More Than A Monument

And now, a randomly generated scene…

Nouns: crack, flower, base, offer, mountain, committee, ray

Adjectives: solid, lively, hideous, maddening, freezing

Verbs: educate, copy, introduce

Adverb: self-assuredly

daffodil

Eyes on his shaking hands, Finlay slowly, carefully fed the stem of his daffodil into a crack at the base of the wall. At his side, his partner made the offer of a pale rose for their eldest. On the freezing ground between their feet lay a slab of grey stone. Their eldest’s name was cut into its side.

Once he’d tenderly rolled a tear-blotted note into a tiny spear and shoved it true, Finlay knelt. His partner and a young Operation Tower committee member  heaved the stone together and began to strap it to his back. Finlay grunted, angling his body to better distribute the solid weight.

The committee member made her customary offer again. ‘I can make the climb for you, sir. I would lay your stone true. ’

She spoke self-assuredly. Her legs would certainly stay lively longer than Finlay’s once their shoe spikes were digging between the stones high above the halo of flowers and final messages. But again, Finlay refused. While he could do this himself, he would.

‘Very good, sir, but I will climb beside you—please let me know if you require any assistance. We can trade your burden at a way station should you run into trouble.’

Operation Tower committee members often made these climbs for the bereaved. They were educated in the ways of the walls and the parents of slaughtered military men and women were generally too old to scale the still-growing structure. And every day there were more telegrams, more names and more slabs of rock to ferry straight up.

There was only one reason for the stones. One reason for this tower. One reason to even maintain a military force.

One hideous reason, its rank breath choking grieving climbers, short of breath as they imagined it, the mindless, gleeful gleam of its eye as they envisaged that which had violently introduced their children to a petrified death immobilising them so they were left frozen on the face of the tower in despair, clinging to a point higher than the nearest mountain.

Only one thought offered comfort enough to ensure they reached the pinnacle and laid their precious stones: this was far more than a monument. It was those they’d lost who would cage the terror. Once it was finally dropped in there, the tens of thousands it had savaged, leaving nothing to bury, would stretch so high it could never escape.

But two hundred years’ worth of sacrificed soldiers hadn’t left more than a pus-weeping scratch…

No.

Finlay beat away that maddening thought, the stone’s weight dragging down his shoulders as he rose. He tried to listen as his companion committee member demonstrated safe-climbing positions, and copied her as she bent her knees and flexed her tar-dipped fingers. But he couldn’t comprehend her warnings of height and ripping wind and danger. He could only focus on their eldest.

He couldn’t help but think …

No ray of light would touch the beast’s face again, Finlay swore on the tower, tears falling steadily – and they fell unnoticed, though cold air struck his cheeks – as he tarred his fingers and kicked the spike setting on his boots.

Their eldest hadn’t died for nothing.

Finlay’s partner took a soft handkerchief and brushed it against his damp cheeks – they had barely begun to wrinkle. Unable to utter a word, his partner then gently wiped his eyes, clearing them for the journey up.

The winter air went still. The way was clear.

The beast would rot in there.

Their eldest would see to it.

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