MINERVA: Episodic, Single-Player Half-Life 2

Juvenilia 3 - Anniversary -

Last story from the first half of 2003 (it's increasingly obvious I was taking a creative writing course around then, isn't it?) - anniversary.kwd, a happily ambiguous tale about something...


Laughter drifted out through the trees, the sound of children playing and adults quietly talking. An early evening in autumn, a warm breeze ruffling the streamers and flags hung across the paved yard. Every so often someone with a glass wandered over to see him, where was resting on a wicker armchair. His age meant he tired easily. A celebration for him; a celebration of him. His birthday. The blur in his eyes made everything diffuse, a warm glow enveloping the yard. He looked around as a gust of wind blew some dry leaves off one of the trees, and

fragments of leaves drifted down, torn into shreds by the guns. The firing started again, and he crouched down further, away from the vengeful zip of bullets flicking overhead and pushed himself further into the sodden undergrowth. The musty smell of rotting leaves entered his nostrils, purging them of the acrid pepper of his own odour, his lacerated body unwashed for months, fresh wounds hiding old scars. The few remaining tatters of his uniform clung to him, soaked through, a constant reminder of what he was. He turned his head round, as

his daughter walked up to him, clutching a bowl of salted nuts. She was smiling, and held the bowl out towards him. He slowly shook his head, politely declining the offer. She waved at him, and hurried towards the crowd where younger faces beckoned. Someone hooted with laughter, the

screams without echo in the dark forest. Another shot, another scream, this time one which slowly ebbed away into nothing. Did he approve of this? It was becoming difficult to judge such concepts. The dull moan of those around him began again, and he retreated into himself, pushing back into

his wheelchair. His daughter wheeled him towards the trees, his family gathering around him. So many faces, so many memories. Too difficult to forget. Now heading for the table, they walked together, joking and cajoling each other, following the wheelchair like some figurehead at a parade. The setting sun cast long shadows across the wall, the sudden creation of new shadows causing flies to buzz away,

landing on the open wounds. They would lay their eggs which would hatch, turning into maggots which would inch their way through the still-living body, consuming the dead and dying flesh. So be it. There was little one could do about such things, they were unfit for working anyway. Used, and to be discarded - surely no strength left left to be wrung from these bodies. Did he approve? He could no longer tell, surrounded by the noise, the smell and the reality. He could remember a speech, where

his grandson held up a glass, wishing everyone well before returning to his seat. Nothing too formal, the informality was reassuring. A reminder of what they could be, without the uniform, without the uniform behaviour. When in a crowd, you conformed with it. And when that crowd was happy, you might as well smile back. A cheer rose as the door was pushed open, a large platter of roast meat followed by his daughter. A rich, meaty fragrance rose with the steam and

the smoke, the body still convulsing on the ground. No uniform, a civilian? Perhaps a spy. In this situation, it was best to ask questions afterwards. Any hint of betrayal or uprising had to be crushed, the risk of it overwhelming the labour camp's meagre defences was too great. Could it happen? He looked backwards, the faces crowding behind him. He doubted it, but maybe he underestimated

his family. Another present? His son handed him the envelope, oblivious to its contents. It was large, rectangular and slightly textured, the expensive paper with an official stamp on it. He carefully opened it, his veined hands shaking due to his age, or his nerves. Old wounds. Unfurling the letter, he began to read. He had expected this, but never thought it would take so long.

His body relaxed, and he tipped his head backwards. Tears emerging from his clouded, rheumy eyes, he sat back in his chair. Could it happen, after all these years?

Only following orders? It wouldn't work this time.

Please excuse the purple prose. Tomorrow, we go backwards in time!

Article Comments (now closed)

Tom Edwards's gravatar

1. Reminds me of a certain URL

Posted by Tom Edwards at 9:15AM, Friday August 18 2006


Cargo Cult's gravatar

2. Git

Posted by Cargo Cult at 10:09AM, Friday August 18 2006

That is all. :-P

kast's gravatar

3. flash in the pan

Posted by kast at 4:23PM, Friday August 18 2006

Gotta love 'Feuer Frei'. ^^

Fascinating subject matter in Anniversary - something that's not often talked about. I love how the sentances flow into one another, as the flashbacks might. Plus how the lack of dialogue so strongly emphasises the imagery. Very thought provoking.

vecima's gravatar

4. uhh

Posted by vecima at 10:54PM, Friday August 18 2006

this one was good, but i didn't pick up on what was hinted at in the last unbolded section (reading the letter)...

maybe i need to wait a few hours and try again

Cargo Cult's gravatar

5. Stockholm Syndrome

Posted by Cargo Cult at 11:52PM, Friday August 18 2006

Nobody's ever noticed the alternative possibility...

Cargo Cult's gravatar

6. Updates

Posted by Cargo Cult at 11:56PM, Friday August 18 2006

Also, in case you hadn't noticed - postdated articles become visible to the public at midnight, BST. A ghost story, anyone?

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