Friday, January 11, 2008

Fading Ghosts

For three years, the battalion was senior to all the rest. They had occupied the same barracks for a large part of that time, and as the former major walked along the company lines, he could not help but feel a twinge of emptiness. He was used to taking the salutes from certain faces, the tactful avoidance of others; he could not help but feel unease when those salutes came from soldiers he did not know.

"But their names are known to God," he told himself. And so, he steeled himself and learnt the new names. He could not help, on occasion, but to draw comparisons between those who had marched off never to return, and those who were their replacements. It was odd, strangely dissatisfying. He had not felt that way for many years.

And slowly, a little at a time, he learnt to be trusted and to give trust again. He learnt the names. He read them as he used to read their seniors. While at times he would see the ghostly vanguard or the spectral knights, and once even an Arthurian wraith, he learned to carry on, giving the old lecture with new jokes, teaching the new equipment as he had taught the old.

Very slowly, he blended with his craft. In time, though he did not know it, he would himself become one of them, a fading memory on a field of blue and gold.

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