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Hi, I'm horror and science fiction author Steve Kozeniewski (pronounced: "causin' ooze key.") Welcome to my blog! You can also find me on Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, and Amazon. You can e-mail me here, join my mailing list here, or request an e-autograph here. Free on this site you can listen to me recite one of my own short works, "The Thing Under the Bed."

Saturday, July 11, 2009

The Last War: Chapter 30

Jose Nicolás Rodriguez Juarez was the chaplain for the Spanish 38th Corps. He had gone to Roman Catholic seminary, but he found that he had to begin studying many new religions as the Coalition came into existence. He was constantly dealing with Mongolians, Africans, Easterners, and any number of other ethnic backgrounds.

He sighed. He'd been conscripted because most men didn't like to kill unless they thought God (or the Gods in the case of some of the different religions Juarez had come into contact with) was on their side. He really didn't think God was on their side. He didn't think God was on the Alliance side, either.

He was in the field hospital which the 38th had hastily erected after the Battle on the Garonne. Whatever his feelings about war were, he felt obligated by God and Spain and his own conscience to comfort dying men. The field medic grimly showed him to the section where all the fatally wounded were lying. He passed through the less gruesome part of the hospital, where men lie in pain and discomfort, but knowing they would soon be better, and quite possibly sent home. A few men and women reached out their arms to Juarez. He took each in turn and gave a blessing of good will and a smile. Prayer, he thought, would do more to aid these men in recovery than any amount of pharmacopoeia.

And then he entered the realm where battle had taken it's greatest toll. Men and women lay hooked to respirators, their own lungs long since given up functioning. People lie with great rents in them, gangrene and other nefarious diseases eating away at them. Those with battlefield diseases sat in a poorly quarantined quarter of the room, away from those hurt by mere bombs and bullets and knives.

A multitude of voices cried out in varying intensities and languages, "Padre". Padre Juarez looked helplessly at the medic. The medic pointed at one man who was horribly mangled, so as barely to be recognizable as a man. When the Padre reached him, he saw that the man was in fact a boy, a young Spanish boy.

He looked quite urgent in his eyes, but no words escaped his lips. Only a faint, low whistle like some far off wind could be heard from him.

"His vocal cords have been slashed," the medic whispered in the Padre's ear, "He's still conscious, but he doesn't have long. And he knows. He wants to go to Heaven."

"What's his name?" asked Juarez.

"Víctor," said the medic.

The Padre kneeled down to the floor and took what was left of Víctor's burned and scarred hand. The boy winced in pain, but did not try to retract his hand.

"You've been fighting a holy war, Víctor," the Padre lied, "You won the battle, you know," that was not a lie, "You should take great comfort in that fact. God is with you Víctor. He has been with you from the start. He has decided now you're to go to Him. You do want to go to Him, don't you Víctor?"

The boy struggled to nod.

"I know you'll go to Heaven. You know why, Víctor? Because, you have done what few other people have. You have given your life up for righteousness. God will look more favorably upon you than on any other. May God keep you, my son."

The boy seemed to be struggling. The whisping air from his throat almost sounded like "Padre". The Padre crossed Víctor very carefully, taking the boy's hand with him as he did it. Víctor smiled when Padre Juarez said, "the Holy Ghost", completing the cross. His eyes closed. The Padre rose.

The medic clapped Juarez on the back.

"Thank you, Padre. You probably made his last few moments joyful. He'd been fighting to stay alive, just so he could be blessed by you."

The Padre nodded absently. He was still looking at the latest casualty of a horrible war. He continued making his rounds, trying to give some comfort to the depressingly large amount of fatally wounded men and women.

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