MEN IN azure uniforms and flintlock rifles marched exactly like how their Spanish puppeteer would want them to. The fresh air teamed around their rotten souls. They were breathing yet decaying.

Death had consumed them a long time ago. Since then, they were mere occupants of spaces—cold and dismal spaces, gasping for lives they would never have.

Between the soldiers alignment was a man sported in a three-piece black suit with a bowler hat. Although his wrists were tied with rope behind him, he walked placidly as if nothing tragic was about to happen.

***

It was a bit dark for 6:35 in the morning. The gentle, flirting wind was pulling back. On the way to Bagumbayan field, silence from the crowd of brown-skinned natives made the aura monotonous, the one brought by pent-up rage.

“You are afraid, just like the others,” came a whisper to the man in a black suit.

“Everyone will travel that route alone with nothingness,” he answered calmly, fighting back unease. “There’s nothing to fear, even the uncertainty beyond that,” he clasped his hands tightly and closed his eyes for temporal relief.

It was beside him all his life, just waiting patiently—and now, he was about to give it an acquaintance, as if they were long-lost comrades.

No one knows what’s going to happen when they reunite. Heaven? Hell? Or nothingness—a closure of a life well-lived or haven’t lived at all.

“What’s within the inability to breathe?” he asked himself. “Would it be total darkness? Would there be another lifetime, to chase the mystery of one’s existence?”

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No matter how many detours, everyone would eventually meet that long lost comrade, waiting patiently since birth. Death was the universal finale.

***

It was a march towards the end while reminiscing the life he had. As he left footprints on shallow roads of sand, he recalled himself as a little boy. He was a child who didn’t blame the little moth for giving in to light’s temptation. He understood the moth because he would have done the same. He would reach for the light even if the blaze would consume him.

“Do you have any regrets?” the cold voice whispered again.

“None,” he replied. “In this lifetime I didn’t shrivel with musings and what-ifs at all.”

Regret was the tragedy which causes temporal death. It is the same thing that troubles people; the only thing that makes everyone feels so wrong.

Still, he was walking serenely as if nothing was about to happen. For him, it was a typical morning, with the same blue sky unraveling light to the arid ground.

The soldiers and the man in black suit passed through tall mestizos together with the women of painted faces. Pretending to be protagonists, they all shouted “Muerte a los traidores!” and “Viva España!”

He did not glance at them not as how he offered his eyes to the arresting flowers of Heidelberg, the women of Madrid and classy bistros of Paris. He had not been weary with the world’s outmost beauty. He spared his time wisely, painted, sculpted, wrote novels, poetry and cured not only human sickness but also the societal pandemic of apathy, idleness and indifference.

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It was a long walk, the platoon of soldiers were still marching, determined to get to their destination. He looked up at the sky to feel the warmth of the early sunrise.

One by one, he recalled his love adventures, all the times he had felt the fever of love-making. It was his infinity within the landscape of emotion, the seascape of passion, the skyscape of desire. He discovered, explored, rediscovered and re-explored the disarming scent of love.

It was 6:55 in the morning when they reached the field. The trumpet sounded to commence the execution. The firing squad positioned in front of the arched arrangement of witnesses. Two soldiers accompanied him to a distant ground where he would be standing on for the last time. Far from everyone but near to his awaiting comrade.

He requested to the squad commander that he be shot facing his executioners considering that he was not a traitor. The plea, however, was denied as the hefe had a standing order from higher authorities that he should be shot facing back.

He then felt the sea air coming beside the field. He was tranquil as if nothing was about to happen.

“We are about to meet because of your unrequited compassion,” the voice whispered again. “See how destiny betrayed you?”

He was serene as if nothing was about to happen.

“Christ was the only victim of betrayal, I’m no Christ.” ANA MAY R. DE LA CRUZ

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