Sunday, April 04, 2010

the battle at al hillel (part 1)

603 B.C.E. :: Babylon, Al Hillel :: It is noon, a Friday

I am tired of soldiering. I have walked too many times into the blood and muck and watched my fellows fall.

There is some exhilaration in battle, but it is just work – like bone setting or metal working. A job done well feels good.

But I have done too many jobs, and the goodness dims.

Across the field, in a valley, are some thousands…maybe more. They gleam, but quiver also. Fine armor over pretty arms. I think we’ll be done early.

We come at them, bulls shouldering metal bulrushes, and they fall. They are not soldiers. Not really. They are fine-looking statues. No. They are sticks. Toys. We should have sent our daughters to fight.

Our lines relax and the men begin to look for trophies to claim. I see nothing I like, but take fistfuls anyway to sell. As I reach, I see movement from the left, and twist to avoid a spear.

One survives.

He is wild-eyed. I note his wounds – many, but mild – he must have been caught under a horse or pile. He foams. That’s never good. His spear is quick, and I am a victim of age and tenure, so he sticks me in the gut. It is shallow, but deep enough to stoke my passions. He ends badly.

My father was a bull, a lion, a griffon, an angel. He brought death to dozens each day, and laughed after. In this moment, I was the angel, and I carved this thing in front of me like a sacrifice. He came apart, properly prepared, and I gave Baal his heart.

Still empassioned, I walked the valley and jabbed at the slain. None made a noise. Everyone died, and I was my father – the bull.

The valley was a meat shop now that the battle was over, a butcher’s board open for business.

I’m not sure why we came, I’m not even sure it matters. But we came. We fought. And we won. I killed a hundred men. Almost.

People think that a battlefield must sound like a forge, with clanging and shouting, but it’s different. It’s like a run through the mud. There’s a lot of panting and everything sounds wetter than you’d think.

Wet clothes.

Wet sod.

Wet meat.

The priest told us we came to fight because these men had defiled the temple walls and were the enemies of our gods. The eunuch told us we came to fight because these men were slaves who had stirred the queen’s passions with their youth. The king told us we fought because no Jew should worship Nebuchadnezzar – not after those three escaped the fire – but these did.

But who cares why? I’m a soldier. I fight. I see their carcasses as food for the birds of the air, and the beasts of the earth. I watch to endure no one frightens the beasts away.

This valley is full of dead men – soon it will be only their bones. Then only their dust, which will be the dry dirt of the valley floor.

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