Word Count 496
Triptych of the Soul
by G. Ackman
I am the sole survivor of my village. They are all gone, gasping out their last breaths as blood seeped under their darkened skin. The smell of their dying is imprinted in my mouth. I will never drink milk nor eat meat again. Behind the blacksmith’s hut the funeral pyre smolders, the ashes swirling the last bits of my friends, my family, and my enemies. Their eyes haunt me and the silence here is deafening. Yet I remain.
I have worn through the soles of countless foot coverings walking through the village to the hill on the west and then back again to the river that makes our eastern border. Some days I head north and go as far as the old road, but there is never anyone on it. I have never gone south. It was forbidden and I am comforted by following that rule. There must be more to the world than I can see, but I am limited to only what I can traverse in one day, hampered by the festering blisters on the soles of my feet. There are evenings when I must forcibly rip the leather from the sole of my foot and feel the skin going along with it. Yet I walk.
I have given up my soul or maybe it’s my body I have given up. I can no longer differentiate between them. I am seeking something that I can neither define nor describe, yet I am compelled to continue my search each day. I eat only what I find – berries and nuts mostly – but I no longer feel hunger. Why did I survive? Was I a better person than everyone else in my village? Certainly not. Am I being punished by surviving? I cannot think so. Is it God’s will that my sister’s infant died before he had a chance to live? Is it God’s will that I am alone – a sole survivor without a soul? Is there even a God at all? Or is it all just random chance – a lucky constitution of my body? I cannot answer these questions. I am not educated in these matters and our wise men are all gone just like the meanest shepherd, despite having the best of treatments. Precious onions kept from the cooking pot rubbed on the body of our priest, but even he died. I was taught to accept and pray when life was difficult. Yet I question.
At my side walks a dog. I don’t know where he came from. I have never had a dog before but I guess I have one now. I cannot allow even one more living thing to die, so I find food and water for him. He was scared at first, but now he is my friend. Yesterday I stopped walking in the afternoon and he sat at my side. I am no longer alone. Maybe soon I will stop walking and find my soul again, or maybe I already have.