Summer 2010. Pendulum swing from the winter. So hot you want to pry your skull apart to let the steam out.

The machines rest. Metal is heavy on itself, and nothing moves.

It comes to me that I haven't heard the chug of a truck or MRAP or humvee for a while.

No rotors mashing the air, no turbines whining like eager dogs, waiting for the merest word to dance their skids away from the dusty tarmac and away from the safety of the walls.

No fire missions. The long black arm has been stricken down. No HIMARS. They squat brutishly on their concrete pads, hogging their own shade in the noon sun.

No diesel generators moaning and gnawing at the metal walls of their conexes. Something in the power grid, if you want to call it that, died twenty minutes ago, so the gennies went to idle, but then cut off entirely. Third time this week, and nobody knows exactly what the problem is. There's someone messing around with the big green boxes that usually hum like they're full of bees, and threaten to give your unborn children bonus limbs if you sit on them long enough.

No HVAC units mumbling and ticking and occasionally cranking up like chainsaws. Of course not, with no power.

No slamming doors. No voices. Nobody dares to open a hooch door, because the thick plywood portals are the only things containing both the dangerously pressurized prayers to God to turn the A/C back on, and the last ghosts of cold air to be had until He does.

It's so quiet, I can hear my cigarette burning.

The sky is very blue. The clouds are puffy and white, instead of jagged and brown with the heavy dust blown in from the Mongolian steppes.

I can hear the breeze blowing. I can almost hear the clouds scraping by, and I resist the puckish urge to reach up and grab one.

A bird, a fat brown trashpicker, what the locals call a bulbul, perches on the c-wire and sings me a song. I whistle one back, and it flies away.

The sandbag bower that I constructed for myself in the shade of the armory conex has been reduced to a mere shadow of its former glory. Reinforcing the shaky legs of the new watchtower takes precedence over my palatial splendor. My decree carries little weight here, so far from my kingdom. The remaining bags are cool against my back and neck. For that, and for the silence, I am grateful.

My pants are rolled up, and my boots are unlaced. If something bad happens, I'll die looking like an idiot.

Nothing bad happens.

It's quiet.

A truck rolls by, and the silence is spoiled for a moment. I think perhaps I will have it back, but shortly after the big diesel fades, God turns the power back on, and the High Priest closes the big green altar and gets back into his work truck.

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