My voice is rarely heard. Not many stop to listen to hear me breathe or to acknowledge my presence in a way I’m forced to acknowledge theirs.
My world used to be a place of beauty. If I tipped my face toward the sky I felt the sunlight kissing me sweetly and watched the fluffy white clouds meander on their way. If I lowered my face toward the plush, green carpet beneath me I felt comforted by the scurrying of small animals and the solidness of where I stood.
All around me friends and my family used to form a protective guard of honour. Side by side we stood as tall as that great blue sky above. Nothing could separate us from one another except the natural ever-moving cycle of life and death.
I remember my youth being a precarious time, as it is for all things youthful. I then didn’t possess the strength I have now. Or, should I say, the strength I used to have. A wisp of a thing I was…poking my head through a blanket of warmth to take my first peek at the world I’d been born into. Oh, so long ago and yet, as I stand here recalling it, it feels as if it were yesterday. Desperately trying to stamp my mark amongst those of more maturity. Shivering as I braved my first harsh winter and basking through my first summer while I imagined being tall enough to reach the sky. Bracing myself to fall victim of those running with carefree abandon around me and always managing to scrap through unscathed.
Yes, youth is an uncertain time. In my most frightening of nightmares I couldn’t have imagined how terrifying my old age would be. I’m ninety-three years old, you see. Until this, my final year, I never stooped and, if I may say so without flaunting ego, I became more beautiful with time. Age can do that. It can make you knotted and gnarled but beauty shifts from fresh innocence into something entirely magnificent. All it takes is for the human eye to appreciate it and to know not all things exquisite are young.
I’ve always been surrounded by life. I didn’t know any differently than what I trusted the world, my world, to be. I was naïve. In my defence, I had no real reason to believe otherwise. Danger didn’t exist for me. Once I’d grown enough to hold my own I held on with power and might. Fear wasn’t an emotion I entertained for I had not met with it prior. Not on the scale I’ve met with it now. As a youngling shivering through my first cold winter, I thought with a youngling’s heart. I worried I may be trampled by those bigger than me but I never contemplated death because I was only just beginning to discover life.
Now I’m old and I’m frightened. I am not ashamed to admit it. Death is all around me and I’ve watched every one of my friends and family fall into its eternal grip. I’ve lost my beauty because without them all beauty has been replaced with ugliness.
It’s dark. The moon above me is full and round. Even though she is bathing this predawn with silver beams it is still so very dark.
I wear a ribbon around my waist. It’s golden. Golden yellow like the sun I love so much. Golden like my favourite flowers which, like my friends and family, have been seized by the Grim Reaper. Ironically cruel that my favourite colour marks me to be the Reaper’s final victim.
I long to see the sun one last time and in the same breath her rising over the horizon is my doom. My ninety-three years of standing proud and tall will be over soon.
I’m in a war zone. The bodies of my loved ones are scattered as far as I can see. Through the grace of night the darkness has dimmed my visual horror. It hasn’t succeeded in dimming the horror inside my soul. Their cries of pain that only I, and others like me, could hear still shriek within my spirit. The demise of others who lived in this heaven with me gut me from the inside out as they died inside hell. Homes have been destroyed and seemingly with no remorse from those who did the destroying.
Asking why will not bring back those who lie fallen. Asking why cannot soothe me in any way. For if I were given a reason it would only make me all the more angry and my sorrow all the more encompassing. No reason could ever explain away utter annihilation.
Before the sun went down I watched a baby foraging beneath me. His distress expressed in weak little whimpers and his belly empty and hungry. I could do nothing to help him but pray. I could do nothing other than witness this poor creature offer his dead mother the food he’d found in the hopes she would miraculously awaken. By nightfall he’d died along side of her. Both of them still lay at my feet.
My own offspring lie close by. Along with my grandchildren and my great-grandchildren. They should have kept on living long after Mother Nature took me. It wasn’t supposed to end like this. Nothing should ever end like this.
