Short Story: Those Who Live by the Sword Die By the Sword

“God, may you grant me victory. Endow me with your might; strengthen my arm to slaughter my enemies. Give weight to my foot, so I may stomp on their necks; sharpen my sword, so I may slice through their flesh. Grant me many kills lord of war, for my honor and glory. May my bullets be accurate and pierce every vital organ. May every grenade explode to the dismemberment of enemy soldiers. May I drink wine from the skulls of kings. May their widows and orphans perish in misery and fire. Aeries god of war prepare my hands for battle. May I not fall from cowardice, but enter the hall of heroes in a violent death. In your name I say amen.”
The bridge is on fire. The only way out of the city is backwards through flooded streets. The squad is trapped with every inhabitant as a potential enemy. The fire-fighting has been going on for twelve hours, rifle fire from every roof top. Snipers dug in cozy with no possibility of being bombed out. No air support will come to this area. They’re out of mortars.
Fresh waves of troops just keep coming. Their ammo is running low. It doesn’t seem to matter that bodies upon bodies upon bodies pile up in front of their line of sight. The enemy charges undeterred willing to sacrifice mind, body and soul to capture them. Their ferociousness turns to fear as someone shouts.
“The dragon man!”
He appears behind them sword in hand black as midnight cutting through with the ruthless efficiency of a roman legionnaire and with the joyful bloodlust of a berserker. He laps off the blood on his face like a wolf, grinning malevolence and doom upon his hapless foe. They’re ground to a pulp guts and blood strewn about the street. The rest retreat to hide from the horror. The mayhem ends for now.
“Corlianous! Report in.”
Corlianous sheaths his sword and walks back to regroup with his squad.
“Sector seven secure?”
“There isn’t a living soul left standing.”
“That’s not what I asked. Is it secure?”
“Yes, sector seven is secure.”
“Why are you still using that unauthorized weapon? And where is Hamilton, he should have come back with you?”
“I’m using the weapon because I ran out of ammon. Hamilton has been taken by the enemy.”
“Dead?”
“I don’t know, he was taken into a building, presumably as a hostage.”
“Why didn’t you go in and get him?”
“I responded to your call for back up.”
“Where’s Ramirez, Jackson and Diego?”
“Presumably dead, Sector eight had intense fire-fighting, too risky to engage.”
“Too risky to engage, but it wasn’t risky surprising the enemy with a sword?”
“I got the drop on them. I have the psychological advantage over them sergeant, they fear me.”
“Well I don’t. you may scare the rest of the soldiers lopping off heads and charging in with your black armor and wolfskin and all your esoteric symbols and nonsense all over you. It’s all against regulation and I don’t care that you have special permission. That you had classified training, all your mystique won’t prevent you from getting killed. You hear me? We’re trying to win a war of hearts and minds, not just a war, got it!”
“With all due respect, sergeant we already lost their hearts and minds as soon as we entered the territory. You may think we’re trying to win them over, but this is a cleansing mission pure and simple. Your rank has no authority over me. I have permission to do whatever I please to accomplish this mission, ordered from the president himself order 767. I obey as a courtesy to you so the chain of command isn’t broken.”
“This is not empire expansion. This is defeating terrorist cells. This is a justified action. Our war aim has been approved by congress, the U.N. backs it. There is restriction on how far we can go.”
“We have already broken those sanctions and so called restrictions. And we bought U.N> and congresses approval.”
The sergeant looks dismayed at Cornelious as he walks by. There is so much legend around the man, it’s hard to get to the truth. Any story around him sounds like myth. He has at least three birth stories: on a mountain from the womb of a dragon, a test-tube from an experiment in a genetic laboratory, a result from the goddess of destruction Kali and the God of War Aeries in the darkest pit in the underworld. Even if someone said he was from somewhere like Kansas, it would still be unreal. Thy myths are more believable than someone like that can come from Kansas.
The soldiers fall to their knees in awe as he walks by. He never talked to them. He never consorted with them. He is always alone. He sits in a far off corner on a dilapidated building. Closing his eyes to go into his darkened imagination, he meditates on blackness. It passes the time. He has no other interest. No other recourse. No hobbies, no book reading, no recreation, but to sti and wait for the next battle.
