A Cruel And Sweet Mistress

Stoplights change, and change again. Trains pass by slowly, coming and going without a thought. The sun rises and sets again and again. Church bells toll, and on a nondescript day, nondescript people shuffle quietly into a room intended for comfort in the most trying of times.

Those in attendance speak with quivering voices in hushed tones, praying silently to gods they neither understand nor believe in, wishing themselves to wake from their grief. But there is no reprieve from this depth of pain; no healing but time.

Time. Our sweet, cruel mistress. Time, tragic and gracious, quietly carries us onward. On from our struggles, on from our triumphs, and on from our wounds. One thing it cannot carry us away from is the scar that remains, the mark that is left on us, the visual memory of the hurt. These scars may fade as memory fails, but they never truly leave us, occasionally reminding us of our loss with phantom pains that come as swift and unexpected as cold water during a deep sleep.

Those moments will leave us gasping, desperately grasping for peace. That peace may seem to slip beyond our reach for a while, but time has a way of bringing it back around in season. And sometimes that thought is all that is left for us to hold onto.

The cruelest, yet sweetest, thing that time perpetually brings to the forefront of our minds, is that no matter what has happened, the world kept turning. No matter what is happening, the world is still turning. And that one day, something shocking and terrible will happen, long after we are all passed beyond the veil, and despite the horrendous nature of that event…the world will move on. The world will grip tight the hand of time and continue to carry on as it always has. And that is both comforting and sad, but that is the way of life. Cruel and sweet.

The Warrior’s Dilemma

Staring out across the plain before him, he sighed deeply. The sun was setting, and a quaint breeze gently caressed his cheeks. Birds sang quietly, off in the trees several hundred yards to his right. High overhead, a hawk circled in a hunting pattern. He eyed the hawk jealously, wishing he still had something to hunt.

He sniffed the air, realizing that the scent of fresh blood had not been on it for some time now. He had seemingly vanquished his last foe. What was a warrior to do when there was no war left to be waged? It was not in his blood to beat his swords into plowshares when the battle was won. There had always been another enemy on the horizon ahead, some new reason to keep his weapons drawn.

An old lullaby from his childhood played in the background of his mind.

“Mama, lay my guns in the ground, cuz I can’t use them anymore…”

He had no more use for them, but he had no purpose without them, it seemed. They were just as much a part of him as his lungs. They felt more than vital for his very survival. For a long time, his survival had leaned heavy upon their effectiveness. Now, he had no identity apart from the machines of war he wore on his hip.

A choice lay before him, if it could be called that. For what purpose does a soldier have in peacetime? What possible good does his only skillset have in times of tranquility? His existence has been planted firmly in chaos and death; when neither can be found, what can he do? What does he do now that steel and lead have taken a path apart from tearing flesh from bone?

He was so good at what he did, too. None had the expertise to rip a soul from a man’s body like he did. The thought made him shiver. What separated him from the monsters he fought was a very thin line. Perhaps he was the only monster left alive. Perhaps it was time for a new warrior to arise and end him as well.

Or perhaps he could lead what was left of his life on some Quixotian quest, searching for what imaginary demons might be lurking in the shadows, and what evils lie hidden behind the guise of windmills. Perhaps he could convince himself that he was still necessary.

Or maybe the only way to end the curse of war was to die in peace. If he truly was the only fighter left standing, maybe if he could die without raising his hands in destruction ever again, the world could be cured of the disease that had plagued it ever since brother struck down brother all those millennia ago.

If indeed that evil had been laid to rest for good, it was time to let the sun set on his wicked ways as well. For in times of evil and darkness, one must fight the enemy using their own dark ways. However, when the light shines again, there is no place for such things. There is no room for the furies of war in a world of peace. His time had come and gone.

And so he was left behind, it seemed. His work had been done, and now he must find out what happens after the gunslinger rides off into the sunset. It was time to face his own fate, whatever that might be. His chapter in the great annals of time had come to a close, and he must fade into the murky memory of legend and myth. He had lived a good life. Or perhaps the horrible things he had done to achieve peace and all the lives he had snuffed out precluded him from saying that. At the very least, he had lived a full life, and there was no room in it for the calm that had come to settle on the land. It was time for him to disappear.

The wind gave a sudden surprising gust, and his coat flapped violently, he leaned his head back and outstretched his arms to either side. He closed his eyes and took a deep breath. And then, as quickly and silently as the night, he was gone.