The Grave and the War

The warring factions parted as the pallbearers lifted the coffin from the hearse. It was a child’s coffin, but nearly empty. He didn’t have much of a body left: Something of a torso, a head, an arm, were all that remained. A warrior, a peacekeeper, the last voice of reason forever muffled in the grave’s imposing silence. His death accomplished, but only for a day, his life’s work: The war was paused, a truce.

Not even the wind dared to blow as the corpse was carried up that hill, and all around, dressed in black, they honored the man with their silence. Their heads lowered as he passed, and through this parted sea of blood red war his ark progressed in slow measured steps. The man who had carried many of them as giggling children upon his back, had carried them as crying orphans through the great snow, now was carried without a sound.

By the grave, to the right, Hero stood tall, erect but for his lowered head. Even at seventy, his hair dark with only hints of the oncoming grey, the man was like a statue, perfect in body and heart. And to the left, his belabored breaths coming at irregular intervals, the crooked figure sat in his motorized chair, his remaining eye glaring with the intensity of his barely bridled hatred. Even he closed his eye, turning his half face away when the body came, and then he looked into the darkness of the grave below.

The two brothers, Hero and the mangled creature, had not come this close in ten years.

When their friend was laid to rest, Hero was the first to cast a handful of earth over the casket. Next, the betrayer’s withered hand, shacking, managed to shovel some loose dirt into the hole. Sitting back, the barely human form wheezed, gazing up at his old commander.

The robotic voice began its monotone speech, interpreting the thoughts of the invalid: “He was a good man.”

Nodding, Hero added, “We will not forget him.”

But the war continued the next day.

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