerful. In my dreams, I am ready and equipped. I dream of a competent, quick moving me. Like I said, I prefer my dreams to reality.
Colleen doesn’t know what happens when the men and women separate every morning. She has no idea that while the women gather and work, laboring together inside the camp, safe on the interior of the fences, digging latrines and building a tidy little infrastructure, we are taken outside for a different kind of work.
The trucks always come to the side of the camp furthest from where the women are working. No one actually told us not to tell the girls where we go or what we do all day, but no one has to. Even on the first day out, we knew something was wrong. As we civilians climbed into the camouflaged transports, a silence crashed onto us, rendering each of us still and mute. Not a man amongst us even looked up as the trucks bounced along. Heads down and silent, each of us recognized how truly alone we were at that moment.
We would eventually learn to look forward to those quiet rides in the transport trucks, moments of silence, no spouses to look into the eyes of, no hard eyed soldiers gripping guns like talismans.
They called it, “Bioreactive Containment and Disposal.” I never really got over the grand presumption of the military, finding such important sounding names for sorting the corpses, former military in one pile, usually smaller and fresher, the undead in another much larger and infinitely more fetid pile. The strongest, healthiest of us were usually handed a small four pound sledgehammer right out of the truck. I think this was why the grunts knew they didn’t need to tell any of us not to say anything. “How was your day today honey?” I could hear Colleen asking. “Oh, no big deal,” I would reply, “Spent the morning caving in the skulls of mostly dead soldiers and immobilized civilian zombies with a sledgehammer. Then we poured gas on the lot of them and gave them the Auschwitz treatment. Typical day at the office.”
Some days, if the skirmishes the night before were lower key, we would get a break from the gruesome task of ‘Bioreactive Containment and Disposal’ and we would reinforce the fences and other defenses that surrounded the camp. Twelve hours laboring in the sun, building and repairing fences and that felt like a vacation, anything not to feel the terrible weight of that sledgehammer in my hands. I asked one of the soldiers the first day if they called our work on the fence “Non Oxidative Metallic Structure Construction and Maintenance.” Without a smile, I was handed a large pair of bolt cutters. I decided to keep them.
And now I find myself here, in this cornfield, with what I can only assume is an overrun military camp behind me, an abandoned town in the middle of corn country nearby, and my infant son sleeping fitfully on my chest. Before we left camp, I dreamt of protecting Colleen and Finn. In my dream, I was armed and confident. Here, I’m exhausted and exposed, and my only defense for my family is a pair of bolt cutters. I close my eyes, and for the first time since I held it in my hands, I found myself wishing for that tiny sledgehammer. Colleen said she would take first shift. I only hope that the rustle the cornfields make will warn us if any of them show up.

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