He was in the place once more where he was called and had to do his duty. Images began to sleet through his mind. Countless warriors spanning the whole of time, always defending their home from those who sought to destroy it. Skin colour, clothing, weapons changed. Club became axe became sword became gun yet he could feel himself always standing resolute, willing to die, as he knew he would, to do what was right in the face of darkness. There was always a face, a reason for this happening, the welling of pain and fear from another rising to bursting point, making him want to collapse under the weight of it. But this had happened before and finally a uniform and weapon settled in his hand. He was a captain, he was in the trenches and the smell of rotting flesh and mud filled his nostrils once more. But he felt the power of the moment and a light began to blaze from within.
Feeling the weight of a rifle in his hands he fixed his bayonet without emotion then turned to see the face that he was being asked to protect. This time it was a little boy. A child and he felt his heart sink lower as he recognized it. Behind the child was the black darkness of no man’s land and shadows trying to tug at his sleeves. Warrior did what warrior always does, he raised his rifle, walked forward, and so it began. This was the price of being a warrior. To stand and fight the darkest shadows and kill or be killed in the trying, but always to protect those who needed it.
The child was placed behind him. He could feel the little hand in his. Shadows shifted in the darkened room, above mortars burst and died filling the sky briefly with orange fire before being engulfed by the darkness. It was as if the walls and roof had been removed and there was the bed and carpet in the middle of Flanders fields. Barbed wire and bodies lay about but the child did not see them. He looked only to the warrior and smiled trustingly. A man was seen, sitting idly by, and so the bayonet was moved between shadows and man. “I will kill any man who attempts to harm this child.” A warning given. As hands tried to grab the bayonet lunged and fear broke out amongst the shadows. Some fled, some tried to fight but all were turned to dust in the face of the warrior. Light blazed from him. Burning away darkness and surrounding the child with light, until at last there only remained the lounging man, oblivious to the danger of his son.
Bayonet was pointed at chest and a stand off began between to pairs of eyes.
“You will do your duty sir” the warrior commanded.
The man shifted in his chair fingers ever clicking on a screen. Indolence turned to anger in the man. Eyes burning with indignation as he scornfully stared back at the warrior willing him to strike. There was silence for a moment. The steady breath of adrenaline fueled calm was the only noise to be heard.
“Any man who harms this child will die. Do you understand me sir?”
The warrior felt the calm, stone like quality that came with experience and commitment.
“This boy is my responsibility and in my care and any who attempt to harm him, you included, will face the wrath of a father.”
“But you’re not his father” the man sneered. “You have no rights.”
“Blood ties are one thing but there are deeper ties. The tie of one spirit to another. A commitment to protect does not only extend to those who are the enjoyer of a fuck sir. Where responsibility is shirked, others must take up the burden. So I tell you again, sir, you will do your duty or I will hunt you down and kill you personally. I know your weaknesses, I know where to strike and how. I would prefer you saw reason but the boy is to be protected and you, sir, will not allow him to be harmed with your inactivity. I will be watching. Should any harm come you may be sure my judgement will be swift and merciless to any including you.”
Bayonet was lowered and the man said nothing.
“I will stand as guardian over this boy. I take him as my son. He will be guarded night and day with an ever vigilant sentinel. Do not doubt that. I shall become like the flood which takes all in it’s wake should you allow anything to happen to him. Either actively or through omission. Oh you will do your duty sir or I will hold you accountable.”
And there he knew he would stand. Between a son and father. Protecting one from the other until the time had passed when he was needed. Street swam into view, the daily noise of the city filling his ears again. Winded he leaned against a wall as light returned to his world and people hurrying by looked at him as though he was mad. He knew in a way he was. He knew that this was just another in a line of what people would term “episodes”. But he also knew that in his heart of hearts there would come a day of knowing. It happened rarely but there was always, always a reason and always a moment of truth. Each time had been a breaking point and he had been the one to hold the world together, to pass on the truth that there was hope and light no matter how dark the situation might have been. This time, however, there would have to be an accounting.
As peace returned to the world a cigarette was lit and the warrior became once more the man. A part of him stood there by the boy. He felt the hand still in his and the smiling face look up at him. The father would have to deal with the pain if it was needed. His choices, his responsibility for the outcome. But the boy would always have his guardian.
He had been called before and not found wanting in his duty and he would be called upon again. The sentry stood eternally in his light with the boy and the man walked home knowing the call was answered well.