Tag Archives: Nickalus Rupert

“This Year’s War” – Fiction by Nickalus Rupert

Thunderstorm on the Oregon Trail - Childe Hassam, 1908
Thunderstorm on the Oregon Trail – Childe Hassam, 1908

The grand finale of our Spring 2016 issue is “This Year’s War,” Nickalus Rupert‘s satirical yet tender tale of civil war in a not-so-improbable America.

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I’M GETTING TOO OLD FOR WAR, even the fictional kind. Our Reclusive Fifth hasn’t fought a real battle in years, and we don’t care to. Like so many others I’ve spent the better part of my adult life waiting for the thundering trumpets and molten skies that’ll finally herald the end times. Makes sense that the lesser cataclysms I’ve witnessed might set the table for a more proper apocalypse.

On the first Monday in April, we conduct our biannual meeting with the governor of New Oregon. Colonel Rivera reports heavy enemy casualties as usual. According to the records, we’ve laid low scores and scores of Cumberland soldiers, which is why Governor Swerth lets us keep our costly horses. Swerth drinks liberally from a flask looped around her shoulder. Her eyes moon with pride as Rivera embellishes the details of a battle we never fought. The more our colonel lies, the more I sweat, worrying that Swerth might want more details, might start demanding proof of battle.

Governor Swerth assures us that our victory is imminent and that Cumberland is run by unenlightened parochial mouth-breathers. Everyone knows that Swerth’s brother claims himself governor of Cumberland’s New Georgia, but no one mentions him. Swerth is so impressed she throws a few pieces of reformatted gold in with our usual bounty. Not that we need more gold.

On Tuesday, we march through another ruined town. Medford, maybe. Weeds and young trees spring from building foundations, confusing them for planters, while goats and rabid horses graze between toppled tombstones. Silas keeps chomping his bit and throwing his mane as we pass through. Even from a distance it’s obvious that many of the remaining townsfolk are delirious from heavy metal poisoning. Through my collapsible spyglass I watch two raggedy derelicts club each other with rusty appliances.

Shadowy mountain ranges tumble up from the northeast as we pass, their peaks sharp and frosted. Mt. McLoughlin reveals itself by degrees, a newly-formed tooth. To behold such a place, you might believe there’s more to the world than what we’ve seen ruined.

Rivera waxes sentimental about Crater Lake, that great barnacle nestled among the Cascades. He talks about the purity of its waters, which pool over three hundred fathoms deep inside the rim. It’s irritating to hear him go in like this. I’m not one who likes to get distracted by the landscape, which can kill you just as well as anything else out here.

On Thursday we round a river bend to find a brick-red canoe lashed to a tree on the opposite bank. The dozing fisherman’s pole is still poised over the water. We all smile easily until Doris motions to the faint ribbons of smoke curling over the pointed hemlocks behind the canoe. We hush our horses and scuttle under the firs. Echo huddles beside me on the dry loam. She and I are the only gray-heads in the bunch, she several years my senior, and already showing symptoms of toxicity. Over the years, I’ve seen her stove in her share of skulls, but now she sits with a fledgling bird in her coat pocket.

“I named her Pickles,” she whispers.

“Why Pickles?” I ask.

“Because that’s what I was hungry for, Clark.”

A few minutes later, we see the first enemy soldier. He parts the hemlocks along the opposite bank and swoons in the sunshine, shoeless and shirtless, his chest bearing three tattooed feathers—an emblem trademark of the Cumberland flag. He saunters along the river, pulls a serrated knife from its scabbard, and belches. The sleeper in the canoe doesn’t stir, so the soldier tickles the inside of the sleeper’s ear with the blade. That wakes him up. Without a word, the soldier hauls the man up by his hair and drops him onto the muddy bank. The fisherman pleads with the soldier, who laughs. Another Cumberland grunt appears at the soldier’s side and they begin laughing and kicking the fallen fisherman, either man lean as a bayonet. One of them pulls the guy’s oars out and chops his ribs good. I’m surrounded by gaping mouths. Few of our regiment’s soldiers are old enough to have encountered any significant conflict. No way they’ll risk their lives for this stranger.

A Cumberland soldier spits into the mud and starts piling river stones and driftwood into the canoe. The other soldier nods and adds branches of his own. They load the flimsy fisherman back into the canoe, pinning his legs beneath a snarl of branches and anchoring the branches with more rocks.

The fisherman doesn’t dare move, not even when his canoe lists over, water already threatening to spill over the gunwales. The soldiers swell toad-like as they taunt. They’ll drown this man. They’ll probably kill me if I try to interfere, but that’s not reason enough to stay hidden. Better to make a worthy sacrifice, no matter how feeble the effort.

Continue reading “This Year’s War” – Fiction by Nickalus Rupert

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Digital (PDF) Copies of FLAPPERHOUSE #9 Now Available for Pre-Order

Monstrous immortality, reincarnation, eternal recurrence, never-ending gender, virtual sex, multiple organisms, reclusive regiments: FLAPPERHOUSE #9.

coming
MARCH 20, 2016

Pre-order a DIGITAL (PDF) copy for $3US and watch it fly into your emailbox
by the Vernal Equinox!
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#9
#9

starring – J. BradleyLeona GodinRob Hartzellj/j hastainStephen Langlois,
William LessardSarah LiliusEmily LinstromCatfish McDarisLauren Milici,
Sarah Frances MoranAhimaaz RajeshChristina M. RauNickalus Rupert,
Joseph Tomaras, and Innas Tsuroiya