Tears drown my face. I look up into the summer sky, asking myself why. I wish what I feel would die away. I look around, trying to forget what’s haunting my mind. I watch the children playing merrily in the plaza. I wish I’m one of them.
Words and scenes have rammed into my forlorn heart. They keep echoing in my ears, playing in my memory, and piercing my chest. Tears fall to the blades of grasses like morning dew.
I glanced at my haversack, which contained my possessions, including the caliber 45 my superior gave me as a present.
I’ve crossed the seas and traveled miles of lands, eager to see Fe. I’ve been longing for her next to me since the moment I looked into her eyes. But, my military profession didn’t let me indulge in that desire. I resorted to writing her letters to maintain the warmth of love.
I wrote her letters. Many letters stained with tears toiled on right after every battle, but to only get two responses. The last one pushed my way back to her. To resign from a nationalistic call. It was the postscript that moved me.
“If you love me, you wouldn’t have left me. You would have married me. I’m sorry. It is too late, Glenn.’’
Never in my mind, I expected to see her joyous with a guy. I was standing by her door. Dried and dusty mistletoe set overhead seemed ridiculous to me. I was staring at them while listening to melancholic music. They waltzed smoothly in the living room among the luxurious sofa chairs. Their bodies touched. She leaned over his shoulder. The scene was a bullet to the head, but it couldn’t make me dead. As they swayed this and that way, the guy noticed me. He pressed his lips to her ear, slowly guiding them to the door.
Fe looked at me with rounded eyes. She suddenly let go of him, but the music went on. She stared at me like I was a ghost and straightened up like I was her army superior. She hadn’t changed. She was the same woman I left who had given me the longest hug and kiss at a bus station. She was the same woman I saw before I put half of my life to death for my country. The same woman with alluring eyes and inviting lips.
I forced myself to smile, though I had a lump in my throat.
She walked slowly and stopped in front of me. Her face was turning red. “How are you, Glenn?” she said plainly.
“I’m fine,” I whispered, uncertain if she heard it.
I hid two feelings of agony; the pain to see her dance happily with a guy, her lover, and the feeling to control the desire to squeeze her around my arms. I wanted to sob, but my masculine side disallowed it.
Then I stared at her Chinese eyes. They always dazzle me. I drew in the air around, smelling her rosy fragrance. She was within my reach. I could grab and hug her tight, but I resisted. And with that, the feelings that I was going through were burning me up. I wanted to give in and fall lifelessly, but I needed to be strong.
“Who is he, darling?” the guy said.
“He is Glenn Garcia. An old friend of mine.” She heaved the words behind. “I’m sorry, Glen. I’m married now.”
Her words finally destroyed my world. And so, I suffered an absolute emotional dilemma. I closed my eyes, pushing them deeper into the sockets to hold up the tears. I turned back and walked away like a sleepwalker. I wound up in a park and sat down on a concrete bench. I put aside my haversack and looked at it. I heard gunshots and saw darkness.
I open my eyes and see bright ceilings. I always hear absolute hush. I roll over to my right and, as usual, I am again on a cushioned surface, naked. I see bright walls across from me. I don’t feel bad so I sit up. I am still and on inside the bright confine I call flying globeroom. Its interior surface, the walls, ceiling, and floor glow almost like a pale white star. They are comfortable in my eyes, though. I could not make out a cleft and traces of folding on their surfaces.
I rise to my feet and walk towards the wall. The wall is an illusion. It is neither solid nor tangible. I pass through it to two narrow compartments. The first one showers me with water that sprays out from the walls, and when the shower stops, the invisible blowers on the floor dries me up. I then move to the next compartment, where robotic hands on the walls don me a black satin suit and steel-toe shoes. I take the last step out and land on a veranda.
I flash my eyes around to the other globerooms floating in the air. I look down to the ground under my globeroom. The expansive vegetation that stretches out infinitely has never changed. There is serenity like death, a thing that takes place when nothing moves. I could feel no air that would have fondled my face and sweep up the tiny hairs on my arms. I have gotten used to it. I never breathe.
It has become my routine to let go of my loudest shout against the deafening silence. I always do it as loud as any horn in the world. But I always get no response, even reverberation.
I step over the three-foot diameter circle carved on the surface of the veranda steel flooring. In an instant, I am lowered through the void that separates the globeroom from the ground and I touch down by the bushes. I step out and head off to the nearest cluster of plants and thumb on the fresh flower of Sampaguita, my favorite flower. I know I touched nothing. I have known it since my first day here. It is just that it has become my habit, touching every non-existing thing around me. I know that all things in this infinite place are mere illusions except me and the globerooms.
