Preface: This short story is something that I’ve recently been wanting to explore, and that is blending this kind of historical backdrop with my writing. I’ve always been a fan of history but I’ve never really sought out historical pretenses. Although I don’t specifically dive into any specific historical pretense in this piece specifically, there are hints and similar themes that I use from a history close to home. Call them what you be, for me, it’s the Aboriginals or the First Nations that I am heavily interested in, which is why I’ve been a big fan of Joseph Boyden and his work in blending Canadian First Nations with his pieces. Field of Roses attempts that same leg, but of course, I do it in my own way.
I think it was safe to say that at that moment I was dying because of the bullet in my chest. I held my wound together trying to find something. I looked for anything that could mean my living any longer. But I knew that it was only a useless sentiment. Nothing I could ever do then would prolong my death. I had lived a life far longer than I could ever manage. Even then as I had been gripping my chest and slowly moving into a field of roses that I thought to myself about the falsity of my life.
I felt the gun around my waist buckle against my leg with every dragged step I took. My hands were covered in blood, and whenever a soft wind blew against my face I coughed out even more. My erratic breathing did nothing to help me calm, and my heart was pumping just as much as I had when I was hooked up on stones. I knew that my life drew closer, but the only thing I wanted to do before I had finally bit the dust was to lay in a field of roses. My ears were still ringing from all the incessant firing. I smiled when thinking back to that moment. I had given up then, given my arms to the reaper, and didn’t even move when they had busted me. At that time I would have killed myself either way. I had enough to OD three men.
The only reason why I knew that field of roses existed was because it was the first time I had arrived in the country. I snuck over with a bag of green and wound up in the field. I was entranced the moment I laid eyes on it, rows of velvet covered my entire being and I was wrapped up in a solemn slumber wherein all was painted red. I had forgotten all my troubles then, forgotten all that I had done to arrive there, and forgotten all I had to do now that I had made it out. For a moment, I thought of forgetting my past life. For a moment, I wanted to embrace this scene for the rest of my days. Now I can.
I laid my wounded body onto the roses and looked up into the sky as small clouds overlooked my death. The roses swung in the wind in the direction that it blew, all without knowing or caring of the man that now lay among them. Perhaps they didn’t even know, after all, I was covered in red. With all that I could, I took a whiff of the surrounding area. The smell of roses permeated my nose, but something more primal stung among them as well. It was the smell of gunpowder, the same ones used by those who wish to subjugate more power. The same gunpowder that lingered on my fingers and on my body. The same gunpowder that was used in the time when settlers came to patronize my people and send incurable disease and rupture across the land. That smell lingered in the area, but upon further inspection, I had realized that the smell of it belonged to me.
My breathing began slowing, almost to a halt. I was scared, if only for a second, I was scared that I was going to die. Even though the thought of it was so incongruent with everything around me, I was fearful of the thought of my life ending. The roses that I laid upon would not fret if their lives were to end in a mere week. They would not understand nor know when their ends would come, but they go on living so brilliantly. I envied the roses who did not understand the fragility of their own lives, and I envied them that they could live so steadfast in the wake of danger. As my breathing continued to slow, I listened to my heartbeat. It drummed in my chest like a low percussion of stomps, like the marching of the men who stampeded over sacred lands. It thumped in my chest louder than anything in these fields, and for a brief moment I’d have thought that the roses around me danced along to that beat, to the beating of my heart.
My time drew near, much too near for me to be able to do anything about it, even as I gripped onto my chest to stop the bleeding. No one came after me, I thought. They didn’t bother to find me, to put another bullet in my head, but left me to run into the woods, to find my sanctum among a field of roses. Such a trivial matter was something that the colonialists that governed my people did. I was able to live a life quite free from previous restrictions, to be reborn into a land that some called the promise lands. And now, as the circle of life that my ancestors had passed on through my generation comes to bear my life, I smile. I am once again free from those of the past, and will find my soul leaving with the other roses as I go on to another life. Even if the roses have no business with me, nor know who or what I am, I will leave this earthen prison and into a world where I can be with the rest of my people. In the distance, I can hear shallow chanting, the wails of my people, and the shouts of those who have died for my existence. I give a short apology to those people in particular, for giving their lives only to see mines end just as shortly as theirs. Surely the circle of life knows no mercy.