The blast picked me up in the air and then wedged me under a car. Half of me was still vulnerable to the gunfire. But the breath was knocked out of me, at the very least and it was likely something on my body was missing. I was the last of my family to try and escape the neighborhood as the troops advanced.
I had completely lost the two laptops that were under my arms. To be honest I knew if I stayed I could loot my rich neighbors. But I had waited too long.
And now I was stuck under a car, my feet still in the street and I just was too shocked to move.
Just then I felt a pair of hands on my feet. They tugged. Eventually I was out far enough for the hands to reach under me and pick me up. And I’m not a small guy. They carried me to an alley and set me against a wall. At least it was out of gunfire.
“Are you okay?” The man kneeled in front of me. I assessed myself. “I- I don’t know.” I noticed a deep gash on my hand that lined up with a bruise in a straight line up my arm. I realized one of the laptops had caught the blast and hit my arm hard before being thrown away from me. “I think so.” I looked up at the man. He looked different. His eyes were a little deeper or something. His look was somehow intense with peace. Like he was not scared. Like he knew the ending of this hard story already. He also had a strange accent.
“Where are you from?” I asked.
“Very far away.”
“Scandanavia or something?”
His clothes were strange too. A material I had never seen before, but in a cut like an average polo shirt. But no stray threads or hems. And his shoes. They hugged his feet almost like skin. I had no idea what material those were.
“Are you okay to make it to the hospital? It’s about a block that way. They have a few beds open if you think you need it. The army will steer clear of it I think.”
“No, I think, I might be okay. I’m– wait where are you going?”
“There was someone else thrown in the blast with you. I have to find them.”
“Wait–why are you?! Who are you?”
“I’m from a different place. It’s in my blood I can’t help it.”
“What’s in your blood?”
“This need to die for others.”
“Wait that’s absurd!”
“I know. To this place it is. I have to go get them now.” And the strange man walked out of the alley, almost as if he were not scared of the guns or shrapnel.
I stayed where I was, not because I thought I was safe, but because I thought he might come back here. And a few moments later I heard their footsteps and he brought a local beggar to the alley and set him a few feet from me. He was bleeding a lot from somewhere on his chest and maybe his inner thigh. One of his shoes was missing.
“I feel like I know you.” The beggar said to the man.
The man smiled and replied, “You do.”
“I recognize that accent. Your voice. The one at night, and in my dream.”
“Yes, Gensu. That was me.”
“I’ve waited so long. Since I was a child!”
“I’m here now. What can I give you of me?” The man touched the old beggar’s tough face.
“I just want to be with you. I want what you have. What gives you such peace.”
“Yes, I will give it to you, and it will eventually bring you back to me. But you must know it will cause you to seek death first.” The man with the strange eyes started to pull a knife out of a pocket I hadn’t noticed in his pants. I couldn’t tell what material the knife was, it was silver-ish but an iridescent glaze gleamed on its surface. He put the blade to the back of his thumb as if about to slice it.
“I don’t care. My life is already like death,” the beggar said.
“It will drive you to help others even if it kills you. Unless you resist it. It’s like a disease that I have. You people would call it a disease.”
“If what you just did for me is what you’re talking about, I want it.”
The man smiled sadly and nodded, but so full of peace as he slid the knife into the skin of the back of his thumb. “It is in my blood. And I share my blood with you. And it will try to push out your other desires and cause you to seek to save others even if it kills you. You will carry my blood in you and this that I carry in my blood will spread through all of your blood and draw you back to me. Do not resist the type of death it brings you, or you will battle with your flesh until you die.”
“Please, my king. Give it to me,” the beggar pleaded.
A tear dropped from the strange man’s eyes as he put his thumb to the wound on the beggar’s chest and moved it to make sure the blood mixed. Then he said, “I will carry you to the hospital. It is a block away.”
“I’ll do it,” I found myself saying. The man turned to me and those eyes saw right through me. I felt like he knew exactly what I had been doing. I felt like he knew how I had treated this very beggar in the past.
“Will you care for the hurting?” He asked me.
His eyes pierced me, but somehow I wanted to do exactly what I had said. He looked to the beggar and said, “Do you want me to leave you with him?”
“What if he treats you like he has before?”
“Then I will treat him like you have treated me.”
The man smiled deeply to the beggar and said, “I’m sorry for the war your blood will cause with your flesh.”
“I long for nothing more than to leave this flesh behind.”
Suddenly something struck near the corner of the building we were leaning against and bricks were dislodged above us.
The man looked at the beggar and then at me and said, “Then do it.”
The man walked back into the fray and I picked up the beggar. I was sore but everything still worked. I began to carry him. I navigated the streets and alleys I knew so well, but my mind was on the man who had gone again back into the fray.
“What was that?” I asked the beggar. I looked at him and noticed his eyelids getting heavier. Blood was coming from his nose.
“He is from a different place where they don’t live like us. I want to go there.”
“How will you go there?”
He was silent for a while. Then in a mumbled voice he said, “I can feel my heart already being pulled to there.”
“Is it the blood?”
“No, I think it is my soul. That place is more real than my body. but my soul wants to go there, so I obey the… it feels like gravity that pulls me to it.”
“What about the stuff he put in your blood?”
He was silent for a long time again, his eyes closed, before he realized I had asked him a question and he said, “That would just help my body obey my heart if I were staying here. I think I’m going to leave now.”
I put him down against the wall of the hospital next to the line that was crowding out the door.
“How do I go there, uh, Gensu. That was your name. Tell me how to go there, please.” It was strange how frantic I sounded, like the most valuable information in all the world were slipping away from me.
“Just want to be with him and the gravity will find you. Just let yourself want it.”
“And what about the blood, uh, the blood disease thing he gave you.”
“That would have only helped me remember him if I still had to battle against this selfish body. But I don’t need it anymore. I’m about to leave this body, I think.”
“But I am still here.”
His eyes perked up and compassion flowed through them. “Do you need this blood?”
I nodded. He summoned his strength and consciousness. He looked down and saw the cut on my hand. He took it and said, “You can put it to my blood and you can have it too. But it will make you want to die.”
I heard the pleading voices of the people on the steps next to me. I heard the tank treads rattling and the falling bricks and shattering mortars. It was strange. What I had seen in that man somehow seemed truer than this world. Than the emptiness I had lived for. I reached the cut on my hand through the layers of his torn shirt until I found his hairy, skin and then the deep wound. And I pressed my palm into it. I knew it hurt the man but his eyes grew moist as he looked up at me and a huge smile grew onto his face.
“I will see you soon.”
“Wait, what do I do now?”
“I think you should go find him and help him. Or them.” He didnt gesture but i assumed he meant the hurting people at the doorway beside me.
I looked back down the alley through which we had come, the dust having been kicked up in it. Flashes of light and sound shaking the walls. “But what if I die?”
And then the biggest smile grew on the man’s face. He was looking at me, but it was like he saw something else. He said, “It’s so bright for these eyes.”
A moment later I had kissed the beggar on the forehead and was walking back into the fray, to follow that strange man whose blood I now shared.
Raw Spoon, 5-27-18