Dead rain falls from the sky. Red mud clutches with every movement. There is a beating, somewhere. A constant tattoo. Thump thump Thump thump Thump thump. Surely it is the drums of Valhalla, calling the soon-to-be-dead forward. March, march. Go forth into the field and die. Does everyone hear it? Or is it reserved solely for the doomed?

I grip my axe tight, knuckles white. Fires burn across the field. Fizzle in the rain. Thick smoke fills the air, making everything dark. Blots out the sun, so it seems. Such thick smoke. How do they keep it burning so hard in the rain?

I yearn to extinguish those fires and the lives of the men who lit them. But I cannot. Not now. Thump thump Thump thump Thump thump. The drums call me and I need to listen to them. The time for battle is not now. There are always battles, but not now.

Not any more.

I can hear voices. Men talking to one another. Some are screaming. In pain. In desperation. A few beg the gods for salvation. A few merely babble. One man, he must be nearby because I can hear him clearly, is talking to his wife. At least he imagines he is. Hallucinating. Or maybe he isn't. Maybe he fully realizes his wife is not there, but talks anyway.

I do none of these things. I merely sit and hold my axe. I think of my wife, of course. She is miles away. Too many miles to count, I think, or at least so many that counting them would be meaningless to me. It would take forever for me to reach her. And as the minutes pass it will take me longer and longer still.

Does she think about me now? Are we thinking of each other at the same time? Probably not. I have nothing to think of except for her; she has everything to think of but me. Our children, running through our fields. Our livestock. Our cow, our chickens, our horses. It would not be raining there like it was here. It would be dry and the sun would be shining bright.

Thump thump thump thump thump thump. The drum beat is getting fainter. I wonder if the Valkyries had gathered up all they were taking? Was that a good thing for me or not? The sky was growing darker. It was harder to hold on to my axe. But I would not let it go. No one would find me with my weapon out of my hand.

Our children... It had been so long since I had seen them. Our boy, he would be getting big now. He might even be helping with the farm work. Yes, he would. I know he would. That is good, my wife would need the help. She was a good woman; she put up with me long enough to have two children, after all. But she could not handle the farm on her own forever.

My daughter, well... She was still a little thing. I can still remember her face the day I left. It was so fat and red! My wife said she had my nose. I hope not! The poor girl will be teased mercilessly for it, I suspect. Better she has my wife's nose than mine. Better she cut the nose off!

Thump... thump... thump... Oh how far and slow the drum has become! The Valkyries must not be coming for me. It grows so dark. Can that all be smoke? Is the night coming already? How long have I been sitting here?

I should get up, go back to the camp. The red mud, though, it's thick on me. It is hard to hold on to my axe now, it is so slippery. It must be the rain, though I cannot feel it coming down any more. Even with the rain and the dark, I'm not cold. I'm not much of anything at all.

I can't hear the drum any more. It must be night because it's so dark, but I can't see the moon or the stars.

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