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Halfway down the trail to Hell,
In a shady meadow green
Are the Souls of all dead Troopers camped,
Near a good old-time canteen.
And this eternal resting place
Is known as Fiddlers’ Green.
Marching past, straight through to Hell
The Infantry are seen.
Accompanied by the Engineers,
Artillery and Marines,
For none but the shades of Cavalrymen
Dismount at Fiddlers’ Green.
Though some go curving down the trail
To seek a warmer scene.
No Trooper ever gets to Hell
Ere he’s emptied his canteen.
And so rides back to drink again
With friends at Fiddlers’ Green.
And so when man and horse go down
Beneath a saber keen,
Or in a roaring charge of fierce melee
You stop a bullet clean,
And the hostiles come to get your scalp,
Just empty your canteen,
And put your pistol to your head
And go to Fiddlers’ Green.
- 1st Cavalry Division
I walked down a long road. It was unbearably hot. I felt as if I must’ve been mistaken about the heat. Although it was the dead of night, there was an intense heat like a midsummer day in the desert with two sons. There was however a strong wind blowing, it was comforting, so I decided to head in the direction that it was coming from. The only source of light I could make out was a circle of flames off in the distance, there seemed to be laughter and music coming from the location. The ground underneath my feet was firm but lush, it smelled and felt like grass that had been trampled on for years, like a populated forest. The air was heavy and redolent of an old brothel I used to frequent, thick with the scent of vanilla opium, whiskey, and bacon. The closer I got to the light, the more sounds I could make out. At first, I heard gunshots, after that came salon music, followed by…laughter.
I could start to make out the shape of the establishment in the darkness. There was a dim shine. Fire lit lamps littered what appeared to be a well-established camp inhabited by the undead! Initially I was scared witless; however, they didn’t seem at all bothered by my presence. That’s when one of the denizens approached me and callously asked me—
“Why in the hell do you still have that arrow lodged in your eye?”
I was more confused by his query than anything; but, sure enough as my hand reached for my eye, I could feel the feather fletching on my fingers. I never noticed it in this veritable darkness. When the stranger walked closer, I could start to make out his face…or rather his skull, illuminated by the faint orange glows. I felt my face, and I too was lacking my skin, a smooth textured surface where my cheeks used to be, the tips of my fingers bare and exposed. It was initially an intense sensation.
The stranger approached me, stretched his worn arm towards me and handed me a bottle. Immediately by the smell I could recognize it as whiskey. He encouraged me to drink, his boney hands gesturing a gripped bottle to his mouth, his hollow, eyeless skull somehow staring directly at me. I took his suggestion and helped myself to a deep chug. Even though I had no tongue, I could feel the sting of the whiskey, it’s warmth inside me, the alcohol affecting my mind. The stranger explained much about my new situation to me after that.
Apparently, I had found myself in the afterlife. A special, almost privileged, sort of resting place. You see Christians get to go to the Kingdom and worship the Lord Almighty in joyous raise for all eternity, Muslims retire to their 70 virgins, Easterners reach Nirvana; but soldiers, especially unbaptized soldiers, come here…to this conjugation. There isn’t much to do here; but that isn’t such a bad thing in all reality. The sun does not exist here, there is no time. We drink, smoke, fiddle and play cards all day. Merrily dancing and laughing, an ensemble of damned bones. For you see this place lies close to the gates of hell, right on the shores on the “River Styx” if you will.
We have no need to cross, because our fate is resigned to this outpost.
There is no rest for us; for we do not tire. No need to recover from heavy drink and smoke for we have no flesh to cater to. Speaking on flesh, we are catered to by succubus’s although the company is in vain, considering the lack of equipment on our part. I mean it couldn’t be all that great, this is supposed to be hell after all.
Speaking of hell, the only other thing to do is watch the poor souls traversing through here. Sadly enough, souls who have never served can’t see our merry camp. We are ghost even among the dead. Sometimes you come across a soul who feels like he can bargain with the ferryman, negotiating the terms of his cross; it’s always the same result. The ferryman just stretches out his hand and if no coin lands in his palm after awhile he slowly withdraws and continues to observe the shore. There are those that refuse their fates altogether and decide to roam the entrance to Hell. Those miserable bunches! They fumble around aimlessly in this accursed darkness, looking for a semblance of hope that could never exist here. We occasionally hear their hopeless wails in the dark, we always get a good laugh from them. Looking at the bright side—being damned is so damn bad at all.
Joshua Thomas© 2019