"The Last Bivouac," a #GreyDawn #microfiction. In which Chloë Logan visits an old Union Army comrade in Somerset County.

(cw survivor guilt)
Summit Township, Pennsylvania
Autumn 2026

It's a long drive west from Philadelphia, and thank God that my wife is here. I'm decently skilled in driving, but not nearly as good as she, and in these rural and mountain roads, better Leigh handle driving than me.
We chatted idly, off and on, till around when we switched seats at the North Midway Service Plaza. From there, after passing through the Somerset County Seat, the modern world seems to fall away. Far enough south and we encountered Old Order Mennonites driving horse carts.
It is...bittersweet, for me, to be among a people who cling to the ways that were mundane for me, before I came to this strange era.

Leigh catches the sadness in my eyes, sighs, and turns down the old From Autumn to Ashes album on the stereo.

"Hey," she says. "Talk to me?"
I look to her, to the woman who's known my heart better than many, and find the words lacking.

"I'm glad you're here," I finally murmur.

She nods silently, runs a hand through loosely bound, raven-dark hair, and then makes the gentle turn right into Springs.
Springs is unincorporated- tiny. One of a number of little villages around here, which all blur into each other. It seems fitting that this place, and its people who eschew the new, should be so blurry when it comes to boundaries- even old Mason-Dixon is almost an afterthought!
The little village is crowded today. The Springs Folk Festival has begun, and it draws tourists from even afar, to this sleepy little place unconcerned with the march of Father Time.

We're here for the Festival, too, but there is something else that comes first.
The little cemetery sits on a hilltop behind a gravel path, on a bend where even the houses keep their distance. Only the maple and spruce trees stand quiet sentinel. Off the road, onto wet grass, we roll to a stop.

A pause. Only the sounds of awed stillness in the Subaru.
"Are you ready, wife mine?" she asks.

"I'm ready," I reply. "It's time."

I turn. Her hand finds mine, lingers, squeezes.

"I love you," she murmurs.
We stride out into the long rows of graves-- some old, some very new. In the furthest corner, I find him-- stone weatherworn, letters faint.

" I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help."
"Hello, Nate. Looks like I found you at last."

I could almost see him: copper-red wavy hair, ruddy cheeks, quiet, methodical, and strangely gentle amidst the War of Rebellion.

I could almost hear him:

/Chin up, Logan. You wear the Union blue now. You bow to no man./
It'd taken awhile to find him. Unlike Simmons, Nate had gone home contented to live quietly in the peace that followed Appomattox.

But with Leigh's help, and the further aid of the state archives, we'd found him here-- home, as he always hoped to be.
So I stood there, under the spruce trees' shadow in his beloved Springs, and I told him everything: the timeslip, the tumultuous first year thereafter. My discharge. My new job. My wife. My memoir.

I told him some of what I'd seen in this new era, good and bad. The technical wonders. The rampant inequality. New vehicles. New music. New words.
When there were no more words, I heard Leigh's approach-- felt her behind me, tall and solid and reassuring, felt her arm encircle my shoulders, steadying me as the strength momentarily failed me.
"How ya feeling?" she asked.

I grunted. "Been better."

"That's allowed too."

We stood in silence for a long time, just the two of us amidst the long ranks of headstones, and behind us, the rolling fields stretching south and east to Maryland.

"I keep thinking I should've been there to the end. That I don't deserve this."
"...babe, don't..." The worry is palpable in her tone.

"I know," I murmur, burrowing into the crook of her arm and the folds of her hoodie. "I know."

She pulls loose, then-- crouches, fingers dipping into soft earth, pulling loose a stray gravel chip.
Laying it atop his stone, she bows at the waist, as I've seen her bow to the graves of her parents, briefly join her hands, then bow again.

"May this place know peace always," she says.
We move slowly, back to the car. When we've buckled in, we sit for awhile yet, spellbound at the view, and my comrade's last bivouac.

"It occurs to me. I take comfort," I said, "in having come here together, for another reason."

"It took a war," I observed, "for Nate and Simmons to be recognized as the men they were. Hard as I know things can be for you, you didn't have to do that to be recognized as the woman you are. To stand with me before his grave...you're living proof people like you endure always"
A pause.

"High praise," Leigh said, softly, humbly.

"It's the truth," I declared.
She started the car. But before she drove on to the bustle of the folk festival, she gestured at the view.

"It's a good view for him to keep watch over this place," she observed.

I smiled. "Couldn't agree more."

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