[Anzac Day, 942 words, Genre: Realistic Fiction]
* Image courtesy of Dirk de Bruyn
The night before Anzac day it had rained. It had rained and it had rained heavily. Lightning bolts had been seen in the night sky, causing a great wind and heavy rains. There was a storm in the air. A great storm had washed through the city of Geelong and caused havoc to the local neighbourhood. Edward in his single bedroom unit had attempted to get some sleep the night before. He had promised himself, his own presence at the pre-dawn service ceremony for Anzac day.
He had never attended such a ceremony. Having been caught up in the delinquency of his teenage years and young adult life. He was not a soldier, just another citizen. But now, now that he had matured to the point of recognizing his own faults, he had thought it best to pay his respects to those who had fallen in battle within Australian conflicts. On his mother’s side he had ancestors within Australian conflicts and from his father’s side a great uncle who had served in the Dutch navy, who had been allies with the Australian forces during the period of the Second World War. The Dutch uncle, Edward had been named after.
During the night it had rained heavily and water had leaked through the roof of his single bedroom apartment. The light switch had been turned off. And when he went to touch it, even though it was switched to the off position, he received an electric shock. Edward lay in bed. It was coming on at that time. The time in which he had promised his presence at the ceremony. He lay in bed, turning over several times. Thinking that his presence could be forgiven. A memory from an Australian relative prompted him to get up out of his bed. The pre-dawn service was to be held at the memorial next to the Geelong library. It was still raining, though the rain had calmed down.
Edward called a taxi, to take him from his home into town. The slow drizzle of the rain that came from the grey clouds above were reminiscent of the dreary atmosphere of war. There was something symbolic about it. About the night in which vast damage had occurred all over town due to the storm. The slow patter of the rain as it drove down upon the taxi as it ventured down the streets towards its destination. The darkness that folded in upon the Earth that had not yet seen the light of day.
The taxi dropped him off at the location. He got out of the car and followed the flow of people at which they gathered in a small crowd beneath the war memorial. All of these people who stood at attendance, despite the weather and the incredibly early hour, listened to the speeches. Everyone in silence, the solemnity of the event weighing down on the attendees, only enhanced by the weather. Children roaming, compounding the sentiment of the innocence of youth. Edward stood and listened to it all. As the rain beat down on his hat, he could hear the thum drum of the rain taking a background note to the speeches that were delivered. The speeches that included the battle of naval ships such as the Vampire and the Armadale. All taken down in the heat of war. Men’s lives were lost.
Then the playing of the bugle. The sound of the musical instrument had an entrancing effect on the audience as they stood in silence. Thinking about it: the Great War; the Second World War; the Vietnam War; and all other subsequent conflicts. Men had a duty, a call to arms, though in reflection upon the solemn nature of the event… It is not something to be celebrated. It is something to look on with respect. And what is respect? Respect is standing in the rain and paying attention. Respect is giving consideration to the reality of the events. A particular note of the speeches was the lasting effects of war. The plague of mental illnesses that occur as a result, the families left to carry the burdens.
The sound of that bugle. It has a piercing effect. And after the ceremony was over, Edward wandered off. Towards Geelong station to give deeper consideration to these things. Not knowing where he was going exactly… He wandered, following another man’s feet in front of him.
Edward sat down and rolled himself a cigarette. With head in hands, he looked at the pavement. He was struck by the solemn nature of the dawn service. That which gave reality and bearing to the atrocities of war. He thought about it all, that which he had learnt through his education and that which he had learnt through his life. Edward was a writer and knew that many stories had been spread of a wartime variety. Stories of heroism and much more. But stories very rarely do justice to the reality of events. Hitler was a sick fuck that was sure enough to be said. Young men fighting old men’s wars, that was another. Though that same sickness or wave of delusion entranced scores of people. The same that occurs with stories and video games. The reality of the world does not end with the line, ‘And they lived happily ever after.’ It’s more along the lines of, ‘Make do and survived.’ Stories are there for entertainment purposes, sometimes they have moral lessons, but more often than not they are simply an experience separate from the reality of events. To live through something, to actually live through something, is a lot different than any heroic tale of bravery.