combat writing badge C O M B A T
the Literary Expression of Battlefield Touchstones
ISSN 1542-1546 Volume 01 Number 03 Summer ©Jul 2003

How It Ends

This is the way the world ends / Not with a bang but a whimper.
by T.S. Eliot [The Hollow Men (1925)]

We are like the sterling knights of bygone yore ... proud of our adherence to the mythic chivalry that always makes us fight for what is right. We imagine death to be glorious in our romantic fantasies ... as an idyllic dream of noble sentiments by heroic men ... but we are sorely mistaken. We have been deceived by others, and have ourselves become willingly complicit, because the truth is too terrible, is too awful, is too mundane. Having accepted the lies, and perpetuated the lies, we are hoist by our own petard, and condemned to persuade our children that lies are true. We seal our compact with our burnished escutcheon ... knowing that we must courageously resist the tarnish, bravely forestall the corrosion, honorably forswear the corruption. And by these very disingenuous acts, imputing valor to fear, intrepidity to perplexity, gallantry to ferocity, the lies are imbued with truth. The storm that rages in our hearts and the clamor that echoes in our minds is greeted by the silent aftermath. The sound and fury is just another artifact of battle, like dirty faces, bloody dressings, and spent casings. Our majestic spirit and thunderous will are quelled by impersonal death in anonymous graves. It does not end with trumpets blaring and flags waving, with raucous camaraderie and a blasting salute, with a chorus of accolades and tumultuous adoration, but with a sad gasp for what might have been.

And that is how things will end ... not with noise, but a sigh.
by Arturo Pérez-Reverte [The Nautical Chart (2001)]

by Pan Perdu
... who is a former soldier and VA counselor; this work has been excerpted from Fragmentations, a book in progress.