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At the Gates of Heaven

by LeutnantSchweinehund

Note: Whatever. Another cynical piece of literature. Had this sitting around for a couple months, felt like finishing it. Critique it or don't, I leave that up to you. Before you can disappoint me, however, I'll disappoint myself. I know it's rubbish, I just wrote it for practice.

At the Gates of Heaven

Fire and steel, smoke and dust! Glory, blood, sweat and tears! Screams of dying men, cries of heroes who proudly marched upon the battlefield! Oh, what a glorious day! Forests stained with death, consumed by fiery brimstone! Bodies lay rotting on the grassy plains, with Frenchmen falling one by one like falcons from the sky! The Earth quaked as cannons roared their mighty songs, the songs of our artillery, shredding all who would dare stand in our path towards victory. Men with sabers, slashing at the Frenchmen's necks, upon horses rode through crowds. Clouds of steel clashed with thunderous wrath, young men falling for their country by the hundreds. Oh yes, what a glorious day indeed!

Bullets flew and blades clashed, bloody rivers spilling upon the grass below. With earth and soil defiled by death, soldiers marched as one through smoke and flame. Lines of frightened men, firing into distant foes, charging with a bear's fury, stabbing and striking, screaming as they did. Raised to fight, trained to kill, wolves at heart and soul, crushing skulls, followed by trails of corpses on their fearsome onslaught, stopping at nothing but victory. Heroes of the new age our Empire shan't forget. They came with thunder, with the winds of God pushing forth their weary feet. May the earth quake beneath the Kaiser's steel fist! With fire and sword, to victory and beyond! Ad infinitum!

I rode forth upon my steadfast chestnut steed, firing into crowds of friends and foes alike, cutting and stabbing, hacking and slashing, sowing death and seeds of misery, many widows, too many to count, born of my wroth rampage. The cavalry rode through in its relentless stampede, breaking bones and ripping flesh as it did, and I rode at its head, that proud rider without a name, a hero amongst hordes of shaken troops. I felt no fear, and no terror reigned supreme over me, for I rode, and I knew nothing else, for death was all that was, and soon all else had faded. I knew the taste of blood, I saw the sight of death, the world turning black and white, deafened by the sounds of battle. The French fell back, scattered, shattered and panicked, and then came our finest hour! We broke their lines and cut down the cowards in their tracks, shouting and singing as we did! Let it be known that it is we, the men of Austria, who deliver death and sorrow! We are the army of the reaper, and we fight in the Kaiser's name! From now 'till our deaths!

And then it happened. The world fell quiet, and the sounds and smells of battle ceased to be. The sun cowered beneath an endless horizon, giving birth to a world of shadow, and shadow alone. Great mountains peered in the distance, black clouds passing through their gloomy peaks, and upon the greatest hill stood a temple of gold. It glimmered in the distance like a great bonfire in the East, the last light before demise. I felt the cold gaze of emptiness as it fell upon my bloody clothes and broken bones. With it fell a sense of dread, of endless sorrow, broken hopes and shattered dreams, and so began the life after glory.

I do not know who delivered the killing blow, who felled me and my steadfast chestnut steed, I know only that my death was swift and without pain. The rush of battle consumes me still, and I hold the sword in my hand, I feel the firm wind in my hair, yet they are not real. I am no longer with my fellow men, and never shall I fight again. It is a dark place, without a doubt darker than any Earthly night, with tall, black towers stretching high around me. And there walk the dead, through the streets of purgatory, without flesh or skin, stripped to the bone before the eyes of God, just like me. Some bore arms, clad in uniforms both blue and red, yet others still held tools; the carpenters, farmers and masons of their age. Some were small children, dressed in noble suits or the rags of orphans, and others yet mere infants were, lying in their barren cribs, all but abandoned. How many of those men died by my hand? How many children would starve as the widows wept? I cannot begin to guess, and I see my sins now stretched before me.

"You killed me." one of the fallen said, pointing at his shattered jaw. "You shot me on the field. I had a beautiful wife and five daughters in Bordeaux. They'll die on their own." his voice was weak and monotonous, without signs of sorrow, wrath or hatred. A crowd of skeletal men gathered about, silently observing our timid exchange.

"You slew me as well." another spoke, a gash splitting his forehead in two. "I remember your sword flying towards my face. It was over before I knew it. Good to see you here among the dead, comrade."

"I managed to take down that damned horse of yours, and you with it. You broke your neck, by the looks of it. Your men slit my throat from ear to ear! What a sight it must have been."

the last man laughed, seemingly unphased by his painful end. To my surprise, none of them seemed particularly upset over their deaths. Come to think of it, neither was I.

"Do you not hate me? I ended your lives, doomed your sons and daughters, yet you stand here as if nothing happened?" I responded, perplexed and uncertain, and then another slowly spoke,

"We are all amongst the dead now, comrade. Hatred has no meaning. There are no colors, no nations, no flags nor kings or wars. Together we stand, judged as equals in the eyes of God. We must work together and break the gates of Heaven, for we are nothing in solitude."

