As many of you know, today is Remembrance Day or, if you’re living in the US, Veteran’s Day – it’s still the same thing, right? You know, with the poppies and a short silence to remember the fallen soldiers. I also found out that today is also Pocky Day…I’m not sure why Pocky decided to match up its celebration day with Remembrance Day but, well, it’s up to them, I guess.
This morning, the school had to line up for longer because we had this poppy ceremony where the teachers and important students (Head Girl and Boy) made speeches – or were they reciting a poem? – and then the important people who were invited stick poppies (fake, of course) onto the ground (again, not real) below a large poppy. Then, there was this familiar trumpet tune that was always played on 11/11 – since Mr. Phil has left the school, the played the song on some kind of music player, so it wasn’t played life. Well, it seemed like it wasn’t played life.
So I made this really short story for Remembrance Day. I always thought wars as something glorious yet horrible at the same time…mostly horrible, but when you win then it’s glorious. Weird, right? When a gruesome deed is deemed heroic just because you have proven yourself to be more powerful than the other side? I think war is basically mass murder under the disguise of “better future project”. Why would anyone do it in the first place? I know, you need to expand to find natural resources so you can survive, and yadda-yadda-yadda…But it’s not necessary to barge into other people’s houses, beat the owners to a pulp, turn the whole house upside-down, steal their food and other belongings, declare their house as you second home and say that what you did was perfectly justified. You just committed trespassing, technically beat the living daylights out of some innocent people, destroyed their home, steal their resources, conquer the place and tell the media that the whole violence was perfectly justified. And if you still don’t get why people hate it when you just appear out of the blue in your country to declare a missile party, then why don’t you host it at your own country? Or maybe some other place that, let’s say, don’t have that many population? I think you all know what I’m talking about.
Bottom line is: war is stupid. Hands down.
Moving on from the rant, here is the short story I prepared for our honourable brave soldiers. It may not be directly relevant to war but, well, it’s relevant in some ways. Enjoy!
The King is a Pawn
He’d had enough. All this time he had been pull by the strings by shadows behind the bushes. All this time he had been dancing obliviously while the audience laughed behind his back. All this time he had been riding on the wrong bus to get home for years straight, still not knowing why he hadn’t reached his destination yet. But the driver knew; the audience knew; the shadows knew. He was a puppet – merely a pawn amongst a coalition of kings. He didn’t want this humiliation, and he vowed to change his fate.
So he met up with That Woman. She was sitting down on a plain, single bed in a plain white room, situated at the top most floor of an apartment building, located somewhere near the outskirts of the city. Aside from the bed, there was a pasty blue dinner table with matching chairs – no cushions – and a little coffee table at the corner, at the foot of the bed, where an old TV sat. The kitchenette was located near the front door and in a few feet in front of the dinner table, while next to the kitchenette was the protruding section of the room that housed the bathroom. The place housed no decoration – it was kept trim and austere, just like her.
She didn’t seem to acknowledge him when he had entered the room, even though she was the one who had offered him assistance. He had been standing awkwardly by a dining chair, watching her stare at the wall in front of her. The wall was plain, just like her glassy eyes, just like her whole being. The silence in the confined space was unusual to him; everywhere he went (before all of this happened) was followed by noise – dreadful noise or amicable noise, or just noise. After what seemed like an eon, she inclined her head to him and smiled slightly.
“Good morning, Mr. Woodhink,” she greeted him in a soft yet curt voice. “Please have a seat, if you’d like.”
He nodded stiffly and sat himself upon the chair he had been standing next to. “It was very pleasant of you to offer me this very much needed assistance, Miss Mentir,” he said courteously. “If it weren’t for you, I would not be able to talk, yet along breath, at this very moment.”
“Yes, I have realised what a situation you are in, Mr. Woodhink,” she said in a serious tone, though her mannerisms made it seem as if she said it absentmindedly. She hadn’t made an eye contact yet. Her spin was stiff and rigid under her opaque black suit. She had her hands folded primly on her laps, and her chin was brought up so it was as if she was peering down. Domineering. He fought the urge to clench his fist at her attitude. “Not to be rude or anything, but I’d like to keep this meeting short and straight; I’ll tell you as much details about what you need to do as possible, and then you’ll have to do this as quickly and as soon as you can. No questions, Mr. Woodhink, for my ways are absolutely justified and effective.”
Woodhink clicked his jaws shut once Mentir stated this. He felt the cold sweat pouring down his whole body, drowning him in an ocean of fear and anticipation. “Please, do tell me what it is I need to do,” was all he said before Mentir took the lead.
“I believe your main problem is Mr. Verita Nascosta, correct? If he exists, he is a threat, but if he doesn’t then you wouldn’t need to worry. Simple, right?”