I always wonder what’s inside those globerooms and how they float like some force has held them up. I’ve checked none of them. I could not either. I could not leap higher than my height. The closest-to-ground afloat globeroom is maybe fifty feet high. If there are people inside, why have I not seen them? I am the only one living being, if indeed you call me living, in this dead world. I don’t know how many days or weeks or months or years I have been here, solitary yet still dwelling.
During the first few days here, I looked for ropes or any cords that I could use to mount onto one of the globerooms. But I did not find one other than a strand of hair. I gave up that longing, though it hasn’t exhausted me.
I ready and begin running alongside the line of trees, through the bushes, towards the edge to get out of this insensible place. The borders are moving away from me. I keep on running, though. I tumble, bounce off, rebound up, and fall onto the smooth ground, unhurt and not wounded. I could not run at night because when darkness comes I could see no more of the borders and I involuntarily fall asleep in the bushes and wake up in the morning lying inside my globeroom.
Many times I have longed to finish myself. I dropped headfirst from the veranda and crashed onto the solid ground. But I still survived. I also landed hard on the ground when I forced myself to bump on the trunk of an acacia tree. Nothing in this place could kill me and nothing I could do about the suffering I feel, the suffering of being alone and away from everyone, especially from Fe.
I race off with long strides to the evading borders. I chase them as fast as I could. I have been running until daylight becomes brighter. I feel my restless action is nearly forever. I still don’t reach the boundaries of this place. I stop running and stare around and learn that the place has changed to the place beneath my globeroom. As though I get back to the place I’ve already passed by.
I close my eyes and run again. But leaving them to shut would not take longer than a few minutes. I open them and I am surprised to notice that I am now in a familiar plaza. I stopped. I give a going over the place. Then I spot a concrete bench. I head for it, sit down, and look at the empty plaza. I remember Fe again.
Children playing suddenly appear in the plaza. They scamper and yell in happiness. One kid kicks a soccer ball that has emerged instantly in front of him. The ball dart straight to me, but it pops out like a bubble before it hits my face. I holler, but they don’t pay attention. I rise and walk over to them and touch the nearest one. He expires as if blown by the wind. I touch another one, but he also disappears. I do the same with the others, like I am playing popping bubbles until they all disappear.
After a moment, I hear muttering from a distance. I turn to where the voices came, and I see Fe and her lover. They are promenading on the bricks that paved the plaza. Fe’s arm slings on her lover’s. I am really in serious pain for the first time since I have been in this place. The convulsion behind my chest builds up. It doesn’t make me throb, though. I hear the heavy beat of my heart, but when I palm my chest, I feel no pounding. I am not catching my breath. It seems the convulsion, the emotion, is just in my mind. Increasingly, it has become intolerable. I ran to them. I grip my hand, forming into a fist full of fury. When I am beside her lover, I punch him with all the strength I have. But I just fall. I cannot hit him. I struggle up and let go of another hefty blow. My fist just passed through his face. I strike him again, but I don’t feel his skin, his entire body. He is also… an illusion. I circle them and touch Fe. I could not feel her either. I draw closer and embrace her, but I am just hugging myself. They disappear like children.
The anguish I feel doesn’t vanish. It builds up higher. I go amok, cursing about, throwing my fist into the air, and twirling my body like a breeze. I quit my wild reaction when a disturbing sound grabs me.
A blast followed by a scraping sound. It comes from the sky. I look up, setting my hand over my eyes to ward off the sunlight overhead. I spot a tiny hole dawning in the sky. The hole gets bigger. A huge metallic cylinder vertically slips through it and smoothly drops as though controlled magnetically. It alights in front of me. It is a lift; I reckon. It has an airlock door that slides open. It is empty.
An authoritative electronic female voice speaks up. “Soldier Glenn Garcia D344, time for battle. Get inside.”
I don’t understand what it means. But I still get in. The door shut. I compose myself up after I face the airlock. I ascend. Inside the lift, two robotic hands emerge from the sidewalls. They strip down my suit. In a few seconds, the robotic hands put me on a camouflage suit and buckle me with a garrison belt. The hands fix a distinct handgun on my right thigh and an army knife on my left thigh. It also put a war helmet with a visor on my head. I am booted and spurred for war; I thought.
Just after the lift stops, the door slides open, slowly, slowly.
A stunning panorama beholds me. A pale blue planet greets me dismally. Dense dark clouds are swarming over several regions of the planet. Something like thick smoke dissipates on brownish surfaces which are the landmasses. Dots of fire glaze in some regions. I reckon utter war has seized the planet up.
