- Roosenvoort, State of Insennia
February 11th, 2003
he field of tulips Roland watches over is about as close to Goetia as he’ll ever get.
Somewhere far off in the distance, someone is staring right back at him through a pair of binoculars. He may be huddled comfortably in his little Trabant, or precariously perched high up on the branches of a sturdy elm. He could even be sitting miles away, sitting in front of a computer screen and peering through the lens of a CCTV camera. Trying to shake off that feeling of being constantly watched is no use; keeping his mouth shut is even harder to do.
“Roland!” A familiar voice calls out his name from down the road as he contorts his body around. “Look what Ignatios found!”
Three figures stroll down the road with bicycles in hand. Where’d they even find bicycles? “You guys brought one for me?"
“No man left behind!” Jan’s hearty laugh resonates across the fields as he lifts one up like a trophy. “When we get rotated back, we can have a race!”
The other four people in his squad come to his mind. “Did Rabi’s team get them as well?” The mental image of his squad leader pedalling an omafiets as if his life depended on it forces him to stifle a laugh, lest his buddies ask more questions.
“We can do relay races if they don’t find any!” In his head, Roland prays for his rotation to be over soon, even though he knows it won’t amount to much; either God has a hearing impairment or he has a bad streak.
Turning his attention and his body back to the vast ocean of tulips in front of him, he catches a little patrol car chugging along the other side of the border fence, kicking up a cloud of dirt behind it as it disappears into the dense forest further along the road. The distinct crackle of rubber on asphalt and the low hum of a diesel engine overpowering the sound of wandering chatter and rusty bike chains behind him heralds the end of his team’s shift on the border. The screech of brakes comes to a stop right beside him.
“Your shift’s done, bub.” The truck driver peers down at him condescendingly, before turning his gaze towards the rest of Roland’s team. “Are your boys hopping in the back?”
Ignatios gives off a light chuckle behind him as he slaps Roland’s shoulder. “We’ve got other ideas, unfortunately.”
“Your loss.” The driver retreats into the truck; it roars back to life before rolling away into the Insennian countryside. Roland and his team wave away the heaps of dirt it kicks up with squinting eyes and dry coughs.
Roland can tell their replacements don’t look so happy that his team is overstaying their welcome; hopping on his bike, he quickly ushers the rest onto theirs before kicking the bike stand up and readying himself up for an hour’s worth of pedalling and coasting. He takes one last look at the field of tulips as if he’s missed something, and he has.
As if to tease it, he mockingly tips his helmet towards the glint of light hiding in the big elm tree, accompanied by a smile that reaches from ear to ear.