Croix de Guerre

flying bees photo by Alexander Wild

“You bark those orders good, Lieutenant,” says the little voice, sounding amused.

Drin feels a bodiless force push him backwards about three feet. Behind him, someone sucks in a breath.

“Don’t,” he says softly. “Don’t.”

The little girl smiles. She is missing teeth. Her eyes, chestnut brown, pan past him.

“Cute,” she says.

The little girl is wearing a man’s white buttondown shirt. The cuffs hang over her hands, and the shirttails flap against her bare, muddy legs. Pinned to her right shoulder are numerous thin ribbons. The colors on these are hard to look at. Emma, he thinks hazily, would know what they stood for. He recognizes just two, a Croix de Guerre from the First World War, and another one, red and green and black, for service in Afghanistan.

Drin looks down at where her feet should be, sees running water.

When she speaks, Drin hears a buzz, like a harpstring with a burr in it–a ghost of doubled sound.

“El Jefe,” she says, and he hears war, the hum of bees.

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