Upon finishing his breakfast; burping and adjusting his belt, the younger brother absentmindedly scratched at his back. The elder of the two, sat silently within the steam of cooking and evaporating humanity. The soldiers left first; the scarred man tapping the young recruit on his shoulder and gesturing for him to leave.

The young recruit slowly got to his feet, tripping on his boots as he tried to make the distance to the door. The younger brother had ceased trying to scratch his back and was rubbing his temples. Curtly, he got to his feet and made to leave. The older made it to the door first and back out into the fresh morning.

By the side of the road, wild garlic and dandelions grew; sprouting from the side until their necks were too long. A car or truck would pass by and crush their break for freedom. Pink and purple wild geraniums stood out brightly among the overgrown grasses and weeds.

They got into the truck and slammed the doors; the frame quivering at the force. The elder, hands on the wheel, sat contemplating the new morning whilst his brother got comfortable.

The colours of summer bloomed through the windows, blurring into lines of pink, smudges of green and flashes of yellow as they drove down the dirt track. The elder drummed his hands on the wheel as they travelled. Between them lay the plastic bag deposited by the soldier, untouched bar payment for breakfast. The neck still twisted and warped, obscuring and pulling the logo on the bag towards the top, like a black hole pulling matter with its irresistible allure in the void.

They drove through the Valley, past shanty towns and fields of poppies. The red poppies trailed for miles as far as the eye could see, climbing the ascent to the Plateau. Makeshift huts were dotted here and there, used to manufacture heroin; fumes and an acrid scent hovered on the air. Everywhere were armed men, wearing dark sunglasses and tense. Their youthful faces an amorphism of black eyebrows, terse mouths, stubble and cigarettes.

The brothers passed through scarred and destroyed areas, trees blackened from fire and lightning, bitten by frost and scorched by sun. The truck wobbled over uneven ground. Past vast warehouses covered in camouflage netting, with trucks waiting quietly outside. Past the airfield with a small prop-plane beginning a descent and making a turbulent landing on the rough stone and sand surface.

They climbed the Valley, through sumptuous woodland, filled with copious grasses and wild flowers. Up the track they climbed, until levelling out onto the wide, cold barren plain of the Plateau. The wheels skidded and twisted trying to gain leverage on the frosty surface. They drove as a mist began a descent onto the Plateau, drowning the few hardy homesteads that could be seen in the clear of the day, in a gentle covering of nothingness.

Finally, they arrived back at their dilapidated homestead. Its timber walls rotting and falling into disrepair. Glass windows scratched and neglected by the weathering of time. The truck stopped with a shudder and the brothers disembarked. The elder walked to the side of the house and took a spade that was leaning against the water tub.

A new hole was to be created and he was to do it. This hole, however, took no more than three shovels to complete. The younger dropped the plastic bag into the hole. Using a disposable lighter, the logo of the company long since faded; the elder set fire to the bag. It burned, colours of reds and oranges and blacks.

The elder watched silently as it decayed into ashes; the younger shifting on his feet, bored and tired. As the fire dimmed, the lean elder brother filled the hole and patted it down with the flat of the shovel. With no further words between them, they ambled back into the homestead, closing the door behind them.

To Chapter Twenty-Six – Rebirth