The Sacrifice

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Literary Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic

The story is centered on a young soldier known as Anyao. It tells the story of his attempt to commit suicide, his conversation with a wandering writer he saved, and how he finds the meaning of his life before being killed in an atomic bomb hit.

 

The Sacrifice

 

 

“All our efforts at the moment are for the sake of a better tomorrow for mankind.”

 

It was already late at night. The soldier sat alone on the balustrade of the church terrace, overlooking the scarlet roofs of old buildings not too far away. He had no shoes on, his pale bare feet just dangling midair. Yet night reigned this place, the moon is the only light.

The wait lasted for several hours until the amber sky dimes. The soldier's right hand suddenly grasped something, and the process of moving it to his eyes was like a century ago: the warm ivory slept quietly in his palm, his eyes followed the gilded pattern extending upward, and saw the small brass parts flashing under the dim moonlight - this M1911 was specifically for him by a special someone. As a lethal weapon that had not been stained with blood for a while, it now showed a gentle and even tragically remarkable look in the whimper of the night wind.

Would this no man's land be too broad for death?

The cold lips of the gun kissed on his temple. The soldier held his breath, trying to feel the chill that countless lives had experienced when sacrificed to gods. What kind of “gone” was it to be, with one’s life taken by such a beautiful pistol?

Who would take me if my life ends here? No, it couldn't be one of the Gods, let alone the ghosts. It must be Ixtab, the Moon Goddess of Suicide in Central American mythology. [1] Eyes closed, her neck in a noose. Black spot on her chest represented lividity on corps. She was known to protect the suicides and send them to heaven.

Heard from that wandering writer he saved from the front line, the Maya viewed suicide as an act of daring to take on everything, and they would sacrifice the winner of a competition to Ixtab. He would stretch his neck into the noose in flowers and cheers and be carried directly to the sky by the goddess. In modern times, people seemed to be afraid of Ixtab because the sacrifice regards the splendid civilization of Maya as barbaric and absurd, so that for centuries, only Sanmao [2] of Sahara can appreciate Ixtab’s beauty.

“The most revered goddess is buried in the world of mortals.” The writer had a serious expression on her face as she tells the story, “Shouldn't the gods who liberate people from the collective be remembered more than those who are used to preach killing, expansion and exclusion? God allows you to move on or leave as you pleased, that’s the charm of Ixtab...”

“As a soldier, I've probably seen more deaths than average person.” The soldier cut a dozen of quinoa grass from the outside and built a small fire in the middle of the church, “The boy who made me my pistol, my brother and my commander, half of his head torn off by slugs of a shotgun right in front of me; the screaming children running in the field, each blown into several pieces by mines; I squatted in the trenches, with my sniper gun racked on scattered corpses...” He stopped, as he found the writer fixed her eyes on him. He and she were the only ones in this abandoned church at the moment. The moonlight leaked from the broken colored glasses, dropped on the cracked tile floor, and twisted into a colorful mass.

The young girl quickly lowered her head, pulled her hand out of her unusually wide trouser pocket, then handed over a kettle, “Go ahead.”

He smiled gratefully and took a big sip from the kettle, “… Staying alive can be difficult, you know. Many who couldn’t see the sun for their whole lives struggled desperately to survive, but still they die no matter how hard they try to live. I kind of understand that modern people who choose to commit suicide must be suffering and helpless. They are pitiful for sure. But in such a prosperous village in ancient times, the handsome young winner of the competition gave up his life… I can’t see why.”

“Why do you kill, then?”

“Why did I save you in the first place, with my hands already covered in blood?” Yeah… when he pulled the dying girl out of the ruins, he didn't think of anything at all: not for justice, not because it's something need to be done, but more like an obedience to the orders, it's some reactions imprinted on his instinct.

The soldier's gaze seemed to make the writer really nervous, her tighten her expression, her eyes filled with incomprehensible deep emotions, “You kill people, they commit suicide, because you are part of the assembly, you do what they tell you to do; you save me, because it is your instinct as a human individual to help your compatriots, it’s you who makes the decision.”

