The first time I heard this song I was struck by the raw pain and loss it conveyed. I couldn’t get it out of my head and must have listened to it dozens of times over the following days. Eventually a story formed in my mind, and this is the result….
Pulling his gaze away from the gray snow, he looked down. I know.
What time is it?
He pulled the boy closer. Trying to transfer some heat, any heat to the shivering body. I don’t know. It’s been a couple hours. Save your strength. Try to rest.
He knew it was futile. The cold was intense, sinking into his core. Sapping his strength. Sheer cliffs jutted up on two sides disappearing into the lowering sky. Flakes gusted down the rocky crevice to his left. Bloody splotches patched the ground marking the way they’d come. He’d made it this far before passing out. He studied his legs. Curious. They could have belonged to someone else – a buddy from the war. The left ankle twisted grotesquely. The femur protruding from the compound fracture in his right thigh. Alone he could have kept going, but the weight of the boy, as light as he was, had been too much. He’d dragged both of their bodies until the blackness pulled him under. The whimpering had jerked him from oblivion. Cursing himself, he shook his head, angrily clearing the last vestiges of paralysis and pulled both of them into the meager shelter of a boulder. The boy was worse. Much worse. Each racking cough flecked his lips with pink froth. A punctured lung most likely; he didn’t have much time. A vein in the small temple fluttered in the dying light. He watched the rapid pulse, holding onto it like the last strand of life. He could feel the little heart pumping like a wounded bird beating against the walls of its cage. Brushing back a strand of blonde hair from the clammy forehead, he absentmindedly noticed the dislocated ring finger. Gritting his teeth he grabbed it and gave a sharp jerk. The lancing pain flooded his arm, distracting him for a second from his mangled legs.
Are you ok?
The sudden movement had woken the boy. Clear brown eyes looked up at him. The wheezing rattle of his breath had flattened leaving only a shuddering whisper. The blood running from between his lips was brighter, thicker. He tried to smile.
You know I’m gonna see mommy before you do.
A screaming emptiness was opening inside his soul.
Grabbing the little body, he pulled him close. Rocking him like he’d done years ago. Feeling his vision drowning in pools of blackness.
I don’t feel cold anymore.
No words came. An animal noise was clawing up the back of his throat, a guttural tearing sound.
Don’t worry, daddy. The faintest of smiles twisted the blood-masked face. Slowly, the head fell back onto his chest.
Broken. Silent. He held him. Tears running down his face and tracing dark patterns in the tousled blonde hair. Pulling the body to himself he tried to say everything he never had. Racking sobs translating unspoken words. With a last shuddering sigh, the body went limp. Somewhere from within his encircling arms, the bird took flight.