Realisation dawned upon Woodhink’s face. He was about to object to the absurdity and impossibility of the idea, but Mentir cut him to it. “I am not quite done yet, Mr. Woodhink. Although the notion may seem ridiculous, albeit impossibly easy and dangerous, to you, I can assure you that it is the right thing to do. Think about it – freedom, no strings attached! How do you think that will feel like? When was the last time you have looked at yourself in the mirror and be satisfied with what you see?”
Woodhink gulped in all of her words like fresh air. Whenever he saw his reflection, he felt bile rise up his throat. Cuts, bruises, scars – all because of that man. And for what? Service of the country? All he ever did was kill fearful nameless in foreign lands whilst being forced to watch his comrades melt into dirt one by one. And all he got for the trauma was a golden chip with vibrant ribbons attached to it, as well as fleeting praises, and fortune. Oh, the fortune – so pleasurable, yet so ephemeral. It left him with nothing but a transient feeling of joy, and an everlasting emptiness. Meaningless, his life had been. Woodhink lifted his head from his bowed position to finally look at Mentir squarely.
Foggy glass-like eyes, revealing everything but nothing, locked onto his desperate orbs. You cannot tell her age or her experience from her appearance, but her eyes would reveal everything to you. She smiled that patronizing smile once again, and continued. “You see? It will be simple – no fingerprints, no attachments…”
* * *
The gun felt lighter after I had used it. Verita Nascosta’s body was concealed within a potato sack, which had fresh bullet wounds on them. I would love to see his face, to hear more of his agony, but that would risk many things. I looked at my trembling hands, and I dropped the gun. The callused surface of my palm and fingertips looked more pronounced, as if someone had traced them over with a very bold marker. I brought up my shaking hand in front of me, marvelling at the power trapped within it. I smiled, and laughed – I am my own man, a powerful being in his own right! I clenched my hand into a fist and brought it against the nearest wall – no one can control me anymore! The pain that shot up my arm and crawled up my spine was nothing like what I’ve felt before; it felt so fresh, sharp, and real – this hand can do many things, and I, myself, will be the one to control it! I didn’t think I have ever laughed so hard in my life. My head felt so light, I was sure I was flying.
The body was no moving. I briskly paced over to it and gave it a hard strike with my foot. My foot! The same foot that had stepped upon strange lands upon a lunatic’s orders! The same foot that had clobbered the same lunatic that had made me miserable! Free – free at last! The power is mine! I don’t think I can get enough of it!
I was still panting after I was done with my share of kicks. Clicking footsteps were approaching, growing louder as Mentir drew nearer. I turned around to greet her with a grin, and she returned it back with her own secluded smile. “You really are something, Mr. Woodhink – a soldier, indeed,” Mentir commented, eyes glinting with amusement.
“Soldier?” I scoffed. “I am a man! Soldier is a term for those clueless drones that would willingly serve this dolt!” I emphasised the last word with a kick to Verita Nascosta’s head. I cackled as the sack turned over so that its back was facing me. “Well, now that’s settled,” I said. “I think I have a vacation to see to–”
“However, Mr. Woodhink,” Mentir interrupted, blocking my way with her arm. “In order to be properly free, you are required to execute some more tasks.”
I frowned. This was not what she had offered. “What do you mean, Mentir?”
She smiled. Her glassy eyes were focused at Verita Nascosta’s back, at the visible bloodstains on the sack. “Did you know that Verita Nascosta had many alliances with other powerful men? These men I am talking about, according to my information, are willing to continue his ruling even after he has perished. Don’t you think it’s a problem for you, that Verita Nascosta has planned to continue his reign of terror?” Mentir sighed and clicked her tongue. “Such a fickle man, he is. Doing good for the country whilst making dire sacrifices? Are his truths really belieavable? Such a joke…”
Verita Nascosta had men? I did not know that…I was not free yet. In fact, I don’t think I can be free, so long as these men exist. I looked at my trembling hands. The hands that hold so much power. I can do this – for my freedom, for everyone’s freedom.
“For freedom,” I breathed. “Anything for freedom. If I have to kill twelve men, then so be it – so long as it’s for freedom.”
Mentir nodded and stepped aside. Her smile seemed to be more permanent and brighter than before. “And I lay all my trust in you, Mr. Woodhink,” she said. That was the last I saw of her before I received another set of tasks from my earpiece. I didn’t know what she was doing down there with Verita Nascosta’s corpse and though I was curious I didn’t look back. The future was all I see – a future of freedom and self righteousness; a future where there will be no bloodshed or public fallacy. True freedom, it was my future. As I neared the exit, I heard Mentir’s laugh for the first time, low and jubilant.