My first real post, please enjoy.
Thomas Leightner was born in Scotland, according to his Wiki page, but when I’d asked he said Nebraska. His accent mostly supported his claim, but the occasional R would roll off his tongue betraying his origins. It was probably just enough to give the audience a sense of international gravitas.
Alea was a local. She’d started as the sister of our guide, but two weeks into our coverage her brother was shot dead, and she’d killed her first man, taking quick vengeance. She’d crushed his skull with a rock, and spat on his body as she picked up his rifle.
We went from objective coverage to being embedded with the rebels. Our footage was worth double and we sold ten times as many seconds, but the increase in pay was roughly equivalent to our decrease in life expectancy. Thomas never seemed to mind the bullets landing next to our feet, but it took me months to get steady shots past my hands shaking.
The king was dead, and they were standing on the outside of my frame with a building slowly collapsing in center shot. The king was dead, but this felt more like a wake than a celebration.
The building had to be something important. It wasn’t a palace, or didn’t look like one, so it was probably an office for the secret police. Whatever it was would be pasted over the shot when it was broadcast.
The crowd was taking the building apart by hand, using big chunks of concrete to break bigger chunks; the occasional sledge hammer was making more progress. Heavy equipment was supposed to be coming from the former front line, but the tractor was slow in coming. The engine had been disabled because the tractor had been acting as a road block for the last few months, and the people hadn’t wanted to wait.
A hand grenade went off and what had seemed futile came to a head and a third of the gray tower collapsed in a cloud of dust. I coughed and struggled to keep my shot straight.
“I was thinking about converting,” Thomas said, glancing over at Alea before turning back to watch the city burn.
“I don’t think… you are the type, Thomas,” she said. Her giggle matched her face, but not the impression of her my footage gave.
“We could go back to the States,” he said, glancing back at me like he wanted to be alone, but I needed them in the shot for scale.
“You should. The war is over,” she said.
“I meant you could come back with us. I can help with your refugee status.”
“I don’t think your CIA would like me near your towers,” she said, giggling again.
“We could get married-”
“For my citizenship? Because I don’t think that would help…. They might not let you go home.”
“I just meant, we could get married,” he said. In the months I’d watched them they’d seemed like friends, and I hadn’t read the looks Thomas gave her as anything more than professional interest, or possibly concern. She was a good girl, despite the men she’d killed, and maybe he’d just been showing her respect.
“The war is moving north,” Alea said. “I’m going to follow.” She gave me a smile and walked away, winding between men with scarfs over their mouths who were running towards the tower, joining in on the demolition.
Thomas turned back to me, smiling too, looking more happy than I’d seen him in months. In that moment, I saw him smiling at me through the viewfinder and imagined that footage slowing to a crawl, possibly fading to a tacky monochrome, as some asshole who’d only talked to Thomas over a sat-feed said what a great guy he’d been.
Thomas left then, running after her, and that was the last time I saw him, but that obit hasn’t been read yet.
The tractor finally arrived, and I caught a flight home thirty-six hours later.