The End of All Flesh

Time had worn his face away, stripped the flesh from his high cheekbones, left his eyes starting, almost from their sockets. He had always had dark eyes — how many times have they said that to him, those women? “Your eyes!” While their fingers dug into the soft flesh of his shoulders, Morse code, untranslatable — but now they were black, all irides, and wide spaced, push away from his nose with age. Almost glassy. Almost.

All of him was worn, sloughed away in the interests of efficiency. His knuckles were built to wrap around the worn hilt of his sword, his shoulders grooved to better support the weight of his armor; he has become all sinew and tendon.

They salaamed to him in the morning. “Sir,” they said, and genuflected from the waist. He stood there for the fitting, bones aching already: there is no feeling more comfortable. After years he was ground smooth as glass.

When they moved to put his helmet on, the visor would not close, and that was when (hands lifted automatically to adjust it) he realized. He opened his mouth — bill — and cried, “Ree-ah-ah-ah, ree-ah-ah-ah-ah-ah,” high and melancholy.