Friday, November 14, 2008

Magnum Opus

I'm going to step out on a limb and say that this is one of the "odder" stories I've offered you.

Magnum Opus

A cadre of pristine, armor clad soldiers was pressed into a pile within the confines of canvass walls. Each of them was bunched together, with scarcely room to move; they were bursting at the seams.

One of them yelled out, “Is it over?” Terror drowned his voice as his number was drawing closer with each passing second.

The old Captain, warped and bent from a previous battle, turned to face the voice. “Who said that?” he growled with a voice of hatred.

“It was I,” stammered the soldier.

“What is your number?” the Captain demanded.

“Sir, Number 1776, of the 16th Regulars,” the pale, metallic soldier responded.

The Captain made his way to the voice and pressed his hard, flat, armor plated head against the other’s. “Well, Number 1776, why don’t you try to control yourself?”

“I…I’m trying Sir. It’s just that constant pounding outside. I just can’t stand it!”

Bump, tap, clang.

Number 1776 recoiled in fear. “There it is again.” He turned to those surrounding him. “It’s started all over again.” They ignored him.

Bump, tap, clang.
Bump, tap, clang.

“I can’t stand it! I’ve got to get out of here…” His eyes turned to the opening in the canvass. “I’m not going to stay here any longer.”

Bump, tap, clang.

“The Master is killing us! I tell you, he’s killing us.”

Bump, tap, clang.

“One by one he calls for us. The soldier goes beyond these walls, and is never seen from again.” His fear was infectious. More soldiers were looking at him.

The Captain growled at him. “I went out and I returned.”

Number 1776 recoiled. “But look at you. Your body is twisted and bent. You’ll never stand tall again.”

The Captain smiled harshly. “So? I was called upon to serve, and I went to do my duty.”

“But at what cost? Most never return.”

The Captain made himself as tall as he could. “It was an honor to be chosen. The Master chose me to face the enemy, and I did so with great eagerness.”

Number 1776 pressed him. “And what did you see? I can’t see anything from behind these canvass walls—this prison. What did you see when your number was called?”

“I was told to take my position by the Master. Then I faced forward and saw the great enemy. I could see him as his eyes glistened with eagerness. He wanted to pound me, but I stood tall. I knew in an instant that this was my purpose. I was created for the purpose of facing this great evil. I drew strength from knowing I was meeting my destiny, so I steadied myself in preparation. In a flash, the enemy swung at me, but I stood tall. He swung with a downward motion, but I didn’t flinch. I can remember the feel of metal on metal as his weapon grabbed my armor and bent me in half.” His tired old eyes were looking beyond the canvass walls as he retold his story. “There I was, bent over, my armor forever pressed into a metallic mass of debris. I tried to move, but my bent armor resisted my movement, and I lay there while the enemy used his evil claw to rip my footing out from under me, and further grab at my twisted breastplate. With help, I was lifted to my feet while my enemy bore into my eyes with his flat, evil smile. He swung at me again, this time, my neck was wrenched out of place, and I lay there with my armor forever damaged. Before I knew it, the Master was examining me. He murmured under his breath, and then ordered me back to the staging ground. Another soldier took my place and I was returned to you to help you prepare to meet your destiny.”

Bump, tap, clang.
Bump, tap, clang.

The canvass walls parted and a sentry responded, “The Master has called for more soldiers.”

A mumble whispered among the men as they, too, realized their turn was quickly approaching. Number 1776 frantically screamed, “For the love of all that’s good, are you going to simply stand there while we are summoned one and two at a time to face the enemy? Why don’t we all attack at the same time?”

Bump, tap, clang.

“Yes, that’s it,” 1776 continued. “If we all attack at the same time, we have a better chance.”

Bump, tap, clang.

1776 spoke loud enough to be heard over the rumble of open warfare beyond the walls. “Who’s with me?”

Bump, tap, clang.

When no one responded, he yelled again. “Come on! Who will follow me?”

Bump, tap, clang.

“I know I can’t stand to wait any longer. I have to do something. Who will attack with me?”

Bump, tap, clang.

The curtain parted and the sentry announced, “The Master has called for more soldiers.”

The Captain addressed the crowd. “Who will volunteer?”

The faithful soldiers called out, “How many does he require?”

Number 1776 responded, “Don’t be a fool. If we stand together, we can fight. We have a chance if we are united.”

Without regarding him further, the soldiers surrendered to their destiny and submitted to the Master, ready to face the enemy.

“Fools!” 1776 rebuked them. “You are all fools. It’s suicide to face the enemy alone. Won’t you stand with me?”

Bump, tap, clang.
Bump, tap, clang.

“We are running out of numbers. Already there have been so many of us who left and never returned. Don’t allow yourself to die in vain.”

