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Contents | About | Issue 1 2 | Print | © SHORT FICTION

"Old Soldiers"

An old general at a Soldiers academy used to give the final lecture. This is what he said.

"Gentlemen, your remaining act as students and my last assignment as your instructor will consist of the delineation of The Final Duty. That is, the ultimate sacrifice.

Do we know what an old soldier does?"

The class: "He doesn't die, he fades away SIR!" The general grinned and said "very good children. A soldier goes two ways. That is one. We have glossed over the other way in some respects, except for the medic corps.

You men know the ways of behaving as a unit, a group as a corps that is as a body. The whole brigade is to be as one body, with one mind and one singular purpose. You know that. But does the body not die?

With the old soldier we've got a case of the spirit marching off to join another rank. Unfortunately, it doesn't always go that way. I'm sure you'll learn that soon enough.

As a body, you'll see the legs cut off. Then the body is immobile. You'll see the eyes shot out, rendering the body blind. You will come across every imaginable contortion of the body, and as part of it your duty is to act as the body does in response. Sadly, this means being immobile and blind at times, but the body does recover. So should you. You are all more than men. You are immune systems. It is your duty to make repairs and rectify the body of which you are a part.

But there comes a time in the life of every body when the system can no longer override. It gets sick of ignoring its pain, and the system shuts down. This, as I've said can occur in one of two ways.

The body fades out or it blows out, fast and furious. That, gentlemen, is the basis of the only decision you have left to make. Both options are equally possible, equally necessary and honorable. The fade-outs lead us later with their wisdom and the blow outs save us from moments of peril."

The general concluded all of his speeches the same way. This last speech was no exception.

"You men are our future leaders and saviors. Good Luck."

The general dismissed the corps. He went home after the lecture that night, exhausted from the stressful semester. He ate his favorite dinner Fried chicken and steak, the best his wife could cook.

In the morning, during his shower, the general suffered a heart attack and died, lying with his wet face down, naked.

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