Plowshares into Swords

Posted: July 29, 2012 in Haywire
Tags: , ,

Gravidus and Ultor stood before Mars. They knew they only had one chance to impress him. Others had approached Mars and made similar presentations. They all met the same fate: Martius lupus gnawed on their bones at the foot of Mars’ throne. Gravidus and Ultor knew if they could not stoke the flames within their god’s heart, the wolf would feast on them.

“Humanity has arrived at a crossroads,” Gravidus began. His skin of polished brass reflected the fiery glow of Mars’ throne. “Economic crises, moral turpitude, and cultural erosion have failed to inspire fear and extremism.”

Mars lowered the tip of his bloodied spear. “Proceed.” His voice echoed from the unfathomable depths under his helmet.

Ultor limped forward, his body broken, battered, and scarred. “The economy is in free fall, but they still like him. He undermines their freedom, but they still like him. He humbles himself before dictators and tyrants, but they still like him. He inspires hope. He speaks of progress. We must undermine that.”

Ultor retreated and Gravidus advanced. “Imagine this: A line of tired, defeated soldiers march wearily toward a pile of scrap metal. We follow one of them as he tosses his bloodstained sword into the heap. The shield falls from his tired arm and rolls to a stop in a puddle of muddy water. He hangs his head and struggles to take off his battered helmet. We see a hollow face and eyes that have witnessed unimaginable horrors. The scene fades, and the orange glow of a blacksmith’s fire slowly creeps onto the screen. We see a blacksmith forging the discarded weapons into plowshares.”

Mars slammed the butt of his spear onto the floor. The palace shook with his fury. The embers of his eyes glowed with anger from behind his helm. Gravidus dropped to his knee. Ultor interceded.

“Lord of Battle, still your rage for but a moment. Now imagine a scene of pastoral beauty: a field of golden grain is ready for harvest. Ripe fruit waits to be plucked from a verdant orchard. We see the same soldier, no longer tired, but refreshed. His wounds long healed. He works the field and orchard with the tools fashioned from his discarded armaments. Meanwhile, under a blossoming dogwood tree, the soldier’s wife and children set a feast upon a table. She calls to her beloved husband, the man who had been gone so long from her arms.”

The embers behind Mars’ helmet cooled. He lowered the tip of his spear.

Ultor retreated. Gravidus returned to his feet. “A soft wind blows, and the white blossoms of the dogwood drift around a loving family as they enjoy their meal.”

Gravidus stepped back as Ultor advanced. “But the sky darkens as smoke and ashes mingle with the blossoms. The soldier looks toward the fields, which have been set ablaze by men on horseback. They wear black armor and they drool with lust for the blood of the innocent. The soldier reaches for his sword, but he finds nothing. He is unarmed.”

Gravidus addressed Mars as Ultor faded into the background. “The scene fades to black, and we hear women pleading and children screaming. Then silence. We are left with a final image: a single dogwood blossom drifts through the smoke and settles in a pool of blood.”

Ultor stepped forward. “Then we display any number of messages.”

“Reinforcing our military might is vital!” Gravidus swung an imaginary sword.

“We cannot allow runaway entitlement spending to swallow the defense budget!” Ultor stood as if he braced himself behind a shield.

Gravidus pantomimed hurling a javelin. “The price of weakness is always far greater than the price of strength!”

Ultor lunged forward as if thrusting a spear. “Blessed are the warmongers, for they shall live in security!”

The two warriors stood side by side and lowered their heads in respect. Their chests heaved with labored breaths. Molten blood coursed through their veins: their bodies burned to hear the glorious clamor of war. They waited to hear the reply of the God of War, but none came. They looked at each other. Ultor knelt as Gravidus took a step forward. Mars’ eyes began to kindle.

“We want the maximum amount of attention in the least amount of time. The images conjure the folly of disarmament, the risks inherent in those who speak of peace. The message is clear—disarmament makes us and our loved ones vulnerable.”

Ultor stood up and stood next to his comrade. “We leave the viewer with the final message: ‛Defend our freedom. Defend our lives. For more information, visit’”

Mars’ eyes burned with an unholy rage; his muscles tightened with wrath. The god stood up from his throne. An angry light illuminated the hall. Various trophies hung from its walls: Agamemnon’s funeral mask, Damocles’ sword, Attila’s skull, Caesar’s armor, a Prussian helmet, an American flag. Mars drove the tip of the spear into the obsidian floor. The palace shook. Gravidus and Ultor groveled before Mars’ mighty glory.

The god placed his strong, thick hands on their shoulders. The angry glow subsided, and darkness returned to the palace.

Gravidus and Ultor looked at each other and smiled. They stood up and bowed before Mars. “By your command, mighty one,” they said with a single voice.

They charged out of the palace and stood on the portico overlooking a sea of fire. Hordes of maimed bodies fought an eternal war among the raging flames. Phalanxes of men clashed in an interminable struggle. Those felled by the spears rose again, their pierced and mangled bodies refilling the ranks. Condemned for eternity, they fought a pointless war for Mars’ amusement: a war with no winners, no progress, and no end—only victims. Gravidus and Ultor donned their helmets, strapped on their shields, and grabbed their spears. Smiling, they rushed headlong into the flames of war.



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