The wall overhead explodes and a chunk of wall crashes on his leg. Its broken. He hears the sound of bullets and screaming. Then it stops. Two faces wrapped in cloth peak over the rubble. They say something in a wild excitement, when they see C
orlianus. Corlianus is still. One of them gets close, checking to see if he is still alive. Corlianus grabs his throat and with one quick twist breaks his neck. He’s mad and lashes out wildly like a wolverine trapped in a cage.
“Come on! I’ll kill all you bastards! All you sons of bitches! With one leg broken and bleeding! I’ll piss on your graves! And salt the earth with your children’s ashes! I’ll make concubines of your wives! And burn down the house of your ancestors!”
Ten darts shoot into his neck. He falls into a deep sleep; he overhears something before he loses consciousness.
“No don’t kill him. We need him alive.”
He wakes in the dimness of the underground looking at a wall. Overhead it reads.
‘Shafts of light grace us through the crack of the doorpost’
He stands up forgetting his leg is broken. He falls back down bleeding. He doesn’t scream. They bandaged his leg, only well enough that he doesn’t bleed to death. He pulls his other leg, something is restricting his movement. His leg is shackled, chained to the wall; he pulls hard, trying to rip it out. He can’t seem to get a grip on the floor and slides while trying to pull. He is too weak to do any significant damage. In full strength he can pull the chain out of the wall easy. Now, it is difficult to stand, he breathes hard and falls to the ground, lying on his back, he takes giant gasping breaths.
“You should rest. You’ll do yourself no good by wearing yourself out like that. You’re going to be here for a while.”
“Who needs your advice?”
“You do.”
“I don’t need it.”
“You’d be wise to listen. A person will need every friend he can get in this place.”
Corlianous grunts, lying on his back.
“So, do you got a name?”
“I have many.”
“Let’s try one.” Corlianous looks to the corner to where the voice is coming from. It’s coming from a very thin man sitting in filth and tattered rags. It’s hard to make out what he looked like in the shadow.
“It’s Corlianous.”
“Sounds Roman, you have ancestry in Italy?”
“It’s a codename.”
“Well, what’s your real name?”
“I forgot my real name.”
“I see. A man with many names, I’d still think would remember his real name.”
“It’s better I forgot.”
“Why’s that?”
“I’m not that person anymore.” The man shifted himself, his chains rattling moving toward the sunbeam near Corlianous, he sits down next to him. He looks young, but haggard with long windy hair and a scraggly beard. His physical appearance isn’t impressive, he hid his eyes.
“I suppose you’re right. No one comes out of their mother looking like you.”
Corlianous stares blankly back at him. ‘The gull of this man to sit close to him and insult him’, he feels enough anger to snap his neck right there, but he’d be alone and he’ll need to stave off insanity somehow. Besides, what he said is true.
“It’s better I don’t remember what I was like before this.”
“Why? Everyone needs a past to know they’ve existed.”
“I exist.”
“How do you know?”
“I just do. Why do you ask so many questions?”
“Just curious I suppose. It gets boring in here.”
Corlianous adjusts and sits up, rubbing his neck.
“Why are you in here?”
“Well, I was drafted and refused to participate in their cause.”
“What cause?”
“The people in the back country refuse to recognize the authority of our newly appointed prime minister Al-Hamad. They formed a council and accused him of buying the election. And of course he did, everyone knows it. There are no delusions of a freely appointed official here. It will always be the man with the most money, but they actually said something and for that Al-Hamad sent in his army to exterminate everyone in the region with absolutely no mercy.” The man turns his head toward Corlianous revealing bright penetrating blue eyes.
“I couldn’t be apart of that. Not even for all the perks and bonuses our army officers. I’d be denying God for such evil.”
The man turns his head toward the prison window to feel the warmth of the sun on his face.
“What does it matter now, if it’s my country’s army or your country’s army? People are being killed senselessly.”
Corlinaous looks hard at the man.
“Why are you not afraid of me?”
“Why should I fear you?”
“Because I can kill you.”
“And you’ve killed many men, so you wouldn’t think twice about it?”
“Yes.”
“You have no power over me.”