The clouds are wisping over the moon like a gossamer shawl. Providing an illusion for me, giving me a sense of time when in reality I know my time grows ever more limited. I don’t want to die but I can’t bear the thought of living alone in this cesspool of obliteration. It’s not a thought I can entertain even if I wanted to for my golden ribbon marks my end.
Those gossamer clods have parted now. A brisk breeze shuffled them off to their next destination. A horizon I couldn’t see just days ago I now see clearly many miles off into the distance. Along that horizon a golden shimmer stretches in much the same way as a glistening silken thread. Golden. Like my ribbon.
My final night on Earth is near to its completion. For the last time I bid farewell to the moon and to the gentle caress of night. For the last time I say hello to the dawn and I send her my salutations with grief and mourning.
My dignity has been stripped and, for me, that killed me along with my loved ones. To reach this grand old age brought with it pride and joy. Not for me as an individual, but for me as a member of the entire. Survival came in the safety of numbers. Alas, we thought it did. Our numbers, no matter how great, made no difference. We couldn’t fight the enemy and we had never raised arms in our history. We lived our lives peacefully helping one another, making each other strong, turning our world into a place of magnificence. We did nothing to deserve this.
The shivering I felt as a youngling has returned. I’m scared. I’m shaking not with cold but with fright. There is no one around to offer me comfort in the way I desperately attempted to offer comfort to my loved ones. I’m all alone and I’m frightened. My death draws ever nearer the thicker that shimmering golden horizon grows.
If I had a voice I would shout my pleas for peace. Shout for the weapons that destroyed us to end the sounds of their murderous onslaught. I always imagined when I did depart this world it would happen amid the sounds I loved and not within the sounds of weapons. How barbaric and how senseless it is for this enemy to destroy us. Can they not see we bring them life? Can they not understand? Do they walk away from this destruction and even give us a second thought?
My dear golden sun. I can see you now popping your face over the horizon. How quickly you banish the night when it’s time for you to wake up. I will tell you now, for I know not how much longer I have, I love you. I love you and thank you for your warmth. On behalf of those already fallen, than you for providing for us in the way you did. You nurtured our young and you blessed our aged. May they never find a way to destroy you as they have us. May you continue to warm this beautiful planet long after I am gone, continue to pop your face over the horizon, continue to see the miracle of life you bring.
I will stand here and not shift my gaze from you, dear sun. I want you to be the last thing I see before I die. I want to imagine my loved ones encircling you and not face the horror of them lying around me. When the pain of weapons engulfs me, I will faithfully stand for as long as I’m able in my last show of strength. I will not lose my dignity any more than I already have. I may not be able to win but I can certainly stand tall and refuse to bow my head. On behalf of those already murdered, I do this.
I’ve never heard such quiet. A deafening quiet and an aching stillness. I’ve never heard a morning rise without the blessed song of birds. There are no birds. There are no songs. Just thick, heavy silence.
I will not look away from you, dear sun. I am quaking with fear and I am sick with grief. But, I will not look them in the eyes as they march toward me with weapons drawn. Embrace me with your warmth. Please…stop this shivering so they cannot see my fright. Let me feel your rays around me instead of this golden ribbon of death. I am ninety-three years old and nothing deserves to die inside carnage.
I will not look away from you…I will not. You’ve known me all this time and in my heart I believe you are mourning as deeply. Perhaps you are the light into which my soul will go. Perhaps it is you who will lead me away from this war zone and to the Promised Land.
I may be the last tress standing in what was once a mighty rainforest, but I will fall wrapped in the dear sun’s embrace. I will fall with pride. I will fall with one final prayer and that is this…may they realise what they are doing before it is their babies they see foraging desperately for food and shelter. Before it is their relatives lying dead around them. Before one of them becomes the last man standing, trembling in fear and sorrow, in a world they destroyed.
Last Man Standing © Zathyn Priest 2007 all rights reserved worldwide