Battle (a short story)

Battle (a short story) April 23, 2024

GBTaylor/pixabay “Battle (a short story)


Yesterday, I posted a blog about angels watching over us. It brought to mind this short story that I published years ago. This is the way I perceive angels. This is “Battle (a short story).”

Before the Battle

Midnight. Martin stands at his post, alert and fidgeting. So far, everything is quiet, but to relax is out of the question. To doze, to drift, to lose focus, could be fatal. The minutes strain by. A jazz number begins to play in his mind and he silently moves his foot in time with the cool, blue, syncopated tune.


Is that the sound of a breath? Martin holds his. Then a creak of the stair, slight–perhaps it is just the house settling. There is nothing more. Martin allows his strained muscles to ease a tiny bit. Not now, but soon …

Preparing for Battle

How had he arrived at this moment? Long ago, it seemed, Martin had felt the urge, the call, to become a warrior for the defense of the weak and innocent, and perhaps, in his deepest heart, for the glory, as well. The crisp uniforms, the multicolored accolades, the shining weapons, and the proud demeanor of the warriors was attractive to him, but it was the challenge, even the discipline, that drew him in. Martin was never satisfied with things made easy, and the training was not easy, nor was it pretty. Seldom was there time to wear the pure white uniform with its gold buttons, to bask in the peace and quiet, or to relax to the sound of gentle music.


More often, there was rain, cold, mud, and a sodden field uniform worn for days on end. Sometimes, it was the opposite–dry, oppressive heat that did not give in at night, wind that drove the sand into his eyes and nose, and sweat that soaked his socks and collar and hair. 


Other times, there was snow that seemed to slow everything down to the point of negating every strategy. 


Sometimes, the training simulations were so loud that he had to force himself to think, while at other times, the silence was nearly tangible. Always, the warriors were forced to overcome, overcome, overcome.


Weaponry, of course, was part of the training, and weapons were fascinating to Martin. Every blade, every spear, every projectile, was an extension of self, and when properly employed, could save lives. 


The weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strongholds.


To stay strong and fit was essential. Martin liked to run better than to fly. No matter where he was assigned, he ran, glad to learn the terrain, the wildlife, and the ways of the people he passed along the way. He had been assigned to many places and had witnessed much–tawny lions in Kenya, glistening snow in the Alps, mud hairstyles of the Namibians, crystal blue waters of the Mediterranean, seemingly impossible rock formations of the American West, fuzzy marsupials “down under,”–the entire planet enthralled him!


With his comrades, Martin had moved from training manoeuvers into real combat. They fought side-by-side against their common enemy, often for long periods, whole countries at stake, always striving until the powers above said, “It is finished.” Some had fallen, some were reassigned, and some labored on. The pressure of the constant danger was secondary to the great responsibility they carried–the defense of those who could not defend themselves against enemies they did not perceive. To lose was inconceivable; to lose was not an option.


Because of his stealth and expertise in hand-to-hand combat, Martin began to receive assignments that involved working alone. If an enemy plot against an individual was uncovered, Martin stepped in as guardian angel, a tedious job at times, but one that could provide great rewards–laurels to one day cast before the King.


Now, somewhere on the very edge of his awareness, Martin feels the approach of his enemy. There is no sound, but a slight change in the air. He flexes his fingers several times before they lace confidently around his weapon. The grandfather clock in the hall clicks loudly and strikes one.

The Battle Begins

A sudden swish, and Martin is grabbed from behind. Graceful as a dancer, Martin spins away as his opponent’s blade catches in the fabric of his uniform. No real harm done.


Martin is looking into the ruby-red eyes of his enemy. He is close enough to smell the breath, like rotting flesh, in the fiend’s startled exhale. Now, face-to-face, the combat begins.


Stepping carefully with blades in hand, the two seem to circle an invisible object, each waiting for the other to advance. Seconds seem like hours, and the sweat begins to bead on Martin’s forehead. Like a snake, the enemy strikes out. Martin blocks the strike with his left forearm, returning it from underneath with his right hand that holds his blade. Something is pierced–is it body or just clothing? The assassin mutters profanity and jumps backward.


The air is suddenly stifling. A thick, dark cloud seems to be wrapping itself around the two fighters as the one with the sanguine eyes chants an unholy curse in a voice that curdles the blood. Martin knows this will not be an easy victory. His enemy’s commitment is no less than his own. 


Praise be to the Lord, my Rock, who trains my hands for war, my fingers for battle.


Those fiery eyes perforate the smoke. Martin lashes out in their direction once, twice, three times, causing the retreat of the adversary into a corner, but awarding no contact. Launching from the corner walls, the evil one raises his blade, and comes down hard, penetrating Martin’s shoulder. Martin dodges down and to the right. He is wounded–not fatally–and he lunges in from behind and buries his blade into the enemy’s sinewy back. 


A scalding howl rises from the foe, but he is not finished yet, and as he pulls away, the blade remains embedded in his muscle.


Turning on Martin, it is not only his red-hot eyes that slash the darkness, but his crimson mouth, teeth sharp as razors. In fury, he hurls himself at Martin, but the skilled warrior throws himself aside, and the dark adversary hits the wall, breaking his blade. 


He trains my hands for battle; my arms can bend a bow of bronze.


The clock strikes half past.


Martin retrieves a second, smaller knife from his boot. In the millisecond as he rises, the fiend dives forward, planting his teeth in Martin’s hand–the hand holding the knife. Instinctively, Martin slams a quick left fist square into his nose. The bite is released. The knife clatters to the floor. The enemy is paralyzed by pain.


The warrior presses his advantage. Ears ringing and eyes burning from the smoke, Martin delivers an uppercut to the jaw and the demon falls, the blade still in his back. 


Looming above him, Martin pounds a foot into his chest. Turning his head, the enemy spies the knife where it rests on the floor. In desperation, he grabs for it without success. Martin kicks it out of reach. The evil one grabs his other leg, and Martin falls.


Everything now seems as though it is moving in slow motion. Every breath from each fighter is a desperate gasp. They wrestle; they roll; they writhe. They know the end is near for one or the other. 


Martin forces his adversary onto his belly, jerking his arm up behind. The demon struggles. Martin’s last strength is spent in this hold.


I overcome by the Blood of the Lamb!


The accursed enemy makes one more desperate attempt to pull out of bondage. There is a crack like the splintering of bone, and a howl that shakes the gates of the nether world as they receive the villain and slam shut.


The clock strikes two.


The smoke rolls quickly away and the stench of battle is replaced by clam, fresh night air. Silvery moonlight swathes the room in a hallowed peace, and Martin the Guardian turns his green eyes heavenward as he salutes the King and then returns to his post.

The Battle Is Won

Meanwhile, Alexander sleeps peacefully in his crib, sky-blue eyes gently closed, lashes fluttering only slightly, a sock monkey clutched in his tiny hand. He is blissfully unaware that there is war in the heavenlies, and that a battle has just been fought for him.


This story was first published in A Walk in the Dark: A Collection of Spirit Stories, Beverly R. Green and E. L. Risden, Peregrino Press (2018).


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