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Wanna See a Card Trick?
I could easily shout into the void of our world about the cruelty and inhumanity of war, but even if I cried until my voice was hoarse I know my words would fall upon deaf ears, or at least the ears of men who are as paralyzed as I am.
I’m pretty sure the world was covered in a haze of fog when The War happened, for I have no perfect recollections. I can only clearly remember that The War stained the entire world red. Everything I saw, or breathed, or tasted, or heard, or touched, was red: all that was pure, all that was mechanical, all that was natural, all that was terrible, and all that was me, turned to red. I never did like that color, but it was one I was forced to live in for six years none-the-less.
I don’t even know why The War began in the first place, but then again, I don’t think anyone really knows why the world started fighting. I have heard some say that it was over land while others say it was for religious views, and a few people say it was for the big guys to earn a couple of bucks. I myself don’t believe a single word from any of them. If I had to guess, I believe The War began when someone was bored, and I think it ended when they were bored watching people fight and kill each other. I couldn’t tell you for sure about what happened, but I can tell you that I have lived seventy-three years on this Earth, and I have learned that the greatest of things and the worst of things come from boredom; one of the worst of those things is war.
I remember sitting in my bunk feeling bored our last year into The War, and my friend, Wilson, trying to entertain me with a card trick.
“C’mon, Von! Pick a card, any card; I know you want too.” Wilson said, waving a deck of cards underneath my nose. The sweet musk of paper and ink hit my face from the cards, and I could see the want to impress me with his magical skills gleaming in his eyes the way a child’s eyes would during a day of Show-and-Tell at school.
“Alright, alright. Show me your amazing, mystical powers.” I said. With a smile on his face, Wilson fanned out the deck, and turned his head away: closing his eyes.
“Pick a card, look at it, put it back in, and then prepare to be dazzled!” Wilson instructed me, enthusiastically.
Reluctantly I pulled out a Jack of hearts, and then placed it neatly back with the rest of the cards. Wilson, with as much drama as he could muster, shuffled his deck a hundred times over. The backs of the red and blue cards seemed to fly over his palms and swim between his fingers; I was very impressed with the performance.
Suddenly Wilson stopped, and smiled nefariously as he slid a card from the top of the deck.
“Is this your card?” He questioned, pushing an eight of spades in my face.
“Nope, try again.” I said, and gave a smile back to him
Wilson gave out a long, frustrated sigh in return. He threw his body onto the bed across from mine, and let his cards slip from his hands onto his blanket.
“I really thought I had it that time!” Wilson complained.
“Yea, me too.” I replied, and reached over toward my copy of The Bible that was lying sleepily on my pillow. “I’m sure you’ll be able to do it before you go home to Jacob, though.”
“I’m hoping. That boy needs to know that not only did his father defend our nation during this war, but he also learned a thing or two about magic.”
I couldn’t help but laugh, “I don’t think there’s magic in war.”
“Oh Von, but there is,” Wilson said to me, sitting up right in his bed, “there’s always magic.”
“I sure hope you’re right, Wilson.” I answered, laying my head down with my book wrapped in my arms. I was never very good at reading my Bible, but I liked to keep it with me anyway. There was always something comforting about holding the word of God within my arms that I simply cannot explain.
Later that evening, I was pulled away from slumber by the sound of sirens.
The sounds came loud and harsh like mechanical thunder, and I could not have jumped out of my bed faster than I had ever have in my entire life. I grabbed my coat hanging by the door, and slipped it on in a matter of moments, as did the other men in my cabin. As I was about to rush out the door, another man swung the entrance open.
“They found us, we need to move! Follow the other men; they know how to reach the shelter. Go!” He reported, and before I could even glance at his face, he was gone.
I ran out, and sure enough there were men running from the campsite and out into the darkness. I was breathless, my world was spinning, and the only word I could make out from the voices was “bomb.”
I ran after the men moving out, moving as fast as my legs could carry me. The world was a blur to me, and the only thing I could think of was following the men to the shelter.
I couldn’t tell you how fast I ran or how far I ran; I just kept moving forward. I could feel the bitter wind on my red cheeks as my boots pressed into the half-frozen snow that covered the ground in a cold, white sparkle. My hands were shaking, and my head was pounding. Everything around me seemed to speed up and slow down at the same time, and all the while everything was spinning. When you’re running for your life, nothing ever seems to be straight; all things living and pretend are grabbing at you and restricting you from life. So, when someone asks me if I was scared, I tell them yes: I was scared beyond my wildest dreams.
I did make it to the shelter, by God’s grace. I got underground, held my ears, and I prayed for the worst to come and pass as quickly as possible. After a time, I felt the ground shake, and my back was thrown against the dirt walls. I was soon succumbed by the black, warm blanket of darkness.
Eight days after the bombing, I awoke to white sterilized walls and the inability to move my legs. My head was pounding, my arm was broken, and every muscle in my body ached and screamed.
“Wonderful to see you awake, Mr. Steele.” A voice said to me. It was a girl’s voice, perky and hopeful. I slowly opened my eyes to see a bundle of blonde, short hair, brown eyes, and skin as smooth and pale as a pearl.
“What- what hap-?” I began to ask, but I couldn’t finish the sentence. It hurt to move.
“Just relax, you need your rest.” The girl said. I listened to her, and again fell back into sleep.
The next morning when I woke up I was able to talk. The girl, who was a nurse, explained I was currently in the hospital until I could be sent back home with honorable discharge. She told me that the nerves in my spine we damaged, and that I would be unable to walk again. At the time, I did not take the news seriously. In fact, I found it humorous; I don’t know why, but I did.
“Just wait until Wilson hears about this,” I told her, “where is he at?”
She asked for his last name, and when I told her, her smile became a frown.
“He’s not here anymore, Sir.” She answered me. “He passed away three days ago due to his injuries.”
I could feel fresh tears streaming down my face. The nurse quickly retrieved a box of tissues, and wiped my eyes.
“I’m so sorry for your loss.” She said to me as she dabbed the tissue under my eyes.
“So am I.” I told her.
“They say all is fair in love and war.” She told me.
“They’re wrong,” I said to her, looking into her brown, young eyes. “Nothing is ever fair, especially in love and war.”