28. May 2021
Added new short story.
Christmas. A merry time, a contemplative time. Almost one year ago, Armand the tankhead had fallen into the river Danube and died. Today, on the 24th December of 2021, nothing reminded the casual observer of the tragic incident. Perhaps his foster parents were thinking about him at around this time of the year, contemplating their loss. Completely unaware that he hadn't truly died back then. Or maybe he had? Perhaps someone else had taken his place, someone who was now sitting on a park bench next to the river, contemplating his gain.
It felt weird in a way to return to this spot. Ever since Altær had started his new life, Vienna wasn't a place he saw often anymore. And it was better that way. Of all the things he had given up and left behind on that New Year's night, the city had always been the least painful.
But he was back now, just for tonight. This was the approximate spot where he had drowned last year. It was hard to tell, really. He had been blind, after all, and the harsh stream had dragged him with it quite a ways. Not that it really mattered if it was the exact spot - this visit was more about reminiscing the event in general.
Few other people were out and about in this particular part of the city right now. Most were probably sitting together with their families and celebrating Christmas Eve. Or sitting around alone and watching TV? Already done with the presents and having sex with their significant other? Altær thought about all the things he could have been doing instead of sitting here.
Frankly, he wasn't even very comfortable. Even if there was no snow this year, it was cold as hell. Really, he was already getting bored of this reminiscing thing. He had spent a good 50 minutes watching the water flow down the river and imagining his own lifeless body floating along with it already. The morbid thrill was starting to fade.
He checked his phone for the time. A train should go in a little less than an hour... that would be enough time to get back to the train station and catch it if he left in the next five minutes or so. Maybe that was a good idea.
As he was about to get up, he noticed someone walking nearby. It was another tankhead. Altær couldn't help but notice the model of the head... a T67, by the looks of it. Those would always have a very particular spot in his heart; of all his past relationships, Altær's favorite had been the T67 that he unfortunately had to break off all contact with after his "death". T67 tankheads weren't exactly rare, if you looked at the world-wide population. But here, in this country, you didn't see them very often.
Altær remained seated for a little longer to curiously watch the stranger. There was a little pang, a fleeting fear that it could indeed be his ex-boyfriend walking there. But the turret camo was different, featuring an inscription; and instead of the proud three stars on the barrel, this guy only wore two of them.
The stranger didn't seem to notice Altær in return, at least not yet. He was just marching along the path by the river, approaching the leFH-head but seemingly watching the water instead of the other side. Before he got close, the stranger suddenly stopped and turned towards the river.
He just stood there for a while, making Altær wonder if there was something special to see on the other side. Following the gaze, he only saw the other shore, however. Nothing noticeable.
Things got extremely strange when the T67 crossed his arms and looked around for a moment, as if he was checking for someone to be watching - ironically still not noticing Altær, who was watching indeed. And then - the stranger took off his jacket. He put it down on the ground beside him, seemingly checked for something in the pockets, and turned back to the river. With a few almost hesitant steps, the T67 walked towards the water.
What the hell is he doing...?
Altær couldn't imagine what this guy could possibly be planning to do right there.
The stranger walked on, and now reached the gravelly river bank. He stopped again, dipped a boot into the water, then took a step back. After a moment, he stepped into the river with one leg. At that point, it was obvious that he was intending to get into the water, but what for? And why was he being so weirdly hesitant about it, anyway?
"Isn't it a bit cold for a swim?" Altær shouted over to the stranger, which made him flinch so much that it was visible all the way over to where Altær was sitting.
"Fuck off!" was the shouted reply he got.
Well, what a lovely character. The T67 looked back over his shoulder for a moment, and then stepped into the water with both legs, this time. It wasn't quite reaching up to his knees, but he already seemed to struggle with his balance a bit.
"What are you actually doing?" Altær asked. He didn't really expect a different reply, but couldn't just watch this odd endeavour and say nothing.
This time, the T67 turned around fully. He raised his arms to make a sweeping gesture.
"Isn't it fucking obvious?" he replied, in a tone that sounded both exasperated and strangely defeated.
Altær finally put 2 and 2 together. Really, he should have thought of this right away, considering his own history. That guy was trying to... die.
It was hard to think of what to say now. Altær knew that keeping his people's overall secret agenda in mind, he should probably encourage the stranger to go ahead with his plan. More Phase 3s was always a good thing. It just felt like a ...shitty thing to do.
A too long time must have passed with Altær being tongue-tied, because the T67 turned back around and waded deeper into the river.
Despite the initial hesitation, it seemed like he was determined to end his life this way. He had no way of knowing that it was only his current one; coming here and trying to do it in the first place meant there must have been a great deal of finality put into his plan. Nothing Altær could have said would have changed his mind, probably. Or if it did, it was probably just postponing the inevitable. It was how it was.
There was just one thing that felt like it would make any point to say. And Altær said it.
"I'll be here again in three days, at the same time."
It was the only thing he could offer to the stranger. With that said, Altær got up and started walking off. He didn't want to watch this.
The T67 looked back over his shoulder for a moment, probably deciding that the leFH was just a weirdo asshole who didn't care if he died right there. To someone who didn't know that they'd be back soon, the comment made no sense.
"Fuck you," were the last words that Altær heard from the stranger, spoken in a heartwrenchingly spiteful tone.
It was three days later indeed when Altær found his way to the same park bench. Night had fallen, and except for a few pedestrians and the occasional shady figure, the riverside was quiet.
The leFH-head was sitting on the bench and scrolling through a news website on his phone. He had been doing this for a half hour already. An article in the local news mentioned another "horrible accident" in the Danube river. Another tankhead had drowned. The article claimed that it was unclear at this point what exactly had happened that led to the incident.
Altær read through the article again; he had read it multiple times already on the way here. The photo attached to it left no doubt. It was the T67 that he had met here on Christmas Eve. In the past days, Altær had thought about that guy almost constantly. They had only exchanged such few words. The encounter had been so short. But for some reason, that T67 had been living in Altær's brain rent-free ever since.
The minutes passed with nothing happening, and Altær eventually put his phone away, only to pull it out of his pocket again briefly after to check the time. Maybe he was waiting here pointlessly. Maybe he should just give up this weird new obsession of his. A train would go in a half hour. He was thinking about catching that one, when suddenly, he heard footsteps. He looked up from his phone.
Someone was marching straight towards him.
Altær started grinning underneath his turret.