With the curfew close, hardly any people were on the streets. Taxis were no longer running and the cleaners had started their nightly sanitizing.
A soldier at the end of a street bar, watched the machines trundle past. Their flashing lights reflected off his medals, which he wore on special occasions.
“He’s drunk,” said one of the bartenders that waited for him to finish.
“Nothing wrong with that.
“It’s time for us to close.”
“Let him be.”
A young family rushed past on the street. The man carried a small child, and they disappeared into the shadow of an alley.
“If you want to worry about anyone, it should be them,” the older bartender said.
“They didn’t look like they were from around here.”
“If they don’t have a pass, an officer will pick them up.”
The soldier waved his glass for another.
“No more,” the young one said.
The soldier slapped the counter. “Yes.”
The bartender turned his back to the man. “I won’t give him another.”
“Why must you be this way?” the older one said, taking a bottle over to top up the soldier’s cup.
“You shouldn’t encourage him.”
“Hey, it’s been twenty years. For these men, it’s an anniversary.”
The bartender shook his head. “It was just one man’s death. Nothing more.”
“Show some respect. You may be young, but that man leads us to victory.”
The bartender didn’t look at the older one, but took a cloth and wiped the counter. “I didn’t know you’d fought.”
The older bartender shook his head. “I didn’t, but it doesn’t stop me from recognizing what he did for our world.”
The young bartender rolled his eyes, before pausing. “Were they really that bad?”
“You tell me. Those dirty Greys came down and almost wiped us out before he taught us to fight back. So if that soldier wants to mourn the man, we let him.”
The young bartender returned to his work.
“How much do I owe you?” the soldier mumbled.
“It’s on the house.”
The old soldier saluted the bartender before he stumbled out of the bar.
The young bartender said nothing as he grabbed the man’s glass and washed it.
The other bartender watched him work. “I know you’re young, and you may not get it, but we need to remember the sacrifices of those that came before us.”
“Fine. Are we done?”
The bartender shook his head. “Yeah, we're done.”
The young bartender pulled the security gate down and held it while the older one locked it.
“What say I grab you a cuppa before you head home?” the older one asked.
“I want to get home before sunrise.”
“Kid, I’m trying to say no hard feelings.”
“It’s okay. I’m just tired.”
The older man grumbled, waving him away, frustrated he was being stubborn.
The younger man headed home. He stayed in the shadows of the streetlights, keeping an eye open for any officers hoping to get an easy ticket.
By the time he arrived at his small flat, the sky was already lightening, but he kept the lights off and readied himself for bed in the dark. He laid down, and although he was tired, he couldn’t sleep. He stared at the roof, the sunlight projecting thin bars of light across the ceiling.
It had been twenty years since the war, and despite what the older bartender thought, the younger one remembered everything.
It had been twenty years since their visit was met with violence. Twenty years since they’d hunted his species down and tried to murder every one of them. Twenty years when they went after his home-world and destroyed it.
Yes, it was an anniversary. Just not one he felt was worth celebrating.
Today was my first real attempt to start organizing a content calendar and plan ahead. After yesterday’s story running out of time again, I need to do what I can to get ahead of this daily schedule. This one was a little inspired by this work.
The first version of this played out as more telling versus showing, so I went for a walk and realized that I really wanted it to be a variation on Hemingway’s “A Clean, Well Lighted Place.”
The conflict, who we empathize with, and the location are all different. (Although it’s not fully apparent, this one is a cyberpunk future, heavily drawn from more scrolling of DeviantArt). So, my apologies, to Hemingway for how much I bastardized his fine story.