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This town is a peaceful one. Of course, there aren't as many people here as there used to be, and every passing year seems to find us smaller and smaller. But, honestly, that's all right by me. It makes living peacefully a lot easier. Fewer folks to deal with means fewer chances for conflict.

In fact, I can't remember there being a single problem in this town since the last of the war machines went away. That was the last time this town saw any kind of violence, at the very least.


I was very young then. Oh, I must have been about sixteen years old. Back then, I worked as an assistant for the town midwife. She was a tall, severe woman, if memory serves. Hardly the type you'd associate with the miracle of birth. And yet, there we were, huddled together in a tiny room, doing our best to comfort a screaming woman as she brought a new life into this world. I remember the townspeople stood in a great crowd outside the woman's little house. She was no figure of great importance, but you must understand that this was only a few months after we’d rid ourselves of all remaining war machines---or so we thought---and things had been so quiet that the birth of a new baby became quite the thing to see, I suppose.

The midwife barked instructions at the new mother, who seemed to be ignoring them all in the delirium of her pain. I was poised and ready to guide the child out of the womb and into the fresh air that awaited it. The ordeal seemed to last for hours, but no matter how frustrated I became, I kept reminding myself of how much worse it must be for the woman on the bed.

At last, it was time. Once the child's head emerged, the rest followed easily. The mother collapsed back onto the bed, exhausted, her screams giving way to the child’s. I was the first person to hold the baby outside of its mother. Water waited in a nearby basin, and so I whisked the child over to clean it. As I did so, I inspected its body to ensure that all was well. I felt a heat rise in my cheeks and my heart begin to race as I quickly saw that it was not.

"Miss," I said to the midwife.

The sharp woman looked up from the solution she had been mixing for the new mother. "What is it, girl?" she snapped.

"There's a problem," I said.

The midwife's annoyance turned to concern. She quickly wiped her hands on her apron and came over to where I held the child in the basin. When she saw it with her own eyes, it was the only time I'd ever heard a quaver in her voice. "Dear God," she said.

The child, fresh and new in this world, was no miracle as many children are. This was a war machine or, as they were called before the order for their destruction went out, a boy. He was a small one, yes, but small war machines grew into bigger ones, as we well knew. If we allowed him to grow, we would surely regret it, as we had with all the others for so many centuries.

The midwife looked at me. We both knew what had to be done. She returned to the mother's side to explain the situation, leaving me with the infant. Without a moment of hesitation, I dunked its head deep under the water that filled the basin. It struggled and wriggled in my grasp, but before long it fell limp. A wave of relief washed over me, and I took the basin out behind the house to dispose of its contents.

That was about seventy years ago now, and even though our numbers have dwindled, this town has never known a single act of violence since that final necessary destruction.

Written by Jdeschene
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