(1 of 3. Originally posted on August 4, 2022 for the prompt “The sound could be heard for miles.”)
(Once you finish this one, you can read part 2 here.)
The sound could be heard for miles. The sharp crack of gunshots echoed through the desert air—the carousing of drunken soldiers, celebrating the annihilation of my people. The glow on the horizon had dimmed to a dull red mirror of the flames that burned my heart. The fighting had ended hours ago, almost as soon as it began. What could be left of my hometown that would feed enough flame to produce even that much light? Maybe they were burning the bodies. Burning my family.
My own small fire burned low, casting flickering light on the pile of delicate white flowers I’d collected through the night. I squeezed my eyes shut and drank deep from my canteen, trying to wash away the haunting images painted in my head by those sounds. My fingers trembled as I pressed the canteen down into the spring. I held it there, letting the warm water wash over my hand while warmer memories washed over my mind. The yearly gathering at this holy place, celebrating the source of life, refreshed my soul as its waters refreshed my body. The singing and dancing. The bright ribbons. The sweets made from cactus pulp and desert honey. The white star-flowers that could only be handled with gloves, kept a safe distance from the life-giving water, beautiful symbols of death to garnish the celebration of life.
I screwed the lid down tight and set the canteen aside before pulling on heavy gloves. Scooping up a double fistful of flowers, I squeezed until the juices ran down my gloves and dripped into the bubbling water, mingled with tears. I pressed the deadly blossoms down into that life-source, into the beating heart that pumped life to my home. The water swirled, sucked into pipes toward the well at the center of my hometown, my heart. Soldiers, dehydrated from alcohol and the hot work of burning my life to the ground, would draw from that well. By morning, tainted water had quenched all sounds of celebration. My heart lay at rest. The silence could be heard for miles.