This piece was written for the local VA Creative Arts Festival in 2018. It took 3rd place in the “short short story” category.
As the old man sat by the roadside near the pontoon bridge, he kept thinking, “I’ve been here before. The times change, the players change, but the game itself is always the same.”
The approach of two soldiers interrupted his thoughts. The woman had a silver leafy circle on the front of her armor. The man’s armor bore a red cross, a red star of David, a red crescent, and the more familiar red five-pointed star. Neither the woman nor the man looked Chinese or Asian.
“I’m sorry, sir. But you must keep moving,” the woman said to him, in perfect mandarin. The man immediately began to check his eyes, his breathing, his pulse. She continued, “Chinese forces are holding for now, but evacuation of the rural areas is still necessary.” Her voice hinted of urgency.
He glanced around again at the various soldiers. The two in front of him were obviously U.S. troops. He saw the differing camouflage patterns of Asian, African, European, and South American militaries among the rest of the soldiers.
He still remembered the sites of a few weeks ago. His own village and many neighboring ones in flames. Strange walking tanks attempting to herd villagers and destroying the permanent bridges. That was nearly a month ago.
A few days after, the Chinese military pushed those invaders back towards the direction of the coastal cities. A week after that, these other soldiers arrived with various trucks, construction teams, and instructions for the villagers to move towards the west.
Villagers packed the carts they owned. The trucks were loaded with supplies the soldiers brought for the people, people who could not move under their own power, and things villagers absolutely insisted must come along.
The math in his head told him he’d traveled for fifteen days. He was tired and unconvinced of the urgency. A part of him suggested he just stop and accept the inevitable, another part of him suggested the worst was over. No attacks took place since that night a month ago.
He looked up into the eyes of the American female and started to speak when a pair of aircraft flew overhead. The blackish-grey machines wore no markings he recognized. Both strafed the convoy, barely missing the bridge but hitting many of the mules, carts, trucks, soldiers, and villagers as they quickly flew past.
Then came the roaring engines of another pair of aircraft. These both were pale grey. One bearing U.S. markings and the other Russian as they screamed across the sky in pursuit of the attacking planes.
With wide eyes, he stood and spoke to the American female, “Now I understand the urgency. What are we waiting for?” Then he rejoined the line of villagers fleeing west.
Clipart stolen from Clipartmax.