A band composed of former members of The Claw played “Deutschlandlied” softly as Metzger’s coffin was lowered into the ground. Over the coffin was the German flag, and over that was the emblem of The Claw. Olensheim ground his teeth over this display, as did the rest of the patriotic Germans present. It was all very insulting toward Germany.
Most of what was formerly The Claw was at the funeral. Almost all of them had been tried and convicted as criminals for The Rape of Washington. Some of them, like Krauss, who had not joined The Claw until after The Rape were free. Others, like Basilisk, were allowed special dispensation from their sentences to attend the funeral. While he would later claim it was from stress and pressure, a few tears fell from Otto Krauss’ eyes. Basilisk, however, stayed steely-eyed throughout the whole thing.
Basilisk was manacled by the hands and the feet. He shuffled slowly away from where he was standing, followed closely by two conspicuous guards. He shifted a cigarette from the pocket of his prison jumpsuit into his mouth. Krauss turned to see the former colonel coming towards him.
Krauss stared at the man, and without paying any attention struck a match on his foot to light Basilisk’s cigarette.
“It’s really over, isn’t it? Metzger’s dead, the Coalition has collapsed. We’ve reached the end.”
“I don’t blame you anymore, general. I did at first, but now I see you only did...what you had to.”
“Things have to be done. War is hell,” Krauss finally uttered the first words he had spoken all day.
“It is hell, isn’t it? It’s a huge, churning bunch of fire and brimstone, isn’t it? You know what war is, general? It’s a catalyst. Every event since the beginning of human history has centered around war somehow. There’s been no development, not socially, not technologically, not religiously, not in any way, that hasn’t been caused by war. And do you know what will happen now? The entire human race is going to stagnate. The Last War is over, and so that will be the last that humanity ever evolves. This is the end of everything. The fire’s burned out. This world’s nothing but a sea of ashes.”
Krauss nodded, not in agreement, but in a knowing way.
“There are schools of thought such as your own, that believe that war is the driving force behind all of mankind. There are others, however, that believe it is not war, but the desire to end war, which is the catalyst for all of man's endeavors. No soldier ever fought to perpetuate his war. He fought to end that war."
The light from Basilisk's cigarette went out as a light drizzle of rain began to fall. He spat it from his mouth and rattled his chains slightly.
Krauss continued, "Do you know what glory is, Basilisk? Glory is a tiny glimmer of hope in a sea of despair. Marshal Metzger taught me that. A tiny nugget of gold in your sea of ashes, colonel: an end to war. That, I think, is glorious, because it means that mankind has finally won. We have won the conflict between war and peace which has raged on since the beginning of civilization. Perhaps, as you say, The Last War means humanity's end. But perhaps, just perhaps, the very culmination of all human endeavors has been completed by The Last War."
"Manuscripts don't burn"
- Mikhail Bulgakov
Hi, I'm horror and science fiction author Steve Kozeniewski (pronounced: "causin' ooze key.") Welcome to my blog! You can also find me on Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, and Amazon. You can e-mail me here, join my mailing list here, or request an e-autograph here. Free on this site you can listen to me recite one of my own short works, "The Thing Under the Bed."
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