I step out. I see the dark, infinite space surrounding me. There are millions of stars sparkling remotely at hundreds, thousands, or millions of light-years away, though. To my right are ruins of an enormous spaceship meandering. She is like a dead whale sailing with no direction. To my left are scouts that resemble the head of grasshoppers. They also wander. I turn back as I hear a scrape. The lift compresses downward on the surface from where I’m standing and settles like a huge coin fixed over the surface of a silver ball. Then I run my eyes ahead over and realize I’m standing on an immense sphere. I look to the boundary between the sphere and space and notice a blinding disc. The ancient sun.
This sphere is maybe orbiting this planet, I thought.
I turn back to the weeping planet. I see something coming out behind it, a lightly bright cosmic body. It peeks at me; seems to ask to salvage the planet. It is the moon. No doubt the planet is Earth.
In a little while, a whoosh registers in my ears. A small spacecraft is coming towards me. A scout. I haven’t seen where it came from. It is akin to those wandering in space. It halts in front of me, still afloat. Its hatch confronts me. It opens sideways.
“Soldier Glenn Garcia D344, get in.” The robotic feminine voice instructs me. “Sit down and harness up.”
I do what it tells me. I feel something inside has spurred me to do so. I sit down. I jolt as the seatbelt automatically clutches me up and fastened me tightly against the seat.
“Set your helmet’s visor,” commands the feminine voice.
The self-operated scout shoots across space to Earth. Within a minute or two, it penetrates a contaminated atmosphere. Then it landed on the ground.
Two long guns have risen out from my sides. I get the guns and set my fingers into them. They fitted into my hands. The seatbelt releases me, so I stand up. The hatch opens wide.
A ruined world glowers at me as I leap onto the impoverished ground. I snoop about. The place smells of burned stuff. I am on the dayside of the planet. Even so, it’s quite dim. The clouds overhead are thick, purple, and dark. Lightning cut through them like shimmering swords and thunder thud like explosions in wars. Somewhere there are blazes. Smokes are discernible everywhere, in the wrecked buildings and vehicles that lined up in a messy street. I see no living trees or plants. The place has been jailed up by utter battle, a war. I haven’t seen soldiers or rebels firing, running, and crazily yelling around, though. I move warily. I don’t know who or what my enemies are.
I catch a whiff of burning plastic. I follow the smell. I see something terrible as I stand in front of a mountain of cadavers dumped outside a ruined building. I move to the cadavers for a closer look. I see soldiers lying dead, heads split off, their bodies cut asunder. Burned. There are several on the foot of the heap which have not been reached yet by the flare. The soldiers wear the same battle gear I have on. They all have similar faces. My face.
I could not believe it. I draw near to one cadaver and take off his helmet. There is no blood. His skin is melting like wax, slowly showing off a skull which is silver and metallic.
Groans and moans fill in the horrible place. I’m startled to see naked people coming to me. They trudge like kangaroos. They are coming after me, fifty paces, forty, thirty…
I brace up for their attack. I certainly feel they are the enemies. But they don’t have guns. One of them swiftly jumps like a frog to me. But beforehand, I pointed a gun and pulled the trigger. I hit him with a laser, cutting his body in two.
The naked people, hundreds of them, keep on moving.
I move over to the dead body. I inspect it through my helmet’s visor. I recognize him. He is Fe’s lover.
I look at those approaching me. They have the same faces. Fe’s lover. I aim the guns at them and pull the trigger. I keep on shooting them. I sweep dead those closest to me. But behind them are thousands more, walking straight to me. They are as many as the sands on the shore or the grass in the meadows. They keep on moving while I keep on shooting. But I am sure I could not finish all of them.
After a few minutes, one jumps to me. His weight drops us. We grapple, rolling over the ground. Another one holds my hand and seizes the gun. Two more leaps to me and both grab the other gun in my left hand. I struggle to push them away, but they pin me down. Their faces, faces of Fe’s lover, are scorning at me. They hold my feet, hands, legs, thighs, arms, shoulders, and head. They strip off my camouflage and tear my skin off my hard bones. But I still feel nothing. They separate my legs and arms from my body.
Someone tries to cut my head, but I wince, throwing my helmet off. Then, reality struck me. I see horrible creatures around me. They are no longer Fe’s lover. They are the most horrendous creatures I have ever seen. Monstrous pale-skin biped with red huge eyes that come out of the skull, thick black hair sweeping up their head, broad and coarse forehead, sharp teeth like that of sharks, protruding rough nose, and long pointed salivating tongue sticking out of the mouth.
They cut my head off.
The robotic feminine voice speaks up in my thoughts. “Soldier Glenn Garcia D344, you’re annihilated by humans.”
And I see Fe smiling at me. I see her sparkling Chinese eyes. Then a sudden blackout hits me.
Tears drown my face. I look up into the summer sky, asking myself why…