The general had found his way home without the help of a parade or fanfare. His victories had taken the desire for celebration out of him anyways. There was no drinking or dancing when the fighting stopped. He just simply turned and began his exodus home.
His feet shuffled down his street as he took note of the small changes in his neighbor’s dwellings; praying that his own house had been spared. When he arrived he discovered a new fence. He had always promised to build one himself, but the war had finally given him a worthwhile excuse. It was a plain construct. A humble barrier to all who weren’t inside when it was finished.
The gate swung gracefully as he pushed his way in. The few steps leading to his door felt like the many battles that would always have a place in his mind. He reached for the knob once he finished climbing, it turned with a resistance he didn’t remember. Once inside he was greeted by the silence of his friends and family.
Their faces were painted with disdain and embarrassment. His wife, whose face he saw in the swirling fog of war, stared at her hands. His brother, who was now burdened with his own last name, pierced the general’s chest with his eyes in a way no sabre or bullet had dared to do. Neither his mother nor father had made it to the reception. The friends who he had lived through a childhood with, ignored him entirely. They couldn’t even bring themselves to hate him.
“I’m home.” The general said.
“Yes, but you couldn’t bother to wash up first?”
His arms were still decorated with ribbons of dried blood and his hair prematurely white with ash.
“I won.” The general said.
“Yes, while your fellow soldiers did not. At least they had the decency to fight on the right field.”
It was true. The general had achieved all his glory in a land that was not at war. He didn’t remember when he realized his kills were built upon a mistake. Nor did he remember when he chose to continue the bloodshed or if he even chose at all.
“I fought as hard and as bravely as I could.” The general said.
“Yes, but does that mean you deserve to live amongst us again?”
He knew that he had become a creature, an entity designed for nightmares, trapped in a fighter’s skin. He moved through the frays and the skirmishes like a ghost trying to rip others into the void. It was only when he had given up his gun did his feet become sluggish.
They turned from the general in a single motion. On their necks he saw his mistakes seeping through the small creases of their necks. He had strayed from them for too long. Wasting the days with wars that should never have been waged. The gap he had dug was too large to be filled. His absence had defined their life. He couldn’t alter it again. For the first time in his life, he was able to recognize that it simply wasn’t fair.
The general turned from his friends and family. He hoped that if one of them played the role of Lot’s Wife, there would be no salt. Not even from tears. He made his way outside and stood in the middle of his street. He looked down to where his disgrace remained, smoldering in the wind. He couldn’t go back there. Then he looked to where he should’ve gone so many weeks before. He could rectify it all and join the ranks of those fighting correctly. But he had not earned that reprieve.
He stood in that street until the sun vanished and the sky filled with tiny fires. He took one more look to each of his sides, remembered why he couldn’t go down either and decided on what he had to do. The general pulled his sword and tossed it into the air. As it tumbled through the air it caught each stars reflection briefly. It make a horrific noise as it crashed to the ground. The blade held strong as it came to a rest. He looked down at his blade. There was a single star sitting peacefully at the edge, that had ended so many journeys.
The general smiled and followed that star. He wondered what new fight awaited him, but he did not fear it, because he had left his weapons behind.