“I have the ability to inflict death. I have all the power over you.”
“You have no power over me.”
“Why is that?”
“Because God is sovereign and you’re not.”
Corlianous is taken aback. He blinks with a condescending smirk growing on his face.
“God? You believe in a God?”
“Not just a god. The God. The only God.”
“Just one?”
“Yes.”
“That’s foolish. I worship many gods from many countries. I have learned all of their gods of war, all their gods of destruction, mayhem, violence, chaos and disorder. How can your one God defeat the might of my Gods?”
“Your Gods are no Gods. Just image made by men to fuel their frenzy and bloodlust.”
“So my Gods are images? Can your God defend itself from the armies of men?”
“Easily.”
“How can your God do that?”
The man reaches inside the remains of his shirt and pulls out a necklace and holds it close to Corlianous’ face.
“He did it on a cross.”
Corlianous is puzzled, ‘a crucified God? How can that defeat the armies of men?” Then he remembers the story of this god and it becomes obvious to him.
“So you worship a dead Jew on a stick. It sounds like my work is done for me.”
“You don’t understand.”
“No you don’t understand! A battle is won by the strength in a man’s arm. The thrill of combat, taking the lives of your enemy! No one dying defeated anyone from anything. It’s nonsense.”
“You’re wrong. The crucifixion is God’s greatest victory. It’s an act no army can defeat, because it changes the hearts of men. This is God’s gift to mankind that mankind can’t destroy, even though they’ve tried to. This gift of taking our sins away, this gift of eternal life. This gift of reconciling man to God. That through this act we can now come to know God because he made a way for us. He is no mere dead man on a stick. He is Jesus the messiah the world has been waiting for. We are living in his age, living in his kingdom. And he will come back to judge the living and the dead and he’ll do it with a sword!”
Corlianous nods his head.
“Now we’re talking! I’ll wait for this Jesus and fight him. And if he’s as powerful as you say then he’ll beat me and I’ll be his servant.”
The man shakes his head.
“By then it’ll be too late.”
The door swings open with five soldiers entering carrying rifles circling around Corlianous.
“To your feet.” Corlianous stands up.
“Back away!” Shouts the soldier toward the prisoner, he backs away.
“We have orders to move you.”
A soldier unlocks Corlianous’ leg irons. Another soldier with a neck hook comes behind him to clamp it on. Before the soldier clamps it on, Corlianous head butts the solder and kicks him in the gorin. The other four frantically try to fire, but Corlianous grabs one fo the soldiers and uses him as a shield. Getting close enough, he throws the dead soldier into a second soldier knocking him out. He tackles the other and rams his head through the wall with his fist. He hears firing from behind him, he left himself wide open, but nothing happens. He turns around quickly with the rifle in his hands blowing the head off the soldier’s shoulders. The door is open he has a chance to escape, but he pauses. ‘Why aren’t I shot?” he looks down and sees the man, his fellow prisoner, riddled with bullet holes. He’s lifeless.
Corlianous walks up to him filled with hate.
“Why did you do that! I don’t need your help! Why’d you sacrifice yourself like that for? You didn’t need to do that.”
The more Corlianous thinks about it the angrier he gets.
“You’re pathetic! You’re weak! Useless fodder! A waste you hear me? A waste!”
He looks to the door again.
“I don’t have time for you.”
He walks out the door shouldering his rifle being careful down the hallway, taking every precaution to protect his blind spots. He walks the first floor exiting the building. He turns around with a blade in his stomach, an angry face frowning close to him. The blood is running fast. He tries to grab him, but another blade goes into him. He turns to see a second man. He reaches toward him to find another blade go into him, a third man to his side.
Corlianous spits up blood. It is here in the midpoint between dying and living that he finally understands the cross. The violence of the world against God’s Shalom can’t possibly succeed. He takes it upon himself, transforming those who hate him into disciples who love him. The Crucifixion of Jesus breaks down Genghis Khan’s golden horde. It levels the Roman legions. It smashes the Huns. It swallows the Norsemen. It makes mince-meat of the Spartans, and stomps Napoleon, the swastika, the sickle and hammer into dust. God’s love conquers man’s hate.

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