Writing Prompt #101 — Wooden Memories

Prompt: When humans die, they turn into an elemental statue. Like one made of trees or the one made of ice even the obsidian one. You are a rogue artist that paints the battlefields after the battle.

If it weren’t for the full moon, I wouldn’t be able to see anything. Empty shells clatter against my feet, dry bloody mud crumbles underfoot,  gunpowder and sweat and adrenaline still tinges the air. My supplies rattle in my bag slung over my shoulder. I pass by men made of wood, lines etching across limbs, spiraling in their chests and faces, frozen in time and place. Some are reaching for something, or have their arms out, holding an invisible rifle; others cower on the ground with their arms crossed over their heads, or lying flat, their limbs splayed.

No one ever patrols the fields after war, but the fear of being caught still looms in the back of my head. I find a spot behind a rust streaked foundry, in the deep shadows it casts. I wait a moment, two, hear nothing, then drop my bag and riffle through it. I remove a bottle spray paint and stencils in the shape of long forgotten symbols: hearts, silhouetted doves, olive branches, and others, so many others lost to war, history.

I slap stencils against the wooden warriors and the sound of the can hissing fills the still air, then another symbol across his face, his arm, his thigh; then I’m moving the next one and the next and the next. Over and over I cover these remembrances, these pointless martyrs, from head to toe with signs that are no longer spoken or practiced.

The can empties, and I let it fall and lie with the spent shells as I run to retrieve another—

Someone crouches before my bag, rummaging through it, taking out cans and setting them aside, flicking stencils away. Shadows hide the person’s clothes and features. I draw the pocket knife from my back pocket and approach.

“Hey!” I call. “That’s my stuff.”

I can now make out that it’s a man — for it always seems to be men — and he turns to me, stands. He’s carrying stencils, but his own. They’re signs of the present: crossed guns, three crossed Xs, flames and boots stomping on gaping skulls. He might’ve already held it, but he holds a pistol now in the other hand, pointed towards me.

“You’re not supposed to be here,” he says.

“Neither are you,” I say, despite the fear spreading from the back of my head and washing down my neck. My hands go clammy, my feet numb.

“You’re wrong,” he says.

“How so?”

“War never left.”

The gunfire explodes over the silence, erupts in my eardrums, and something punches my stomach, forcing me to drop my stencils, the knife. Another explosion;  my chest is torn apart. I can’t breath, think, barely see. The world is blurring and spinning and I’m on the ground but I can’t feel it. My head is to the side and miles away I can hear the crunching of gravel under boots, and through a fine haze, I can see my blood fill my scattered stencils.

Something metallic and cold is pressed to my temple.


Read my previous prompt, “What’s Dead Remains Dead

Read more of my writing prompts here.

Check out my bibliography for more of my work.

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