Where Do You Go, Little Bird?

I wander through Arlington Cemetery in the bitter rain. Thunderheads howl like mongrels, hurling the capital into darkness. Seeking refuge, I run from the soulless rows. The identical graves give way to the Civil War burial grounds, and suddenly, I’m thrown into a maze of beautiful, treacherous markers. Angels weep against crosses of rock. One leans against a stone obelisk, following me with his haunting gaze.

Far away, in the Tomb of the Unknowns, masses of bones rattle like keys in a drawer. The eternal flame at Kennedy’s grave ignites. Flung forward by the ground’s sudden shaking, I lie at the feet of the angel, gazing up in terror.

The angel’s lips crack open. He smiles, devoid of light. The earth opens like a great maw, and legions of the dead march forth, resurrected for their final hour. Stepping through a crack in time, they march in grand, unearthly factions, organized by era and rank.

Civil War lieutenants aback horses flank tanks, and the din of the impossible resurrection is like clap upon clap of thunder. A battle-dirty train of women follow, carrying ramrods and medical supplies. Helicopters and fighter pilots slice above. They march, to the graveyard gates, out unto the barren city. The abandoned capital fills with trains of the dead.

“Where are they going?” I whisper, trembling at the base of the grave. The angel steps down from his summit, marble wings trailing behind him.

“To the End.” He spreads his pinions, unsheathes his sword. Springing into the air, he calls back after me:

“Desolate chosen girl. Will you walk the paths alone?”

“Yes,” I say, tears slicking my face.

“I have a watch to keep.”

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