one last stand
And as he stood over his own lifeless body, this is what he repeated to himself.
“One last stand.”
He understood that this last-ditch effort was wholly unnecessary. His death had already occurred; no amount of battle would change that. But what he wanted was reprisal for his untimely and shameful murder. What kind of passing was that… A man, weakened by hunger and neglect, begging his executioner for a quick death? At the time, his impotence drove him to such desperate pleas, but post-hoc he shook his head in shame and regret.
“One last stand.”
The mantra empowered him, as he clutched his weapons ever so tightly and braced for this suicide mission. In his past life, his gatekeeper had convinced the mighty warrior to cast off all of his various armaments: “They will be unnecessary in the world you are about to enter.” But this moment of vulnerability was taken advantage of to shackle him to the four corners of his cell. The three daily meals promised to him dwindled day by day, until hunger so far racked his mind that he went mad beyond repair. The case for the young soldier was much like the anecdote of the boiling frog; days and weeks passed, until starvation and solitude weakened him to the point where he welcomed the impending hanging with quiet acceptance.
This bothered the ghost. How did he let it happen? Why did he let it happen? But all would be soon be well. With this one fell swoop, he would avenge his suffering and put his mind to rest. Plans were drawn, blades sharpened, and armor shined. This time, he alone would choose the circumstances of his demise. It would be honorable and glorious; legends would be whispered around bonfires for generations to come.
The day finally came, and the lone soldier walked into the desolate battlefield, back to the scene of his heinous murder. The prison compound was just as he remembered it, with the gallows, tall and straight, still looming over the land, and the gatekeeper’s cabin door slightly ajar as usual. Soft music played from inside, and quiet singing could be heard. He peeked in, only to see the gatekeeper busy over the stove. The perfect chance had arrived. Unsuspecting and preoccupied, the gatekeeper was in the ideal position to finally receive her just deserts.
He crept up from behind, moving to strike.
By the time she turned around, the spirit had already disappeared.