This flash piece was written for Microcosms last Friday. My prompts were “soldier”, “aftermath of war”, “post-apocalyptic”.

And He Wore Green in His Beret

“You know what tomorrow is, don’t you?” his son asked, looking up at him, his eyes large and brown.

Aliel sighed and glanced at the rusted metal trunk that held his uniform.

“How can I forget?” He stood, his chair creaking almost as much as the house did in the wind. The house was old – 30 years. Built before the war, it was one of the few places that was still inhabitable after the war.

He took his crutches and walked to the doorway. Across the yard stood a row of graves. Some held bodies, like that of his brother. Some only had a roughly hewn tombstone, like that of his mother. Perhaps, he thought, after tomorrow the ghosts of the past will go to rest. He looked down at his calloused hands, pushing away the red-and-black memories that still haunted his dreams.

 

Aliel waited on the road that led into the town. The only part of his uniform that he wore was his beret. After all, he had promised his wife that he would never put it on again until his funeral.

She was standing amidst the crowd with their son, and he tried to spot them as they walked by in the procession; men of nondescript age who was left to use canes and crutches and wooden limbs after the war that changed the face of the planet.

He stumbled when something landed at his feet – many of the men did. Then he saw what it was – a small, budding branch of one of the trees, its bright green leaves only just unfurled. He bent, picked it up, and stuck it in his beret, the same as he did twenty years ago when he asked his wife to marry him. The day the war ended.