It was the middle of civil war between the people of the KDPI and the imperial state of Iran. The year was 1985. The atmosphere: it had seen better days…
Wails of local defendants arose from every crowded ward, medics and family members alike sharing a reservoir of tears for the lost. And Cyrus’ hellish shift had come to a welcome end.
The hospital was like an iterating reminder of the suffering his townspeople had endured. Screams of a Banshee would be more soothing than these cries of agony, Cyrus thought. He had always loved mythology, and somehow these tales and characters of old gave him some comfort now. A reference point for the horror that had no place in the modern world.
As Cyrus dragged his sore feet, enveloped in pain from endless work, out of the town hospital, a lone figure readily joined him from far behind the football pitch. Cyrus sighed in relief as he saw his last hope in this world come forth from behind the crimson fence of the pitch. No family, no more friends.
His last lifeline, late from the football practice young men insisted on keeping during this time of chaos. Casper, the treasurer of his sanity and wellbeing, ravaged in filth and cool sweat, retained a pearly smile that glistened mountain peaks for Cyrus to witness miles away. No friendship could compare to the inseparable bond the two had. Like polar opposites, they had formed an attraction that could have powered nuclear generators for millennia to come.
Cyrus was always a willow, strong at the base, and full of branches that resembled his wide windows of opportunities and academic achievement, yet also his sensitive graceful appearance. On the other hand, Casper was always more of a Maple in high school, sturdy and tough on the outside with hidden sweetness on the interior that only those close to him bared witness to. It was when Cyrus, a typical victim of narcissistic teenagers, was spotted by Casper in an enclosed dorm in high school being threatened at knife point by three other kids, that he balanced better judgement with street credit, taking a slash he wasn’t meant to and saving a helpless victim that was now his most trusted friend! Cyrus had taken him hand in hand to the nurse’s office and stayed at his bedside till Casper restored his health, relaying stories of Ancient Babylon, the Greek Pantheon and the Deities of Ancient Egypt.
Now, as Casper’s practice had come to an end later than expected, the youthful souls took a detour to get home safely: not to avoid the eyes of night but the deathly sight of a Firefly. Little did they know this detour would strengthen their bond a thousand times over and break their hearts a hundred more. Because, as the orb of light that had been warming Iranian terrains descended beyond the mountain peaks, and the moon trailed above in return to form dusk, the Fireflies began to shoot through the still, obsidian air. Little luminous critters ejected from AK47 barrels that have countlessly served the imperial state’s blood drenched hands. But that wasn’t even the worst of it… not even close.
They had begun using mortars that spewed colonies of fireflies, blinding yet beautiful and, what’s the word?
Cyrus noted crystal tears of sweat and uncharacteristic fear that dripped from Casper’s’ angelic skin on sight of the first fireling. A quiet flame, which even the notorious Iranian winter rainfall couldn’t have extinguished! And then, swarmed by a sudden migration of fireflies, going from south to north, Casper – the dynamic footballer, the centre-forward – lost his nerve. He stood exposed to the attack.
Cyrus snatched his friend’s ice-cold hand and shifted him towards the path of the grim cemetery, laid with crypts of fallen soldiers from needless wars on both sides alike. One could even see a chip in Casper’s pure porcelain face emerge to the surface. Cyrus’s heart shattered as he saw his former glistening shine diminish like vapours evolving from boiling cyanide.
It was at this instance that both of them knew: this blue moon would be their last.
Cyrus evaded the Fireflies in the sky as he maneuvered them both through ravenous mists and remorseless ground to find the nearest empty crypt, a perfect hiding place. Casper, meanwhile, gasped heavily through each numbingly glacial front, taking one singular breath at a time, the sound of his ailing heart piercing the very walls of your ear in a terror no young soul should bear witness to.
He drew his last.
Cyrus turned to look at his friend, fallen in the mud. And then he saw. Casper’s shirt no longer had the standard four holes, but now was engraved with scars of a myriad of rips, baring his shattered porcelain skin so revealed, as if the shirt was wearing him instead…
Cyrus was still. He watched the last crystal tear, slowly making its way down the slope of his best friend’s cheek. He felt strangely numb.
‘Down the river Styx,’ he thought, watching as if behind a screen.
The elements shifted and sapphire rain fell. ‘From the cosmic depths of the Stygian Clouds’ Cyrus mused. He gently pushed Casper’s body into the grave, the perfect hiding place he had sought for them. His young medic’s eyes passed over the exposed organs of his dearest friend fluctuating out of his body onto the damp soil. Who knew fireflies could bite? So measly in size, yet leaving an unwavering collage of anguish and suffering in their trail.
Like the rhythmic movements of a serpent…
The alluring cry of a canary…
And the ruthless demeanour of a lion… All are masterpieces of Gaia’s own palm, yet infused with a deadly vengeance only Apophis could concoct.
Cyrus crouched down and took a seat next to his dead friend. He sat there staring at a singular tooth he found in his range of view on the grave floor. He scowled at the decaying teeth like an owl at a vulnerable mouse. As he bent down to inspect it, he felt a pinch in his coat pocket. A razor scalpel. He had forgotten to return it to the supervising medic back at the hospital, because of Casper’s late practice session! He turned it over almost lovingly in his hand. The gleaming metallic rays of moonlight reflected off its sharp surfaces.
He drew four fingers and a thumb, placing it on his late friend’s cold hands…
A scalpel, a tooth and a friend. What more could a boy need?
Only thing is that I just can’t stand the annoying screeches of these soldiers any longer, if only I could, if only I could, if only …
What was I going to say? It’s so easy to forget your troubles when you’re ten feet under decaying flesh and bones. It’s as if we’re joining them later right, Casper? Earth to Casper?
I’ll give him time; he will reply. He’s just tired and needs rest, and he stayed extra late today to practice, and me to tend to the wounded. We both need a well-deserved rest! He looks exhausted after all that running; I shouldn’t bother him.
Oh! Casper, look! More of those fireflies!
Once you’re not in between them they actually look prettier than an aurora from down here.
My wrists are in pain and Casper’s stomach doesn’t look too good either. We should both go to the hospital to see Dr. Shatteri first thing in the morning. But for now I need a rest.
Those pestering fireflies have stopped making noise, and have moved on at last. But I’ll stay here to be sure. I don’t think I’m moving any time soon. I’m just so tired. I can’t tilt my head anymore to see outside.
Thinking about it, I’ll just stay the night. Until the sun rises on another ‘glorious’ day…
What’s this? I can feel the orb of light finally taking its throne in the sky as the Grimm moon descends to its basement. As if Amun Ra: Deity of the sun himself has shun a final glare of hope onto my restless eyes. Its rays of warmth caress my damp skin, but I still can’t see anything. Have I gone blind?
I can’t seem to move either. All I feel are mounds of sand or soil being shoveled onto us. Onto me and Casper. It feels comfy, like an angel’s grace within our own vicinity. The powdery substance is slowly filling the empty space around us – I feel it as it submerges my limbs, and creeps down my very thorax. Ironic isn’t it, a thousand fireflies and it took a powdery substance to cause me discomfort. But still, it’s like I am at peace with the earth. Returned to the one from which I came. But I hope someone finds us; there’s so much I have to do today it is … I
The blood from Cyrus’s body – a body that had been lifeless since nightfall, long before the bodies of the two young men, the footballer and the medic, were discovered and buried by the remaining townsmen – had formed a tributary of its own. But this tributary had infused with another shade of lighter blood from the left, forming a chemically inseparable bond that would forever stain the earth.
War and its acolytes, grief, madness and fireflies, may take those who are friends. But it shall never break the bonds shared between them.