We went up the hill to welcome the dawn, hoping to be purified by the light, the sky’s newborn clouds, and the wind. Rain would have been sweetness itself, but it would not rain. Better still, had a dam burst somewhere miles away and brought a river roaring and chundering to us at first light, to wash us away, and our homes and the streets and signs, the cattle, the graves, the bodies left to be buried, furrows, our crops, so that no trace of us was left in this land, and the wet mud dried without a sunken footstep or plowed lane, that might have done.
It was a beautiful sunrise, but it was only a sunrise. As before, it acknowledged no lesser sin on us, and we held no power to staunch its light. We remained standing in the cold morning, breathing harder than we had to; all the fighting was done, all the praying, all the sacrifices.
We were still scarred, still host to the weeping lesions, still bloody and still sick and still sore-riddled. And the land behind us was still. The death sat on it, and we, on the hill, at long last, our rituals exhausted, sat in the dirt, and dried our pus under the naked sky. Our skins cracked and torn hands held tattered faces. And the rats…the rats fled the wheelbarrows and stables like a black river, following the sun’s long fingers down the roads to the neighboring villages, to the life unblemished by spittle and curdled ooze, leaping over and under and through our barricades, like the shadow of a great tide soon to sweep over the Earth.