By Hayli McClain
Everything is rubble and people everywhere are dead—but watch: as the living flee backwards through the destruction, the dead come back to life.
The bakery owner’s heart flutters stronger until the shattered remains of his shop rise off of his chest, freeing him to stand wide-eyed behind his counter, watching as the bombs float up and away like children’s balloons into the pocked sky.
Bullets whiz through the air, sliding neatly into gun barrels. The enemy gains ammunition by the minute as lead raises people from the ground, popping free from their backs, closing the holes in their flesh. A dozen of them pull a mother to her feet, while a burst of fire makes her son and daughter whole in each other’s arms. Their father’s tears run upwards into his eyes, and he wonders, But how could it happen to us?
Doesn’t anybody out there care what’s happening?
The sky clears of poison smoke by great plumes. Cracks in store windows seal across until every pane is unbroken. Explosions clench like fists, closing, smoothing the pavement flat while old buildings are newly erected, and people rush toward what they can’t see coming from behind.
Brick by brick and breath by breath, a whole town is put together out of the shattered pieces, and the guns and bombs are taken away, dismantled, rended into raw materials returned to the earth to lie in silence like the graves being uncovered and emptied one by one across the countryside healing over green and gold from her scars.
After all this, the mother, unburdened of bullets, tosses clean clothes into the machine and pulls them out covered in BBQ stains from the Fourth of July picnic coming up. Outside, in the fresh-cut grass of their yard, her son chases his sister with a stick, going, “Blam! Blam!”
Their mother watches the news half-heartedly while her husband drives to work in reverse. The news anchor talks about distant lands and their distant troubles. He mentions people the mother doesn’t know—people who don’t seem real enough to bother worrying over, people birthed every day by constructive fire.
They show a Syrian toddler lying drowned on a beach, his face gray as the sand, another child delivered by God at his mother’s prayers, about to be born from the water. Only then does the anchor warn that their broadcast may disturb some viewers.
Unfolding her children’s laundry on the back of the couch, the mother says, “Poor thing,” about the boy on the beach. “What a shame.”
Her children come running heels-first into the house. She tells them, “Okay, have fun.”
They say, “We’re going outside to play war.”