I remained there with the lost souls. We spoke and drank, digging, walking and building, contemplating our forgotten lives as we did, withering away, and digging again, deeper by the day. Bones turned to ash as God's justice cut down the foul, the evil and the wroth, yet I still stood. I prayed to the Lord every hour, forever fighting for my right to enter paradise, and then came the digging yet again. I dug for days without pause as my comrades left for the great gold temple, one by one, armed to the teeth, leaving me to solitude. Others followed, and soon I was alone.

I sat upon the lonesome rock, craven in the dark, and I dug. The hole must have been deeper than the deepest of oceans then, yet I continued to dig. The reason for digging had evaded me entirely, as I had simply been digging with the others. Never did it strike me that perhaps we were digging in vain, and upon deeper thought, I do not know why we dug at all. To please God, perhaps? Why would God have us dig? I threw down my shovel and began the perilous climb. I climbed for days, prayed, and climbed some more, and then I fell back down to the deepest pit. I grew weary with each fall, and in the end, I had no strength to climb or dig.

Much time has passed. Counting the days bears no meaning, for it seems to me that the days in purgatory are endless. I rest inside this bottomless pit, the very pit I myself have dug, and I pray to see another face. I pray to hear another voice, to be relieved of this solitude, this suffering. I have repeated these words so many times that I now know them by heart, as I waste away and wither into the abyss.

Slay me God, I beg it of you. I beg nothing else.

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36 Reviews

Points: 172
Reviews: 36

Tue Jun 05, 2018 7:03 pm
GodfreysBouillon wrote a review...

Man, all your stories have a theme of God, and I like it for sure.

This is definitely interesting, showing a cavalryman's glory as he slaughters all those who come before him, before being slaughtered himself and coming to see what he had done.
You said this involved the French? Bordeaux? I'm guessing it was something Napoleonic then, or maybe it just took place in some smaller war.

I also think its very cool to have the dead keep their injuries, showing broken jaws and slashed skulls. That was chilling to read as I heard each of the dead men talk.

Good job

Yup, Napoleonic. Not sure which battle it was meant to take place in though... I don't think I was thinking it through before writing it at all, to be honest. Just sorta sat down and wrote.

As for the theme of God... Well, let's just say it's my specialty. Conversion did a number on me, that's for sure!

Considering all of history has something to do with God or religion, it definitely helps to have a first hand experience as a writer.
Glad to hear of your conversion, how did that happen?

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1220 Reviews

Points: 72525
Reviews: 1220

Sat Sep 30, 2017 4:22 pm
Kale wrote a review...

This is interesting. I'm not sure if you intended this to or not, but this piece is on the edge of treading the line between prose and poetry, and I think that if you were to nudge this closer to the side of poetry, this would be a more engaging piece. At the very least, it go quite a way sin helping to justify the energy of all those exclamation marks at the beginning.

If you're up to the challenge, I challenge you to rewrite the first two paragraphs in the form of an epic poem. Rhyming need not be necessary, and I think that not rhyming will help lend the lines a feel of literal translation from another language, which in turn would help enhance the overall atmosphere and tone of this piece.

This entire piece, in truth, would probably work well in epic poetic form, but let's not get too ambitious just yet. ;P

I'm a downright awful poet. My poetry is even worse than my prose, so I don't know if I should do that, but I may try nonetheless.

In any case, it's like I said in my reply to the other review. It's probably best not to return to these practice pieces. I might though. Maybe. Not sure.

Kale says...

Also, just saw your reply to my other review, and there is quite a bit of conflict in this still. There's the external conflict of the beginning half, of the war going on as part of the setting, and there's internal conflict in the latter half of the narrator and his solitude.

You're going to have to try harder if you want to write something without conflict at all.

Kale says...

Consider writing poetry an experiment and try anyway. You might find traditional forms much easier to start with as those have structures you can fall back on as a base so that you're not leaping in without any idea of what to do whatsoever.

I tried to write a few sonnets before, and I'd say they weren't awful by any means, but they weren't anything to write home about either. Tried to write a semi-epic poem (very short though) that was okay-ish. Posted that one on the site.

As for a story without conflict. Well, the only thing I can think of is a story about a holy prophet preaching and then dying peacefully. Basically shitty soulless story v.2, only without conflict to flesh it out.

I also heartily apologize for my inadequate response to your original review. I had put a lot of effort (well, not really, but I tell myself that) into it and finding out that I missed the mark entirely screwed me up, especially at a time when I hate myself enough already! So you have my apologies for that.

Kale says...

