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Before the War

Chapter Text

         There existed a magnificent field green as far as the eye could see. The wind whistled, bringing forth a cool breeze that could send pleasant goosebumps down anyone’s spine. The sun showered down its rays upon the grass, bringing about warmth so cozy even the most irritated of men could not help but lie on the vast carpet and sleep their troubles away. The clouds had enveloped the field not too long ago with their love; water droplets slowly traversed from one end of a blade of grass to the other, eventually leaping off onto the ground below them valiantly and gracefully. To think that such a perfect view could possibly exist in a place as awful as that one, full of outcasts and undesirables. That day was a very peculiar day, however, as there was one object amidst the green sea that did not belong in that world full of joy and beauty –- a lump of meat the color of dirt repugnantly pulsating, disturbing the otherwise peaceful meadow.

         A gust of wind attempted to wake up the sleeping man; so did the blades of grass, tickling his nose in a futile attempt at stopping his pestilent breath from bullying them. The man had seemingly appeared from thin air, although the air would never admit to being guilty of introducing the field to such a scrawny, shirtless, unfortunate man. His head was protected by a cheap, poorly-made straw hat with a black band. Even darker, unruly hair spilled from the top of his head down to his shoulders. An equally chaotic moustache jammed between his nose and upper lip was not enough to hide his unsightly visage. With a sudden jerk of his head, the man frantically sat up and observed his surroundings. He protected his eyes from the flood of bright, exuberant hues with his right arm after he had overcome the initial shock of waking up to such a lively place. He had come from… from…

         He grasped his head firmly with both hands, squeezing his temples desperately trying to stop the headache that had ambushed him. He could not remember whence he came, but images of dust swirling menacingly in the wind, tiny houses that could not successfully shelter more than three individuals struggling to maintain ten people satisfied, a scorching sun that would shrivel up all the remaining crops that those poor victims were desperately hoping could keep them breathing for a few more weeks, and… a tiny, violet flower forcing itself through the cracks on the dehydrated earth, miraculously surviving the extreme conditions of such a wasteland, poured into his mind. His headache subsided ever so slightly, enough to give the man enough strength to stand up and begin shuffling forward. He did not know where he was, nor where he was going, nor where he had come from, but neither did he find enough will to ponder such matters. All that was driving him forth was his innate urge to reduce his pain and remain alive.

         Having navigated through the field subconsciously, the man suddenly found himself in front of a pub with no recollection of how he brought himself to such an unprecedented location. He looked about him and noticed that he had stumbled upon a city full of houses unlike any of the houses he had imagined not too long ago. They were large and proud, able to satisfy three times as many as the shacks from his visions. There were no vile clouds of dust, and the ground was a healthy brown sprouting flowers and trees. So mesmerized was he by the culture shock that he did not realize the most astonishing feature of the town: its inhabitants were not creatures he had ever seen in person, rather characters he would only read in books or hear about in tales passed down through his family’s generations. At first glance they looked not so detached from the inhabitants of his own world, but he soon gasped at the horns protruding from their heads, horse torsos replacing their legs, butterfly wings sprouting from their shoulder blades, and even blue, green, and red-colored skin, if they were made of flesh at all. Everyone had halted their daily routines to stare in awe at him, a man equally as peculiar as they were to him. No, in fact the man seemed more familiar. Their astonished expressions began slowly contorting into that of anger -- of disgust -- as everyone’s surprise was soon replaced with the same false assumption of the man’s origins.

         Acknowledging this, the man hurriedly entered the pub in hopes of being provided a cure for his agonizing head. He walked as swiftly as his skinny, malnourished legs allowed him to and grabbed on to the bar for his dear life. He was looking down at the ground, partly because that was the position in which his head had ended up after nearly falling over, partly because he had no energy left to lift his head, and partly because he was begging, with the raspy voice of a man who had not tasted any drink other than dirty water and his own urine in years, “please, would you be so kind as to provide me with anything that may extinguish the fire spreading throughout my head and body?” Every word that managed to leave his vocal chords shredded the inside of his throat and made his eyes water. When was the last time he had uttered a sound other than whimpers?

         There was a long moment of silence as everyone in the pub stopped chattering and gazed upon the strange creature that had limped into their gathering place. Slowly, whispers broke out as everyone began theorizing the possibilities. Who was this man? Where had he come from? Why was he wearing shorts that covered only down to his knees, ripped in multiple places, yet no shoes, no shirt, and most peculiar of all a hat made of straw? As had been the case with the other inhabitants, who were presently loitering just outside the pub entrance in anticipation for what may become of the creature, they all began assuming the same identity for the man, the tone of their whispers beginning to shift from confused and mildly fascinated to angry and hostile.

         The man, who could no longer bear the anguish, mustered his last remaining energy to grasp his straw hat, hold it against his chest, and look ahead at the bartender towering over him. Before he was able to utter his plea, his whole entire body froze, leaving him gawking with his mouth agape. The bartender was a tall, muscular man, so muscular he could easily shred the quivering child into tiny little pieces; the bartender’s green, rough skin and blood-red eyes intimidated the child to no end; every move, no matter how small, caused the bartender’s pectorals to bulge out, making the child flinch. At long last, the words began to leak out of the child’s mouth, “I beg of you, I am unable to bear this anguish any longer!”

         The bartender stared into the man’s eyes, his gaze stern and to the brim with exasperation, but all of a sudden the bartender looked up at all his customers and bellowed “friends, laugh to your heart’s content, ridicule till you no longer have the energy to do so, for in front of you is a Xana so dragged down from his pedestal of glory that he finds himself groveling at the feet of a lowly Hemi!” The entire pub exploded in a series of howls, shrieks, and squeals as bottles of green liquid and red cubes began hurling toward him. A bottle shattered on his head, causing him to drop to his knees and begin bleeding. The bartender had lifted himself over the countertop and proceeded to grip the man, who was in too much pain to distinguish anything his eyes were able to capture through the thick blanket of tears, by the neck and hurl him outside of the pub, causing the man to face-plant onto the ground and skid at least a quarter of a meter. There he lay, dirt inside of his mouth, blood running down the sides of his head, unable to move nor ignore the blazing inferno that had took hold of his entire being. He could feel his consciousness leaking out of him alongside his blood, as if it were clinging on to the wound but the flood of blood were too strong for the consciousness to hold on for long. The laughter that surrounded him never ceased, but as he fell deeper and deeper into unconsciousness, the laughter sounded more as though everyone were submerged in a black sea, sinking lower and lower, their laughter growing fainter and more muffled.

         In a distant field full of beautiful flowers, a water droplet slid down the flower’s violet pedals, and if any romantic had happened to see that, they would have concluded that the flower was weeping.