Anorrack

Two armies battle through forest and fen,
living, and dying, and living again.
At the bidding of two ravens, mischievous and scheming,
We raise our weapons, firearms gleaming.
Strange devices no man should ever wield
Trapping us forever in this accursed field
All whilst two ravens slake their thirst
from the fountain of pain, an artery, burst.

While men's minds and lives were torn asunder,
to the smoke and roar of cannon's mighty thunder,
The laughter of two ravens echoes loudly in the night
As soldiers we live, we die, we breathe, we fight.

While men saw monsters no one should see
For when seen, their minds paid the fee
Ravens plumbing pain like water in a well
As men march proudly into the maws of hell

Monstrous machines making mens' veins like fire
All because of ravens' selfish desire
Picking through corpses, owners trapped inside
ravens overcome with Schadenfreude, blind.

Through fire and flame I led the charge
against beasts and men we did bear arms
through forest and thicket we didn't waver
not one of my brethren death did savor
undying, unmoving we laid in the trenches
cursing the ravens with our rotten stenches

After the fighting was done and the smoke was cleared
and the chattering of the rifles had disappeared
The tragedies of that battle were soon seen
Mother Earth weeping, her flesh torn clean.
No living thing stood in that accursed field
Except for the soldiers, all their fates sealed.

Creatures of flesh moan, plead for release,
writhing and crawling amongst filth and disease
men without limbs, heads, torsos sit in their foxholes,
weeping, crying, and bartering death for their souls
The Reaper couldn't hear them, couldn't lead them to rest.
For the ravens had roosted, had soldiers' souls in their nest.

-Translated excerpt from the journal of Lt. Hans Wagner, survivor of the Battle of Husiatyn Woods

Albert nervously looked around, checking his watch. How long does it take, he wondered. He had been waiting in the lobby of the nursing complex for what seems like hours, with the CNA gone into the labyrthine halls in search of Albert's great-great-great-great-great-great-great grandfather. Why did I have to choose the geneology project, thought Albert. I could have done something really cool, like that disintegrating beam experiment. But no, Albert picked the school project that had seemed the most interesting to him at the time: interviewing an ancestor, a minimum of five generations removed. Albert loved history, and after passing up a few relatives that didn't do much noteworthy seriously, who would listen to a oral essay about the guy who helped create the "iPhone", he had tracked down a relative who had apparently fought in one of the biggest wars before L-Day. But hours later, after Albert had gone down to the regional nursing complex, with its elephantine exterior and its endless, forever expanding interior, he had second thoughts.

He waited, and waited. Time seemed to pass slower and slower, the hands of the clock on his ancient analog watch seemed to hold back against the flow of time, forever spiting him and never allowing him to leave the confines of the concrete walls. The hands trembling, trembling, trembling against the strain of holding back time, Albert's piercing gaze urging time to move the hand, to keep flowing, to keep going…

12:30

It had been 15 minutes.

"Okie Dokie, I finally found your grandpa," the foreign noise roused Albert out of a unihemispheric nap. He was confused at first, but his eyes finally focused on the CNA struggling to roll a wheelchair holding an automaton. "He was very difficult to find," said the CNA. "He musta been one of our first patients, I had to go all the way to the back of the archives to find his folder." Albert frowned and walked around to face the front of the robot. It wasn't responsive. It just sat in the chair, with its head focused on the ground. Albert leaned forward and waved his hand in its face. "Hellooo," Albert said pensively. "Anyone hoommeee?" He then tried knocking on the metallic skull, which produced a hollow ringing sound, like knocking on the bottom of an empty bucket. He turned around to the CNA. "Why isn't he talking? He seems… empty," asked Albert. The CNA tutted quietly and looked at his patient's folder. "It says here that he is one of the oldest patients we have," he explained patiently. "He was caught up in a battle during World War One and was recovered with and that he was one of the first patients to get a prototype exo-skeleton, one of the first of its kind as a sort of experiment. So you see dear, you grandpa has been through a lot, and no one comes to visit him often, so he's just coping. It could be for the best, a man who sees what he sees never comes out the same way." The CNA looked sadly at the limp robot, and then handed Albert a folder and a holo-disk.

"What are these?" Albert asked, opening the folder to see a large DECLASSIFIED stamped diagonally across the pages. "Those are your grandfather's records," replied the CNA. "They talk about what he went through, along with the CD. Read it, maybe it'll help you with your oral report." The CNA patted Albert on the shoulder, and then walked back down the halls, shoes clacking against the tile, echoing forever forward, but quickly dwarfed by the screams and moans of the hyper-geriatric that not even the best soundproofing could dampen. Maybe its better he's one of the quieter ones, Albert thought with a shiver. With some difficulty, Albert wheeled his metal grandfather into the atrium, parking him next to an empty bench, and sat down beside him.

Albert opened the folder. Might as well, he grumbled internally. Came all this way and wasted all this time, I guess I'll learn some history while I'm at it. His love for history quickly slipped away however, as his brow furrowed at the terminology used in the medical report. "antimemetic therapy," "amnestic scrub," and "Buteo-Series Mk. LV Experiment #42" were all foreign to Alberty, even with English as his first language. He skimmed the rest of the document, confused by the big black boxes in place of dates and names. If it's declassified, why is it still all covered up, wondered Albert. Hoping that the holo-disk would have more answers for him, Albert dug around in his sweatshirt pockets and found his old musty pair of Torches™1, blowing the dust out of the side port and plugging the holodisk in. He then slipped the glasses on, and was treated to a three-dimensional view of… a burnt down forest.

"Here in the ruins of the Husiatyn Woods, is one of the most famous battles to have ever taken place in record history," droned the faux-Morgan-Freeman-narrator. "For while in our post-death world a violent battle with no fatalities is commonplace, this forest is the one of the only places in the world where one such battle occured, before the Reaper retired."

The documentary rambled, taking Albert on a prolonged and profoundly boring tour across Europe, following the lives of two boring men and their boring scheme for world peace. Every so often, he would pause the holo and look at his grandpa sitting beside him, the servos in his neck rusting and his eyes dull.

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