Based on “The Steadfast Tin Soldier” by Hans Christian Andersen
The pain is incessant. It’s plagued me from my inception, and as I take my dying breaths, I can only find happiness escaping from pain’s wretched grasp. My precious love was reduced to nothing in an instant, while I have been left to a slower death from the fire. In my life I experienced pain far greater than the scathing of the flame, my mind actually at peace given time for catharsis as it melts into the rest of my body. These last words should mean something; let me not die in vain. Let me live forever as the embodiment of good-natured love, loyalty, and perseverance.
My name is Will. I was the youngest in my company of 25. Unfortunately, I was also born with one leg, a debilitating handicap that affected my duty as a soldier in several ways. It served to humiliate me and to make me feel inferior. The edge of the nub was jagged and filled with hanging nerves, joints, and sinews, as if it were intended to be finished. The slightest breeze against it was enough to bring me to tears. I felt unable to protect even myself, let alone another. My weakness was ironic as a soldier and often crushed my spirits, but not on the day that I was at last deployed. 24 men around me, and my eyes only saw this innocent little boy who looked at me as though I were no different from those that I stood with. My soul was as hardened as theirs, if not more so, and that aspect was recognized first by none other than a being not yet exposed to the corruptions and evils of the world. I was happy; I smiled beneath my blank expression. From that moment onward, I promised myself until my heart no longer beat that I would be brave, I would be true, and I would be steadfast.
She moved so gracefully; it was like a daydream that hung heavy in my vision like the weight of the stars against the night sky. And on one leg, like me, she was able to do what seemed impossible. Her name was Alyssa and she was a dancer. I was lovestruck and knew that she was too good for me, but it killed me to not be with this mysterious beauty from the minute I saw her. The box I leaned against as I watched Alyssa from afar started playing music. It startled me a bit, but kept my gaze forward. Soon, the container emitted a scream and opened with great ferocity, but I did not turn my head, only to be thrown on my back by a force and turned around to face the cause of this discordant interruption. It was a monstrous mass comparable to a bed of broken nails disguised as a clown, with legs of rusted springs and teeth like guillotine pillows. Even the darkness failed to hide the ugliness of the abomination. My death would be swift, I thought, but it instead spoke to destroy my dreams. The monster told me in my delusional infatuation that I failed to notice the dancer had two legs, and was merely balancing on one. It also reaffirmed that she indeed was too good for me, and even now I was probably closer than I should have been. So it be I am unworthy, but my body forced me to faint at the amount of wickedness before me, unmoved to heed the monster’s warning even as it hung closely over my face.
I awoke to the chirping of birds, very much not in the same place. Above me was the Sun, and I would rather endure its burning rays against my eyes than dare move an inch. That is what a brave soldier would do, after all. But soon, I was relieved of this duty. A boy called for my aid, and he was quick to pick me up and place me on his ship. I was to be made captain of this vessel, and I set sail without crew, supplies, or warning. A brave soldier needs none of these commodities to accomplish his mission. On I sailed through the canal and into a dark tunnel, where a hideous creature locked gazes with me. Through his matted fur, pungent scent, and beady eyes, I knew he was a brigand and would be of no aid to me. His mouth opened slightly, revealing yellowed fangs and strands of curdled saliva hanging between his jaws. A toll, a toll he asked for! A brigand indeed, and not one who would be getting any of my money, if I were to have any. Again, I sailed forward, my bravery becoming a defining feature of my very being.
The tunnel was soon to end, but not back into the canal. There was no light, and I knew my fate instantly by sound of roaring waters below. It was the end of me, I thought. I would never be given opportunity to court Alyssa, not even see her dance one more time. I would never see any of my fellow soldiers ever again. It was disheartening, but I could not let it break my stalwart mentality. This ship was never made to withstand a waterfall, its materials flimsy and built for speed, not to last. I kept my eyes open as the vessel fell off the steep drop; I would not die afraid.
I awoke to sick smell of fish entrails, sight returning to me in a sharp flash once freed from inside of said scent’s source. My leg had never been in such pain before, filthy and tarnished by both the water and the fish. My rescuer, a kind older woman, took me to the very place of my deployment. I was so happy to see everything once more that I had hoped to. And next to me was the dancer whom I’d hope to propose my love to. Ah, Alyssa! She responded not to my greetings, so I told her my tales in hopes to convince her of my bravery. Still, the lady fell silent.Our conversation cut abruptly as the same boy who smiled at me smiled once more, picking me up and throwing me into the nearby fireplace without much thought. I did not stir from it, my lady watching my bravery right across the room. An open window blew her in my direction, and at this I seized my chance:
“Will you be mine forever, my most ardent admiration?”
“I will not!” she exclaimed. My expression broke for the very first time, turning into a frown.
“You’ve never done anything brave in your life; not even will you look at me! You have simply let bad things happen to you and have done nothing to fix them. You aren’t worth the half of a soldier that you are!”
I went into absolute shock, so much so that I failed to catch my brooding Alyssa before she blew into the fire with me, the flames engulfing her before she could utter a scream. The fire was relaxing, even as it was destroying me. Being the unworthy miscreant that I was made death’s cold embrace that much warmer. As I melted away, I closed my eyes willingly for the first time, having nothing left to be steadfast for.
Written by Avenging Angel