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The Beach

By Jeremiah Ukponrefe

The sensation that I shouldn’t be here tickles me. The effects of being ancient begin with light touches. Then wrinkles, aches, and forgetfulness make their assault. The heavy hand of regret constantly knocks. I am waiting for redemption to answer.

"How was the war?"


My commander spews words that are visceral but motivating.

"Our enemy is inhuman! They don’t know empathy or kindness! They’re like us in one way. Desire, which is your death! Kill them, or they will kill you. Your friends. Your family!"

A simple idea from a complicated time


Even at my age. Anxiety quakes through my body when asked. I don’t like to think of it. All I see are dying men. Limbs gone. Minds awake to see it.

I don't understand why people want to know about such destruction, and I don’t want to answer.

She’s a nurse. She’s kept me alive, but this is no life. My body is a cage, and the wires that pump my blood are chains. Her eyes are locks. I would rather sleep.




Sand and men are both devoured by the beasts above.



Their names I’ve forgotten. I will never forget the pain of losing them.



I dash left, right, and center. Duck, cover, and shoot. I know my role. They make similar movements in their gray husks.


I have to repeat questions whenever I hear them. Sometimes I even forget my name, who I am, and where I came from.

"I was never much of a soldier. Not a hero. Sometimes it feels like I never was."

Her eyes shift. She’s nervous. Searching for something. She’s unsatisfied. They expect a clever twist to stories that have been told before.




The men ahead were blanketed by the breath of fire.

My instinct was to back away, and my command was to step forward.

Buried within sheets of ash, dotted shapes emerged. The snarls of the beasts turned into howls that overpowered the cries for help.


"I’m the only one who made it."

"Yes," she answers calmly. She winces. That tells me something. She’s heard this story before. Another curse of old age. When I speak, she nods. It's like being a child again. My repeated stories are indulgent.



Rising tides of blood clash their way above me. My arms burn with the essence of agony.

Kurt is dead. Tim, Joe, and Steven.

My arm is missing now.



"What should happen to them?" She continues.

"They deserve to die. I-"

"Yes. Yes, you do."

I don’t have a missing arm. I’m missing six. Grey. Scaled. Etched with the blood of men.

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