On a hill in the distance a building stands, a tribute to strength, power and brutal force. The setting sun gleams off of its bright gilded walls, making it into a tiny thing of beauty like a trinket to be worn. Suddenly, it swells. Its walls quiver and become bloated, choking the one around whose neck it was hung. From above its doorstep, a scarlet-stained sign screams, “WAR! WAR! WAR!”
In the musty, smoky dawn, the soldiers moved, a dark mass of brown weaving to and fro like a serpent. Holes appeared in the line as men were cut down but the rest continued to worm their way through razor-edged barbwire strewn across a sodden marshland.
Niobe crouched in a muddy ditch, gripping his machine gun until his hand ached, spitting fire across the gray expanse at the approaching troops. He ignored the corpses piling up in the field before him, his mindless and ignorant hate driving the bullets into the enemy, mowing them down as if a huge scythe was sweeping across the battle line.
He felt a sting in his chest, the other bullets splattering in the mud around him. He glanced up to see his assailant no more than three feet away, his gun still smoking in his hands. Then the man’s mouth made a silent “O.” The weapon fell from lifeless fingers and he tumbled dead into the trench onto Niobe.
In the bottom of the ditch their blood mingled. In his last glance, Niobe saw his reflection in the pool at his feet. He saw a haggard face, deep-sunken haunted eyes, heavy furrows in his brow, so much like a skeleton. In that scarlet mirror, he saw the horrors of war; the widows, the orphans, the childless, the homeless, the helpless. But he also saw the truth, the truth that he wished that he had known so long ago, that no cause is right enough or good enough to justify the killing of another human being, regardless how great the differences.
Oh the building is bright and shiny on the outside. Fame and fortune await the victor, the most powerful of all. But let us step inside into that which is hidden from the public so that they can believe the propaganda that is fed to them each day, every hour, every minute, every second. This propaganda rots as does the carcasses hanging from the walls within the Slaughterhouse, still oozing the lifeblood of war’s victims.
Funereal cowered in the musty damp culvert, shivering with more than cold. But his fear was grounded. He had heard the announcement on the radio a few minutes before and had run to the nearest reasonably decent shelter. The button had been pushed. Why? The thought would not leave his mind. Why had it happened? Wasn’t it only yesterday when he had expressed his views?
“Of course I’m gonna vote for him. He wants us to have a good defense. Sure, missiles are bad, but how else are we gonna keep the enemy from getting us? Yep, he’s got my vote.”
He realized his mistake now, but it didn’t matter anymore. The end had come. But what if hadn’t, ever? Would it have mattered? No, he answered himself. Man would have continued to put his trust in weapons, hiding behind a defense guaranteed to wipe out the enemy. What enemy? There shouldn’t have been any. All men should have lived as brothers and striven for peace. But they hadn’t and now all of creation was undone.
Funereal felt the tremendous blast and shock wave as the missile struck nearby. Then he felt no more.
Actually, the Slaughterhouse is a monument to all victims of war, those whose lives have been shattered by its violence and hate. It is the truth of war and the truth cannot be destroyed. But it can be twisted, painted up to look bright and beautiful, the grim facts hidden from view. The Slaughterhouse’s dark secret lingers in the back of everyone’s mind, but it is ignored. The shadow is passed down from generation to generation even unto the children thereby strengthening its painful grasp on countless millions.
Johnny carefully pulled his toy soldiers out of their protective wrappings and began to place them in battle formation. Of all his toys, Johnny enjoyed his toy soldiers most. His favorite one on the good side was the Axeman, dressed in a dapple gray field uniform, edged with silver and gold. In John’s battles he would throw stones at each of the battle lines in turn, those soldiers falling down being “dead.” So far, and Johnny had played his game many times, his Axeman had never fallen. Johnny believed his hero to be invincible.
He began to pelt each side with pebbles. A gray fireman fell here. A blue cavalryman collapsed there. And then it happened. A rock struck the Axeman in his chest and he toppled over, “dead.” Johnny screamed and in a childish rage, picked his hero up and flung him crashing through the window.
The Axeman lay broken in the grass amidst shattered glass. The places on his body chipped by the impact seemed to be scarlet-tinged. Could it be blood gushing from the toy soldier’s wounds or the last rays of a dying sun reflecting off his pieces?
On a hill far away stands an old rugged tree, the emblem of suffering and shame. As the morning sun rises, the figure prostrate on the cross’ frame lurches and breathes his last. The Prince of Peace has given his life as a ransom for all people, the shedding of his blood to stop any other in the world.
But has the bloodshed stopped? The victims of war cry out from their graves. Who will hear the dead and the dying’s silent cries? Hold thy sword, Mortal, lest you cut thine own heart!
(Journal entry from October 21, 1984 written when I was 17 years old, included here as part of the Cold War Kid Collection)