Is this a dagger which I see before me,
The handle toward my hand? Come, let me clutch thee.
I have thee not, and yet I see thee still.

On my desk sits my bayonet. Standard infantry issue. It's an old one- the drill officer recently got rid of all of these and replaced them with the newer, lighter carbon-fiber/ceramic black bayonets. They don't glare in the sunlight as the Brigade of Midshipmen marches on Worden Field like the old ones, but supposedly they are more functional, and significantly sharper. But as I reach forward and hold this tool of old global fratricide, I think the new bayonets might look more impressive, but this one was actually used.

Art thou not, fatal vision, sensible
To feeling as to sight? or art thou but
A dagger of the mind, a false creation,
Proceeding from the heat-oppressed brain?

The Brigade sweats it out every Friday in the fall, then sweats some more after Spring Break, when parade season starts again. Always some dignitary. Maybe an admiral this week, or an old grad. Or maybe it's just for the Superintendent, who can order a parade at his three star whim.

Vestrum Excrucibo,
Richard J. Naughton

he probably signs the order gleefully. We hate him for it, and yet realise it's so impersonal. We are told that drill not only builds professionalism throughout our ranks, and demonstrates our teamwork, but that it is also as close to combat as we will come as midshipmen. We try not to laugh cynically, but I look at my bayonet; it's seen more combat than I could ever want.

I see thee yet, in form as palpable
As this which now I draw.
Thou marshall'st me the way that I was going;
And such an instrument I was to use.

I don't drill with this bayonet anymore. It's been retired by the drill officer, and I can see why. There's a large dent below the blade, which runs upwards through thedudgeon and to the hilt. It's about an inch wide: clearly the result of a cranial blow. Bayonets are designed for striking the soft torso of an enemy, but if they get so close that such a thrust isn't possible, well, I guess you hit them with what you have or else they hit you. That and there is a large, random serration. I'm sure the armory didn't put that there, and I can only imagine how many times that it caught on someone's rib cage.

Mine eyes are made the fools o' the other senses,
Or else worth all the rest; I see thee still,
And on thy blade and dudgeon gouts of blood,
Which was not so before. There's no such thing:
It is the bloody business which informs
Thus to mine eyes.

I've been spending the last few weeks polishing this bayonet. The terry cloth towel has spent the last few weeks accumulating a disgusting mix of black oxide deposits, brown Brasso stains and red. I don't know where the red comes from. I showed it to my roommates; they have no idea what I am talking about. I've taken the bayonet to the armory in case it is disintegrating. They say it's structurally sound. I pour some more Brasso onto the towel to see if it's a chemical reaction. It's not.

Thy very stones prate of my whereabout,
And take the present horror from the time,
Which now suits with it. Whiles I threat, he lives:
Words to the heat of deeds too cold breath gives.

{A bell rings}

I go, and it is done; the bell invites me.
Hear it not, Duncan; for it is a knell
That summons thee to heaven or to hell.
--Macbeth (Act II, scene I)

The bell rings: it's time to go to class. I put away the polishing rag and the polish, and pick up the bayonet and look at my reflection in the blade. It's warbled. I look like my face is darker, scarred...

...battle hardened. I have become death and I don't like how I look in the glare. I look like a hatchet man, a malefactor, an assassin. I am the man who wielded this bayonet and became a widow-maker sixty years ago. I brought grief to a family. Butcher. I have been Roland, Beowulf, Achilles, and Gilgamesh. I have been called a hundred names and will be called a thousand more before the world goes dim and cold. I am hero.

This only serves to scare me, even as it scars me. Slowly I push the bayonet back into its sheath until I hear the restrainers click, then place the assembly into the confidentials locker next to my desk.

This is where memories go to polish their daggers.

This has been a nodeshell challenge versus GhettoAardvark and futurebird.