28 April 2010

Ranger - Watery Grave

Dear Sarge:

I have enclosed a picture from my recent trip to Bermuda. I appreciated the car you left. Our friends there are well.
I find though my blade continues to find its mark that the man attached to it has dulled. Day after day of this grind - stretching out as far as I can see. My company is younger. They are filled with a passion for life (which I feel drifting out of my reach), and hatred. Uncompromising hatred. I congratulate myself that my mind is clearer, less emotional. When I take a life I understand complications. But what I hear from the soldiers I serve with is elimnationist rhetoric, and religious fervor. I have always been in opposition and now I am growing tired. Even when they say we must kill the rats - I disagree. Where is the pleasure in killing a rat? We are killers of men - men with real ambitions and families and pasts who have for legitimate or illegitimate reasons come into conflict with our way of life. I do not want to die at the hands of a man who believes I am vermin. I do take pleasure in knowing that these new soldiers will learn that life is less than clear, less than comforting. Or they will embrace insanity.
For me the lack of clarity and comfort have been transformed. First from a source of fear, then as a known truth and finally to providing consolation in a world where others appear to be engaged in a rebellion which is beyond my imagining.
I cannot fool myself into believing that there is a greater reward waiting for me. I do not try and justify my actions in that way, especially when I retrieve my knife from the punctured lung of a fallen foe. I can no more believe that I am heaven-bound than the essence of that corpse is in hell. Nor can I allow myself to believe as Deseilligny did that life itself has no meaning and that my actions can be divorced from reason. Perhaps I am too simple of a being, but I have tried to ascribe meaning to my activity which I know does not exist. I try to find joy in what I do even when what I do is not joyful. Rather than serving only myself, I can serve others and bend reality to my will in this way. Perhaps I am the one embracing insanity, though I hope that it is an innocuous variety.
I hope that you and Corporal can make some progress on your current charges. If my letter indicates anything I suppose that I am set upon by enemies more piercing than bullets. But today the sun is bright and warm and I go on.
I remain your friend.

24 April 2010

In Which the Trials of Peru are Remembered and Recounted: The Second Part

Well, Cpl.,

Perhaps I will get out alive. If I do, I have made some valuable discoveries, most of them found in the ruins of a burned hut. A strange village, Eldiente de Naga, obscured in low and angry clouds, didn't announce itself so much as it huddled against an extinct volcano and waited for us to set upon it. Slowly we approached, still, three men were killed quickly with traps, one man fell screaming into a pit of jagged animal teeth and bones, ripped up only to be impaled at the base of the trap. We could not look save to make sure there was nothing to save.

The village was long deserted. In truth locals had denied it existed, exchanged strange looks and told us we must leave before we brought with us evil winds through the mountain passes.

"You are already an ill omen," one woman told me. "You are already an announcement of some evil that will be visited upon us but I do not hate you for it." Panzito asked her if she would cook for us. "We will pay you well," he said. She refused. "I must be able to say I did not help you," she answered, "this might be a thing that allows me to survive." An older woman who did not care anymore cooked for us. She said she would send our money to the Church. She told us that if we continued into higher altitudes we would encounter something that would teach us to respect evil. "You will die understanding at least." Staring at the ripped flesh of the first dead man of our journey, I felt I already knew too well. But then why do I continue? What is it that I pursue, save perhaps proof of my own mortality? My own immortality? Ah, Cpl.! These are discussions we must shelve for better days, when we share a bottle of good wine along the northern Superior coast! I dream now of those Lakes and the flat skies there, in the early spring, when you feel the birds approaching once again from the south to take up residence. It is still cold then, but the wind does not bite anymore, it is a vitalizing thing.

We approached this village, itself an enemy, unyielding and petulant. Another man was dragged up into a tree and hacked by knifes that fell upon him. A third man ran screaming at this point and was quickly eaten by the earth. We could only hear his screams, for the earth had him and he was no longer visible. The silence that descended was awful and we gathered together. The village needed no men to protect its secrets, it would put up enough of a fight. "I will not stay," one man said. Two other men nodded their heads.

Panzito looked at me. "Go," I said. "Live for your daughter."
"What? And leave you? She would never again look me in the eyes."
"Don't tell her. Tell her I sent you away."
"She would know I lied. You know that."
The three men left at this, for they had their own children, and I think they wanted to leave before Shame set upon them and offered them death for their honor. Panzito and I were alone against the village of Eldiente de Naga.
"Tell her I asked you to go, as a favor to her."
Panzito laughed.
"You are clever, bearded one, but she is not a princess. She would not want that gift."
"I will protect you Panzito," I said. "You will live if it means my life."
He hugged me. We drank something fermented and strong. We looked around. A wrong step meant a death we did not care to contemplate. And why had I led men here to die? I looked over the landscape. Innocent-looking and abandoned, the huts offered cold comfort from a steady wind, but I suspected they were designed now as coffins, full of death to shield what it was that had been left here.

Cautiously we approached. At one point I felt a give in the earth and stopped, pointing silently down. Panzito nodded gravely and stepped carefully in another direction. Grimly, he pointed toward the earth as well. We had fallen silent now, on approaching closer to the village, and communicated the way we once did, Cpl., as snipers in a Liberian church. I could not help thinking of that, and of all the circles of hell earth holds. I thought of Cody in Shanghai and willed myself to live so that we could once again run the dawn streets of that city and keep these hells at bay.

My pen is weary, but I will pick up this tale tomorrow and take it to its conclusion. The stars are bright in this harbor town, and I can hear the drunken sailors and music from the taverns along the water, mixed in with the warehouses. The women, most of them prostitutes, laugh and scream in feigned delight. It is that time of the night, and in the darkest part of the sky there is that deepening which is itself, the first sign of dawn.