It was against protocol, and a risky choice, but the Poet was cold that night, so I built a campfire.
We were deep in the woods, well away from the Enemy, so we were safe.
We sat by the fire and tried to forget our losses.
But the more we tried to forget, the more we remembered.
"You know why they're after me?" the Poet asked after a while.
"You're the Poet," I said. "If they get you, they get us."
"That's a result, not a reason," he said.
"Resistance?" I asked.
A twig snapped in the woods, and quietly, not to alarm the Poet, I pulled my pistol.
"Yes, resistance. Tanks and planes can be destroyed. Cities can be burned. Governments can be toppled. But ideas live in the mind. Poetry is an aesthetic of the mind, and the mind can not be resisted."
Another twig snapped, and a fawn ventured into the firelight. It pawed the ground and eyed us warily. Then it faded into the darkness.
I put my pistol away.
"I get it," I said. "Poetry is resistance. Words are weapons."
"Preserve the species, my friend," the Poet said.
He smiled at me, and in the glow of his smile, everything was forgotten.
Later on, we lay by the fire and spooned for warmth.
He fell asleep in my arms, his breath soft and raspy against my cheek.
His chest rose and fell in rhythm with the beating of my heart.
The final attack came at dawn.
It was a guided missile this time.
It fell into the center of our small camp, heat seeking the smouldering remains of our campfire.
The explosion blasted me off the tree stump where I was cleaning my firearm.
I fell bruised and deafened into the underbrush. I was blinded by the smoke and flying embers, and my clothing was on fire.
I was dazed for a few seconds and then rose unsteadily to my feet.
As if they belonged to someone else, I saw my hands reach up and pat the flames out on my arms.
Then I looked for the Poet, but it was too late.
He had been in his sleeping bag near the fire precisely where the missile hit.
I searched for hours, combing the area for his remains, but found nothing.
He had been completely incinerated. Even his sleeping bag was gone.
I had failed. The war was lost.
The Poet was dead, and there was nothing left but my revenge.
I ran blindly into the woods.
I cried as I ran, deep gulping cries of anger and shame.
In my pocket, the pad and pencil lay heavy as a broken promise.