the air is taut with reverence. emperor has arrived to greet his guards. at his feet, kneel in subordinance and lick gravel, swirl it around your tongue. you have ten seconds. you are just like every other soldier in line and the one before. next.
molded by forgiving earth, you will serve and protect him even in a necropolis. line up in five-by-six. do not cower.
general, i can hear the heartbeats of the horses as they pound from the north. do not retreat. flies dance tantalizingly around bronze tassels. ahead, a comrade dares to pass a whistle through cracked lips. he is out before dusk.
thump. thump. did you think you would be a decorated warrior? are you not just like every other man in line?
eight thousand soldiers stand in flank. the rancid taste of man envelopes you, and yet you are alone in battle. as spears pierce flesh, comrades lay on metallic soil with ripe breath. when you fade, clutch untouched sins in clammy hands.
they catch you just before dawn. they have mercy. it is an easy fall onto pillowing soil, feet first.
did you ever think you would die? silly boy. did you think you were immune to fate?
terracotta soldiers, row by row, file into the afterlife after the emperor. it is chilly down there. flaking lacquer itches your decaying body. luckily for you, clay flesh keeps warmth.