The Day of Defeat This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

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     I awoke from a restless night worried about the invasion. As I peer out the cracked window of my cottage, I see the war-torn village of Amphipolis. Dewdrops cover the broken window sill. Birds are nonchalantly chirping in the background, unaware of the ramifications of war that flood this place. I go into the kitchen and have some tea, its herbal aroma stimulating my senses.

As I drink, I prognosticate today's outcome. Defeat is inevitable. We are too weak from previous incursions. I feel lost. I do not know what to do. I consider the result of the village falling. Most likely, everyone will be slain. I cannot be responsible for such a thing, but I am. I am the military leader; everyone places their trust in me. I reflect on this as I bathe.

The chilly water pierces my skin, turning my toes purple. As I lie there, I realize this will be my last bath. This is a difficult feeling. To realize one's death as inevitably near is to realize one's life as notably insufficient.

I walk outside into the crisp air to sharpen my sword. The scraping of metal on rock is a reminder of what is to come. The wet, green grass slips over the sandals to my toes. The ambience of the village is one of sadness, for all know that a foe lurks near. I lay my sword against a burnt wall and proceed toward what is left of the army.

The soldiers - anyone above infancy - stand ready. The look in their eyes is heart wrenching; I know I am sending them to Valhalla. I dare not look in their eyes as I address them.

"Today we will be defeated. It is imminent, for we are greatly outnumbered. I tell you this now so that any who desire to leave may."

I search deep into their countenances. All I see is fear, fatigue and failure. No one withdraws.

I command, "Prepare the walls and gate." I know this is futile since the walls are cracked and the gate broken.

I walk onto the outer wall to view the adversary more closely. I estimate they will arrive in two hours. As I watch those disciplined, experienced soldiers prepare, a feeling of falling into an abysmal hole overwhelms me. I can feel and hear the silence of the atmosphere. I look at my village. Its war-torn, dilapidated milieu is all too familiar.

I return to my cottage that, like everything in Amphipolis, is crumbling. The population, the spirit, the morale, the resources are all dwindling. I prepare my armor, and find its dullness and rustiness reminiscent of the village. My servant aids me as I don my armor. I remember the day I rescued him from an invasion like this. It was a glorious day, a day on which we were victorious. Today will not be like that one. This day will be the end.

Around midday, I go up on the wall again. I see the villagers stalwartly holding their weapons, mere farm tools, with which they are prepared to fight. Their loyalty and courage is beyond compare, for they know they will perish this day. I command the burning of all resources not required for the battle. The enemy will not take both our lives and our land. I watch the flames as they burn furniture, books and scrolls. The noxious stench of burning wood intoxicates me. I peer over the wall toward the enemy. I see them approaching.

Their leader addresses me, saying, "Surrender, Borias of Amphipolis, or you will bring ruin to this abominable village."

I remain silent as I briefly consider this alternative that I know is unacceptable. I raise my sword to order my soldiers to prepare for attack. The enemy leader returns to his seasoned warriors. I have a sinking feeling of guilt for the ineluctable deaths of the villagers. The anxiety I feel is beyond any I have ever experienced.

The enemy easily breaches our gate. I watch as the villagers attack, peasants against a trained militia. I rush down from the outer wall to help my people. I feel paradoxically heroic and guilty, for I am both saving the village with my sword and killing the village with my decision. I stop momentarily and see villagers with milk pots for helmets being slaughtered. I yell as I thrust my sword into a soldier. The squishing sound and the soldier's screams mean nothing to me. I am indifferent because so few of the enemy will share this fate.

I watch woefully while the village is destroyed, strewn with mud and blood. The smell of blood, the sound of swords slicing flesh, and the sight of corpses engulf me. As I am overwhelmed by this catastrophe, I feel a sword plunge into my back. I look down and see the tip of the sword through my torso. I fall to the ground, and the sword is removed. I turn over and look at the sun. As the sun sets on this day, so does it set on my life.

I feel sorrowful as I helplessly watch Amphipolis fall. The pain of my wound is nothing compared to the image of the destruction of Amphipolis. I look to my cottage one last time and think, It is a far, far better rest that I go to than I have ever known.*

* from Charles Dickens's A Tale of Two Cities.

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.






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