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Alfie Saves The Day

Something I haven’t done in a while… some new fiction. Assorted author’s notes (random and useless rambling) at the end of the tale. Saying more beforehand strikes me as pointless; if the story needs you to tell people what it’s about or why you wrote it prior to the audience reading it, you have failed writing forever.

Alfie Saves The Day

It was a Tuesday. Alfie remembered that, and he was pretty sure it was early August, though it might have been late July. It was definitely 1917, though. The version of his life that was public knowledge got that part down pretty well, even if it left out a lot of the other stuff. They were somewhere along the Argonne, dug in deep, as they had been for months, for years. They were hungry, hot, tired, scared, and bored, and Alfie had decided… or been volunteered, as he always was, because he was best at it… to see if he could get some chickens.

He had. The woods were a mix of abandoned trenches, barbed wire, half-burned or half-exploded trees, and roads turned to mud and gravel, but he moved through them swiftly and silently in the dark, needing to carry no light so long as there was a hint of moon or star to turn what the real men saw as a great black void of shadow on shadow into what he saw, a landscape of subtle grays and scents and motions that he could never have been taught the words for. The real men didn’t have the words, and it was a bad thing to make up words of your own, words the real men couldn’t understand. Alfie learned early on not to do bad things.

Occasionally, there would be the world-shaking rattle of an exploding shell. He couldn’t help but start at those, but the real men did, too, so it was nothing to be ashamed of. They had a little less to fear, though. There was that new policy they’d began, a year or so back. If they lost an arm or a leg or an eye, they could have another, from someone who had lost even more. The papers had called it a great thing, a triumph for the common man. Only the rich had been able to afford the treatments before, the nobles and lords and captains of industry, but now every soldier, if there was any hint of life left, could be given these gifts. Not the Mor, though. It wouldn’t do to sew the arm of a real man onto a Mor, and a crippled Mor was useless, could never earn back the cost of his life. They would have to go to sleep, and that would be that.

Unless he was very good. If he was very good, if he acted in all ways like a real man, then, it was said, he would become one when he died, that all of the beast would be flayed away and sent to burn below, while the pure man would ascend to heaven. Alfie thought that sounded like a wonderful thing, and had worked very hard on acting like a real man.

He smiled a bit and touched the patch on his shoulder with his left hand. “PFC”, Private First Class. Not many Mor got that; not many Mor even made private. He got pay and rations the same as the real men, and he supposed he could even give orders to a private, but he knew better than to try. The real men he served with liked him, even if some of them teased him; they teased each other as well, it was all about being a soldier, and they really liked him when he brought them chicken, like he was doing now. With his right hand, he reached up to grab a branch, intending to use it to help swing over a small crevasse, and then it suddenly struck him that both hands were empty.

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