Form poetry is easy to start with but difficult to master, especially those forms with rhyme on top of strict meter, so I wouldn't worry too much about writing great sonnets or such. Adequate is more than most accomplish, and the challenges involved in writing an adequate (much less good) poem to form is one of the reasons why form poetry is my favorite. And also why I tend to critique it more harshly, so if you want me to take a look at the semi-epic piece you posted, which I'm currently holding off on doing because you've been getting a pretty substantial dose of blunt-force Kyll trauma(TM), be prepared.

The story with the prophet will still have conflict because either not everyone will listen to the prophet, or else the prophet works to convince everyone to believe. Keep delving. ;P

Perhaps the prophet will be accepted immediately and the story revolves only around the prophet developing rules and conversing with God. That, or one might write about the life of an early medieval English priest, which would likely be fairly calm and sterile.

As for my poem, rip it to shreds. I've nothing to lose, and I know it was pretty bad already, so not much can surprise me. Hell, even that poem was written in about two days, like most of my works. I'll admit that I hardly ever re-write or edit the work.

Kale says...

I think it's time to change that. Rewriting and editing are integral parts of the writing process, and all traditionally-published works go through those processes.

First drafts pretty universally suck, and comparing first drafts to polished pieces is akin to comparing apples to orange trees.

Anyways, drop the link to your poem in my thread so I don't forget it.

Well, I still don't know if the Epic of James has anything to offer, polished or not, so I'll probably let it die.

Trouble is, it was one of my best ideas. I have no ideas left right now.

Kale says...

Rework it anyway to see if there is something you can salvage. Adding something new to the mix is another possibility, as is removing something.

U think it would be interesting to see what you have left after removing all references to historical and religious figures and locations, for example.

Kale says...


And in a trend established by liccorice, auto-correct continues to fail me.

If I were to remove the historical references, I would be left with a story which bears striking resemblance to some Biblical tales. The destruction of Antes is nothing more than Sodom & Gomorrah, the creation of law is Matthew 7, Jesus upon the mountain, and the endless search for immortality is the Epic of Gilgamesh. The only truly original parts are the creation of Zion and its people and the march upon the Nautilus.

I have, however, looked at the two previous parts, and am currently reworking the whole story. I intend to merge all three parts, after a serious editing session, and hopefully come up with a ~7,000 word epic worthy of an audience.

Kale says...

One of the truths of storytelling is that all stories are essentially the same story, simply repackaged for a different audience.

You're on the right track, and I'm curious to see the results of your reworkings.

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452 Reviews

Points: 18918
Reviews: 452

Sat Sep 30, 2017 4:14 pm
Tuckster wrote a review...

Hey there! MJ back for the last review I need for RevMo! *cheers*

In the first paragraph, the exclamation marks were definitely overused. They lost all of their emphasis and purpose, and the wow factor wore off around use number 3. I would suggest only putting exclamation marks after statements like 'What a glorious day!', and then using periods around 'Blood and sweat and tears and dust.'

i couldn't find any grammar mistakes, but there were some writing errors that I'd like to address before I move into the actual substance and meat of the review. Firstly, like I said, you overused exclamation marks. Secondly, your writing style was choppy and didn't flow. I understand using some fragments can be a nice touch, and it's not completely necessary each time, but this was written with so many little chunks and very little transition between themes, it became awkward and choppy to read. Other certain phrases, like this one:

Slay me God, I beg it of you. I beg nothing else.
could be better phrased as 'Slay me, God, I beg of you. I want nothing else but to taste the sweet nectar of death'. That would be a smooth way to express this idea-- a soldier who has been on a murderous rampage wants to only die, to end his life and his torment.

This seemed to be more of a scene than an actual short story. Perhaps it would be best to add a little bit of dialogue between the main character and his commander in the beginning so that we as readers can understand the motivation of the MC. I also found it hard to relate to his killing spree, especially because it was so hastily written and not very carefully transitioned.

So overall, this is a good first draft because you have the main idea on the page. However, to improve for your second draft, most of the issues lie in your writing style. Although some of it can be personal style or preference, be careful not to overdo it. I think you were falling on the side of overdoing it, so I apologize if my review sounds harsh. Much of it was beautiful ideas and writing, and it's always better to write something that's sloppy and fix it than to keep it locked up inside your head.

I think that summarizes my points nicely, so if you need any clarifications or need anything else, please let me know and I'll do my best to help you out! Have a great day, and keep working on this and other writing pieces.

Best wishes,

Eh, screw it. I'm not coming back to this "story" anyway. But they say a writer is to write around 1,000 words a day, whether good or bad, so there's one of my creations. They also said it is best to not return to these practice scenes and instead write more of them.

As for the last line, I really didn't want to make it artsy. I've been called pretentious over my style of writing before, so I toned down the poetic expressions and now I write as literally as possible.

Oh right, I forgot to thank you for the review. Thanks much.

Maybe our favorite quotations say more about us than about the stories and people we're quoting.
— John Green