It’s been ten years. Ten long years since the fall of the Paragon Dam. I thought about what had happened during those years, all the trials and tribulations we’d been through. That the world had been through.
I always drive in silence on this day. Usually, I’d have my music loud, letting the beat take me away. But not on this day. Today, the reigning sound was the wind rushing by. I wanted to think.
It was brutal, that day in ’88. Six of us against all of them, that whole bunch of rebels and criminals. And we were winning. We were pushing them back. The dam was the perfect place to fight.A shining symbol of unity between the districts, hiding the best excuse for rebellion. A chokepoint, throttling them into a narrow line for easy pickings.
A prison camp, hiding inside sixty stories of gleaming marble, full of slaves.
Of course, we had no idea about any of that when we were standing on top of the damn thing, laying down fire to keep the rebels back. We were just six men, holding a position for eight days after we’d been told reinforcements were arriving in twelve hours.
I slammed my hand against the steering wheel. Every time I made this drive, just as I passed Hawley Rock, that’s when the memories really hit. Cutting deep like knifes, kept as sharp as ever by the whetstone of remembrance. As I hit the steering wheel, Job’s weathered face appeared on the screen.
“We’re here.” Direct as ever. “Timings?”
“Five minutes. Just passed Hawley Rock.”
“Hurry.” Then that was that. He’d cut me off and I was in silence again.The road disappeared quickly after that.
I arrived at the dam in four minutes and checked out the assembled group in the courtyard. Dayton, Maxwell, Job. They nodded their greetings, then turned to climb the stairwell. I know those damn steps off by heart. They’d set me to be the runner, picking supplies from the cache and taking them back up top. Carrying weapons, ammunition, food, all of it up every single one of those steps.
Walking up those steps every year, just made it more clear to me that old habits really do die hard. Job, still taking command of everything even though he’d been a civilian since the Dam. Maxwell, scouting ahead, always the first one up to do anything. Then Dayton. Strong, silent. More like a part of the furniture than a person.
“Still hanging behind back there?” Maxwell shouted. He hadn’t aged a day in the last ten years, full of vim and vigour, practically skipping up the steps. He breached the top and stood in the sunlight, sharp eyes flashing around to take it all in. Then stood around tapping his foot until the rest of us hauled our aged bodies up there. Job was suffering the most, wheezing and spluttering. His years since the Dam had been far more unkind, stealing the colour from the man and leaving a withered thing in its place. But he was still in command with his hoarse voice.
It was as if the man had done all of his shouting years ago and finished its quota. He never spoke above a gruff whisper these days. But we still listened. Dayton especially, whose abs had deflated into a soft podge of fat.
We gathered at the top of the stairs and looked out over Paragon Valley. It was beautiful, still. Then we cast our eyes across the chasm before us.
“We are here to remember our friends.” Job began, removing a bottle and four glasses from his pack, pouring a small measure of the amber liquid into each and passing them out. I took one from his frail hands and held it between my own.
“We are here to hold their memory to this place.” Maxwell followed, nervously shifting from foot to foot as he took his own glass.
“We are here to drink in their honour.” Dayton rumbled, seeming to shake the ground just as it had shaken ten years ago when the dam fell. He raised his glass, Maxwell and Job following suit.
I lifted my own and let them clink. We took a long, slow draught, then I finished our ritual. “We are here to avenge them.” In unison, we hurled the glasses from the dam, watching them tumble and spin in the bright sunshine. Just as Job had done when we first got the intel that the rebels were on their way.
The bridge had shone with such majesty that day, as I’d been sat by the radio. I’ll never forget when they called it in. “Echo Zulu, Echo Zulu, this is Overlord. Come in, Echo Zulu…”
Well, not a romance story. The anniversary of a disaster, as opposed to a romantic one. But I like where this story is going, so I may well be returning.
The Idiot in Tin Foil