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.