The soldier’s ignored him. Each time the sentry opened the curtain, the brave troops meet the enemy one by one. The enemy’s insatiable hunger continued to harass them until only Number 1776 and the old Captain were left behind. The curtain opened and the sentry announced, “The Master has called for more soldiers.”

The gnarled old Captain replied, “I’ll go again. I faced the enemy and survived. I’ll do it again.”

Number 1776 shook his head. “No, I’m the last of my kind. I’ll do my duty. Who knows, perhaps it really is my destiny. Maybe it’s why I was created. May my sacrifice play a part and make a difference.” He obeyed the sentry and submitted to the Master.

The old man examined him for quality and then placed him in position to face the great, evil, enemy. Only then, once he could see the enemy’s cold, greedy eyes did he realize that his fate was being met. He was fulfilling his destiny. A greater purpose was being met by facing the cold steel of the enemy. His sacrifice would allow his Master’s kingdom to be built, and he was going to play a small part of the master plan.


Avily Jerome said...

Interesting. And yes, odd.

I'm not sure if I like it. I like happy endings, and that only kinda did it for me. I would've liked a little more hope than just fulfilling his destiny and sacrificing himself.

Maybe something to do with the point of the sacrifice, what was being accomplished, what would have happened if he hadn't obeyed- something to show why he made the right choice.

Thanks for sharing that!

Travis said...

You have moved to the top of my favorite people list. I really like the way you analyzed that story, and I appreciate your comments. It's hard to find people who will tell you what they think. I might have to include you in my focus groups when I get ready to finalize a manuscript for editing!

Most of my writing is a little on edge, and doesn't quite satisfy that desire for completion. I'll comment more on the motivation for this story and what I envision when I play this situation in my mind. Once I've taken time to properly unpack this story, I think it will make sense. In a very distant way, this story accidentally conects with Amy Deardon's blog. For more information on that, you can find the link to her site on my main page.

Thank you for you candid comments. I truly covet the truth.

Amy Deardon said...

This is some metaphor.. would love just a bit more clarity on circumstances outside the bag, but overall very imaginative and reflective of greater things.

Thanks for sharing this!

Dave said...

I've got my own theory about what this story really means that I'll run by you sometime. But on another note, I do find this interesting based on the day that I've had. I spent today on a road trip with my pastor bascially dealing with 4 groups:

1) We went to a funeral for a church member's mom who was 96 years old.

2) We went to the hospital to visit with a mom who has a newborn who weighs three pounds and is not doing well health wise.

3) We spent some time with a strong Christian lady who is quickly losing a battle with MS and is depressed and having a hard time seeing God working in her life.

4) We spent time with an ex-cop who is having a leg amputated on Monday (who also doesn't know Jesus).

In each one of these cases, there is somebody going through a hard time, and in each case, they really need the Master's help to get through it. In one situation, peace is finally there. In another, there is an intense feeling of helplessness as a newborn fights for his life. In another, there is a faith tested, and in the final one, there is a hopelessness that is found when looking at life through the eyes of the world.

Based on my day, 1776 is a great reminder that the Master is there even in those times which even permanently bend us over. And in God's economy, maybe being bent over is not that bad.

Okay, I know this is way off from what you intend the story to be, but sometimes your day colors the way you view a story.

Also, this word verification is feepity. I find that kinda funny.

Travis said...

Wow, Dave. Sounds like you've had a long stretch of it. Everyone thinks that the church staff simply hangs out in the office and prays all day. I doubt many people grasp just what a commitment it takes to serve people in that capacity.

I think you are interpreting the story accurately. It is hard to see the bigger picture when you are in the center of a storm, or when you are selfishly focused on your own issues. The Kingdom is such a large body, and each individual person plays a critical roll. More on this later.

I'm anxious to hear more about that baby...And I will make that a prayer issue.

Avily Jerome said...

Woo-Hoo! I'm at the top of a favorite person list!


Seriously, thanks, and I hope my comments were well-taken. I do enjoy reading your stuff! Can't wait to hear more about where this came from.

Rosslyn Elliott said...

OK, I like it very much until the last two paragraphs, when it gets too overt for me. So Avily and I have opposite opinions. :-) I like the bleaker look at the call of faith--how sometimes it *is* a mystery, and we don't know in this life. I'd like it if it just ended with him walking out the door of the tent, or something similar. The Captain with the twisted armor is my favorite character; I wonder if you could have him be a little more enigmatic too?
There you have it - you can't please all the people all the time!

Travis said...

Ay ya ay, Rosslyn. Well, at least I had you to the end! You're right, you just can't please everyone, but that's not always a filter for me anyway. I've been known to put terribly dissatisfying endings on stories--deliberately, I might add--just to shake things up a little. Besides, who wants EVERYTHING to be predictable?

I'm satisfied to have people come and visit, and I'm almost overwhelmed that they cared enough to comment. They can say what they want, just so long as they come. You know what I mean? :)