“Tell me, are you trying to persuade me to be a deserter?”

“We're all deceived, aren't we?” The soldier had no idea whether the writer's expression is anger, shock or sadness, “Do you really think that many years later, you can reasonably forgive yourself because you were just ‘taking orders’? Don't be silly… Think about it, would the one who controls the whole machine put himself in danger just like that? It's true, that heroes change history, and followers shape the history; but none can give a clear answer to history changed because of whom. Behind those scenes, The One is secretly realizing his/her ambition under the banner of justice. Even gods are their tools, not to mention mortals like us. There are thousands of gods in the world, however, only Ixtab is free and wouldn’t be used by anyone...”

“But revolutions are necessary. It lets us turn the decline of the former into a fertilizer for nourishing the brave new world. We take the essence of our predecessor and discard its dregs. We correct the wrongs as we move on. There is no summit for human progress. Whether we are addicted to the past glory or the comfort of the present, it means corruption. Unless we don’t give up fighting, we’d become the losers of the survival of the fittest in nature. Soldiers like me fight in those dark nights, for everyone else can embrace the dawn of a new world. All our efforts at the moment are for the sake of a better tomorrow for mankind.”

“Tomorrow is a better day, but it's already the day after tomorrow now.” The writer shook her head, tears on her chin glomming, reflecting the lonely moon, scorched earth, and thick black fire outside the window, “The meaning of being a hero is to die gracefully. You don't want to face the world full of fear, despair, and devastation after the war. The one who gives up to be a hero turns out to be the respected. We all experience both winning and losing through our lives. If you can't afford to lose, you can't afford to keep on living and walk this world alone... "

“Perhaps only middle-aged people can understand what you just said.” The soldier sighed, “Children, it's always children who die in wars, children just like you and me, maybe ever younger than us.”

“... How old are you?”

“Nineteen for now, going to be twenty in July; what about you?”

“If I could make it to September, I would be an adult. By the way, what's your name? Sorry that I didn’t brought that up earlier.”

“It would be ??(An Yao) in Chinese. ?(An) stands for safety and happiness; ?(Yao) for a distance too far to reach.”

“Anyao, Anyao…” The writer murmured as she was trying to remember his name. She repeats it slowly while looking at the vast night sky from the hole on the roof, “Anyao, the far away paradise. It suits you.”

“What's your name, then?”

Yeah, that wandering writer, what's her name again? There was a blank space in the soldier's mind that he could not remember her face at all.

She should be lying on the church bench now, sleeping quietly as he left her to take the watch.

Almost instantaneously, the soldier was just about to turn back and push the door open, looking for the writer. However, he smelled something suspicious. He looked back with shudder. His pure forest-green eyes stared at the poetic city ruin in dawn light with horror.

On the horizon, the mountains had opened to disgorge a boiling stream of molten sunlight. The ultraviolet light gently killed all wars, famines, poverty, depression, and decadence, as if it was only killing germs. The Ending was just as grand, brilliant, and beautiful as The Beginning.

 

“All our efforts at the moment are for the sake of a better tomorrow for mankind.”

“Tomorrow is a better day, but it's already the day after tomorrow now.”

 

O the angel with a loaded gun, his figure melted in the bright, bright dawn.

 

 

 

Citations & Footnotes

[1] Saunders, Chas, and Peter J. Allen, eds. "IXTAB (Maya mythology)" Godchecker. Godchecker.com, Apr 12, 2019. Web. March 8, 2020.

[2] “Sanmao was a Taiwanese writer and translator. Her works range from autobiographical writing, travel writing and reflective novels, to translations of Spanish-language comic strips. Her mostly known work is Stories of the Sahara. On January 4, 1991, at the age of 47, Sanmao died by suicide in a hospital in Taipei by hanging herself with a pair of silk stockings. (from Wikipedia: “Sanmao (Author).” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 16 Apr. 2020, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sanmao_(author)#Death.)”


Submitted: April 24, 2020

© Copyright 2021 Miang Shouka. All rights reserved.

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