Tabula Rasa
Andrew R Crow

Although it was past twilight, two of the farmhands were spreading heavy loads of compost on the newly-plowed field to the west of the window he was looking through. A quiet, whispery sound behind him.

"What do you see, when you look like that?"

"Numbers", he wanted to say, "Positive and negative, yin and yang, good and evil finally coming together this night in a cosmic numerical judgment day, where everything finally equals out." But what he really said was "Nothing. Just glad this evening is over, another healthy child, another happy ending." The last one, he thought to himself.

As if to emphasise the point, a soft mewling was heard from the bedroom, with joyous crying of the mother and gentle, frustrated laughing of the father. "No, put your other hand here..."

It had been ten years since he'd returned from the war, injured fighting the Afrika Korps, not sure how or when the war would end. Injured, scarred, bitter. But full of guilt, mostly. Seventeen lives he had taken. A doctor, fighting to save lives at the North African front, forced to take up arms when they were overwhelmed. Fighting to take lives.

But tonight's baby, the seventeenth live birth since he'd switched specialties last year had, he hoped, cleared the slate. There was none of the expected joy in this, just cold purpose. He was sadder than he'd ever been.

He looked out the window at the starlight and wondered where he would go from here.

First published: February, 2007
comments to the writer: Knob'