Two Hands, Two Tools, Two Killers
It was cold. I couldn’t feel my legs beneath the mud, beneath the sludge, beneath the weight of the world bearing down on them.
In my right hand I held my rifle – I could just feel the inscription I’d made into the wood, ‘PeaceMaker,’ it said. The irony, the cold-hearted humour of it, it wasn’t something I cared about anymore, I felt nothing for it. It was just there, in the same way many things were. My other hand, wrapped in gauze, pushed in Isaac’s gut in an attempt to stop blood that flowed from a bullet-wound in waves. Whilst peering over the ridge of our foxhole, I attempted to stuff more gauze into his jacket, into the wound itself. But, even then, I knew it was useless, that it only served to satisfy a dying part of myself – for he was already dead.
Pulling my hand away in a mass of sticky blood, I grabbed the remainder of his ammunition, his two grenades, and stuffed them into any remaining pockets of my own. He needed them no longer. It was the last thing he could do for me.
As I wrapped the bloodied hand around the wood of my rifle, a deep sadness arose. Not the kind that you instantly feel, nor feel in any true sense at all, but one that you just notice in all its pain, acknowledge its harrowing existence. I wanted to feel more, but after a year of this, I was asking a little too much of myself. I had been hulled of feeling, on some days even of compassion.
I laid the back of my hand on the freezing mud, and steadied the rifle. Slowly I scanned the misty forest; or maybe it was smoke, I wasn’t sure anymore. Behind a towering sycamore, a hundred-feet-or-so away, something shifted, trembling like a spectre in my half-vision, twinkling like a tracer round darting through the night. I put my eye to the sight, lining up the tree, and the glinting. My finger slid from the wood, and onto the cold metal of the trigger. This, it was what I lived for, this was my sole purpose of existence; a soldier, a killing machine, a pawn for the elite. Everything else I once was had melted away, leaving the husk of something unrecognisable behind. The worst part… it no longer scared me.
I saw a flash of green and grey. I pulled the trigger. The stock threw my shoulder back. It deafened me. The shot echoed around the forest and the surrounding valley, amidst many others. Then, I heard a scream – a gurgling of sorts. It was a sound I had listened to many times before, the sound of a man dying, not quickly but slowly. It was something I had knowingly inflicted many times. Both when my own life was in imminent danger, and when it was not. Neither was easier to begin with. But the killing of men, of people, had turned into something of a reflex, and nothing more. There were no tears. No sympathy. Nothing. I was the perfect soldier.
I looked to my left, where Isaac’s body was slowly turning cold. I had known him only a few days, I suppose that helped. Nonetheless, the view had become part of my daily scenery. One soaked in mud and blood. One that was cacophonous, insane. The trouble was, after a while, insanity become normality. Beyond, it is the normality that takes on a different meaning, one that is not so easy to get used to.
Once again, I leaned my head down and sighted my rifle, scanning the woods for any movement – anything I could put a bullet through. I felt the cold, and the wind, and the chill of snow in the air. Yet, I felt nothing in the killing of men.
And so, the days went by, one after the next. Soon I lost count, both of the days, and of the men I brought to earth within those days. Time, it had no end, nor any beginning. Everything was immeasurable, uncountable. That world, it turned me into something not entirely human. Something that couldn’t be given a name.