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Human

Ephraim Bryski

 

The planet called Earth is a spinning ball of rock with over seven billion inhabitants known as humans. These inhabitants would occasionally kill one another in wars. This would often occur when one group of inhabitants, a nation, and another nation, had conflicting interests. This was the case between Scovia and Barcheria. Barcheria invaded Scovia for the gold reserves, dispacing their citizens. One of those citizens was Schkondu, who had his farm was taken over. When Schkondu first decided to join the military and take part in the war, his motives were pure.

He took a train out to Barcheria, a hundred miles north. The trip took two weeks; during that time he was in a cramped train car which often reeked of sweat. But he was able to look out the window and peer at places he had never seen, dense forests, vast oceans. He realized that, as a soldier of on war, it was his destiny to explore foreign lands, to see new terrain. When he reached the country, he was grouped with a few of his fellow soldiers; they spent the months in a trench, occasionally stepping out to push the line a few inches forward with shovels. They kept close for warmth, bonding over their lack of sleep, the lack of food, and the constant loneliness. But through all this, he remained optimistic. This was how he would develop; dealing with these conditions was how he would become strong. Once he left the war, he would be a better man. Progress was inevitable.

He was now alone; his group had died off from disease, from wounds, from hunger. He stared at the dirt wall of the trench, resting in a fetal position. Blood was dripping from his leg from a bullet, and he was temporarily too weak to move. Aid had slowed down to a trickle. Above him the sound of shells and bullets, yells and hurried footsteps continued. But in his part of the trench he was completely alone. He did not have the physical energy to proceed, and he didn’t have the emotional energy to grieve. But, perhaps from sheer willpower, perhaps from memories of better days, he managed to hold on.

It took 46 more hours before the human population of that spinning ball decreased by one.

Grain

 

The desert sky was a perfect, uninterrupted blue, yellow sand extending to meet it at the horizon. There was utter sameness as far as the eyes could see, with only massive, stately dunes breaking the monotony. On each of those dunes, the wind created patterns of ripples. But at the moment there was no wind, and the sand was perfectly still.

A grain of sand, resting on the top of one of these ripples, imagined a world beyond the desert. It had memories of dense forests, birds in constant motion in the air, groundhogs hurriedly burrowing on the ground, deer dashing through the undergrowth. It had memories of the ocean too, perhaps from the time it was first washed up. It could hear the waves crashing along the shore and the smell of salt. For thousands of years, it had remained in the desert, stagnant; the dreams of the distant past becoming the focus of its future.

A gentle breeze began to blow past the dunes. A gust of air caught the grain from behind, pushing it forward and up. As it was lifted off the surface of the ripple, it was filled with a sense of freedom, and as it reached up to the sky, it realized it was its destiny to explore foreign lands, to see new terrain. It was time to see worlds beyond the comprehension of its fellow grains.

The grain was afloat for several seconds. Those moments were filled with pure bliss; as it rose up toward the heavens it was sure there were lands behind the dunes just beyond its sight. It was blown past its ripple and came upon another, slightly larger one. The gust of air lost its strength and the grain settled back down. As it came to a rest, it realized that its dreams had slipped away with the wind, and it felt, momentarily, crushing disappointment. This was until another gust of wind blew it up once again.

And, as the wind gained in strength, all across the desert the process was repeated. A thin layer of airborne sand was fixed above the dunes, each grain, for that moment it was weightless, filled with hope.