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  • The Siege
  • Seth Fried (bio)

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Figure 1.

[End Page 104]

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Figure 2.


The men on the walls are all dead. The city is ravaged but still, somehow, untaken. Imagine, if you will, a cachectic dog limping down a street littered with corpses. Corpses everywhere. The bodies of those who've succumbed to cholera. The bodies of those who, in fits of starvation, forced themselves to eat the tainted meat flung over the walls by the catapults, mangonels and trebuchets of the impending hordes. The bodies of fighting men who, overwhelmed by the sight of our foe, the sheer size and determination and cruelty of their numbers, fled the walls in order to throw themselves [End Page 105] onto their own swords. Imagine that spiritless dog as it sniffs and drools its way down the street piled high with the human filth amassed over the sixteen-month duration of the siege. Imagine as it nibbles off the nose from the corpse of a young girl, moves away, chomping, moves away, pausing to cough, a small tendril of mucus and blood dangling from its shriveled anus. Now imagine the same scene without a dog, because there are none—all the dogs in the city having been eaten a long, long time ago.

No, the last person naive enough to attempt keeping a dog as a pet, Wilkshire, the currier, kept a mutt and a litter of pups in his shop, sustaining them with rainwater and small bits of corpse. This was until a group of townsmen overheard a yelp through a broken window and stormed the shop, killing Wilkshire in the struggle, leaving themselves to fight over the litter and bitch, which were both soon reduced to a worthless pulp. Only old man Tuttle escaped with the runt, which he ate tauntingly from the safety of the chapel roof, lifting it from time to time, in mock benediction, toward the moon.

Things, we have to admit, are looking rather bleak.

Some of us gather around and help poison the wells for when the hordes will inevitably enter the city. There are those of us who are almost cheerful; the siege has lasted for so long that whatever happens, we'll gladly welcome something new. However, there are also those of us who know better. In the first month of the siege, the commander of the attacking forces led from a white tent. This signified that if the city were to surrender, none would be harmed. In the second month, the commander of the attacking forces led from a red tent, signifying that if the city were taken, all men bearing arms would be put to death. In the third month, enemy forces were led from a black tent, meaning that under no circumstances would any men in the city be spared. Thirteen months later, and the tent is now the color of an angry god.


Some say it's a miracle the city has lasted as long as it has. There were a few proud days in the beginning: our guards lined manfully along the walls, their armor glittering in the sun. The wide, clear [End Page 106] sky was filled with the clatter of their spears, while the banner of our city wagged in the air with the wild enthusiasm of a fool's tongue. Though it wasn't long before the enemy's sorties to the wall, ready as they were with their countless bowmen and hundreds of mounted cheiroballistrae, reduced our forces to a pitiful pretense. Now the battlements are empty except for the occasional graybeard, who might wander up in order to move his bowels defiantly over the wall or to shake a small, withered fist.

The question now is: When will the enemy make their final escalade over the walls? This question seems to resonate within a larger question, which is: Why have they not already made their final escalade over the walls?

There are those who believe that our enemy must be preparing something unique and elaborate. There are those who expect a final stroke that will reveal our enemy...


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