Kills the Mortal Soldiers
A young soldier pulled a lever.
The first time the young soldier killed a mortal soldier during the war, he pulled a lever on a heavy weapon, and in the far distance the heavy weapon did its work, and many mortal soldiers died.
The young soldier did not feel any remorse over the death of those mortal soldiers. He did not feel any remorse because he did not see the heavy weapon do its work. It did its work too far away, and the young soldier did not see it. The young soldier paid no attention to the work of the heavy weapon. He was too busy preparing to pull the lever again as soon as the heavy weapon was loaded again. He was too busy to pay attention to the work of the heavy weapon.
The next time the young soldier killed a mortal soldier during the war, he had a smaller weapon that he held in his hand. That smaller weapon still did its work in the distance just as the heavy weapon had done, but it did its work in the near distance, not the far distance.
The young soldier pulled the lever of the small weapon he held in his hand, and in the near distance, a mortal soldier died.
The young soldier noticed that the mortal soldier had died, but he was too busy operating the smaller weapon he held in his hand to think too much about the mortal soldier who had died at the young soldier’s hand. The young soldier was too busy operating the smaller weapon he held in his hand, and he was too busy trying to avoid the work of smaller weapons that the mortal soldiers of the enemy aimed at him.
Later that night, in the quiet of his sleeping place, the young soldier thought about the mortal soldiers he had killed that day, but he did not feel too badly about them because he only thought about them in general. He did not re-live the moments of death for each one. He only pondered the meaning of life and death and why soldiers of each homeland sometimes try to kill each other. Then the young soldier fell asleep, and he woke to kill more mortal soldiers again that day.
The next time the young soldier killed a mortal soldier, he did not pull a lever on a heavy weapon, and he did not pull a lever on a smaller weapon he held in his hand. The young soldier found a mortal soldier approaching the fallen tree he hid behind. The mortal soldier approached the other end of the fallen tree where one of the young soldier’s fellow soldiers hid.
By the time the young soldier saw the mortal soldier approach the other end of the fallen tree, the mortal soldier was too close for the young soldier to use the small weapon he held in his hand. The young soldier was afraid the work of the small weapon would work on his fellow soldier as well as the approaching mortal soldier, so the young soldier put down his small weapon and pulled out his solid blade.
The young soldier pulled out his solid blade and quickly and carefully and quietly moved to the other end of the fallen tree. He arrived just as the mortal soldier jumped over the fallen tree to attack the young soldier’s fellow soldier. The young soldier arrived just in time to bury his solid blade deep in the mortal soldier’s chest, killing him instantly.
The young soldier’s fellow soldier thanked the young soldier for saving his life, and then the young soldier’s fellow soldier fell over dead from the work of a small weapon from the far side of the battlefield.
The young soldier returned to his own end of the fallen tree, and he took up his own small weapon, and he proceeded to put to work the small weapon he held in his hand.
Only later that night did the young soldier think about the mortal soldier he had killed with his solid blade. Again he was to far distant in time and place to feel much remorse for the dead mortal soldier. The young soldier did not think much about how it had felt to kill a mortal soldier at such close range. The action had happened quickly, and the young soldier had had no time to think, so he spent little time thinking about what he had done.
The next time the young soldier killed a mortal soldier, though, it would haunt him for a long time.
The battle had ended for the day, and the young soldier and his unit were sent into the neutral forest to gather supplies.
While in the forest, the young soldier became separated from his unit. He had found a large stock of supplies, and he spent so long gathering as much as he could that by the time he was fully loaded, his unit had moved on.
The young soldier was alone.
The young soldier took his load of supplies back toward his unit’s camp. On his way back, though, the young soldier came across a mortal soldier who was also alone in the forest gathering supplies.
The young soldier and the mortal soldier looked at each other.
The mortal soldier smiled. The young soldier would always remember that smile. It was not a sneer nor an ironic smile. It was a warm, friendly smile. A warm, friendly smile that the young soldier would always remember.
But when the young soldier dropped his supplies and drew his solid blade, the warm, friendly smile disappeared. The warm, friendly smile disappeared, and the look of fear and confusion came over the eyes of the mortal soldier.
The young soldier was too new to the war to understand the rules of engagement after the battle was finished for the day. He did not think about rules of engagement. He just reacted. He saw a mortal soldier, and having spent his day trying to kill mortal soldiers and trying to keep from being killed by mortal soldiers, the sudden encounter with a mortal soldier in the forest made him immediately drop his supplies and draw his solid blade.
Only later did the young soldier interpret the look of fear and confusion in the mortal soldier’s eyes as a response to the violation of the rules of engagement. The warm, friendly smile turned to a look of sudden fear and confusion.
The mortal soldier drew his own solid blade, and he staggered backward.
The young soldier stepped toward the retreating mortal soldier.
The retreating mortal soldier tripped over a fallen branch, dropping his solid blade, and he lay on his back.
The young soldier rushed forward.
The mortal soldier shouted that the young soldier was a mortal soldier too.
The young soldier said not today.
The young soldier’s solid blade slipped into the mortal soldier’s stomach. It slipped into the mortal soldier’s stomach before the young soldier put the solid blade into the mortal soldier’s chest.
The young soldier felt the mortal soldier’s heart quiver against the solid blade, and then it stopped. The look of fear and confusion in the mortal soldier’s eyes turned to a black stare of emptiness and indifference.
The young soldier smelled the mortal soldier’s body odor, and it reminded him of the smell of the man who prepared corpses for burial.
The mortal soldier smelled like a man and looked like a man, but he did not smile like a man any longer. That was the memory the young soldier took away with him as he gathered the supplies again and headed back to his camp.
The young soldier spent an uneasy night in his sleeping place, and the next day, the commander of his unit made a general announcement clarifying the rules of engagement for the neutral forest both during and after the battle for the day.
The young soldier felt no particular attention paid to him during the announcement.
Then the commander approached the young soldier and told him he had been promoted to leader of his group.
The young soldier did not ask why. He just went to his sleeping place and tried to forget the warm, friendly smile and the look of sudden fear and confusion. But he never would.
To read more stories in the series, see the Becomes One Hundred Stories page.