Those left behind, to wander red fields

A woman picked her way across the reeking ruin, gagging, stumbling over flesh and metal, until she sank down beside the armless remains of a young man.
His face was somehow spotless amid the filth, and twisted into a rigid degree of agony no poet or painting could ever fully convey. The woman cradled him. She began rocking back and forth, staring transfixed into that death mask.
Blood seeped into her robes. The pure horror of his glassy eyes stained her soul more deeply than blood ever could.

He stood apart, looking down on it all from the commander’s hill, and he could so easily tell what her dumbstruck face was speaking: why, why, why...her question came to him clearly, for it echoed the one trapped within himself.
For I – I caused her love's death, he knew.
Once he could, yet now he could not answer any more the why which made this happen. To what end? he thought. But does it even matter, the ends, can any end stand up to the horror of such means?
He wanted to weep, but like her he could not. He wanted answers, knew there were answers, but they did not come to him.
The woman was in a place beyond grief. She was a statue, stony, and he thought for a moment she would never move again.
Yes, there were forces already long at work, and there were other hands involved, but it was he who set in motion the chain of events which made each of these men into corpses.
He did all this, and did it knowingly.
Yes there were forces above even him, who sometimes pulled strings he could not see, and made even the publicly powerful dance like a dumb puppet.
In this battle, at least, he was no pawn.
I have orchestrated – evil. There is no other word for it. Evil. Blinded by the ego of good intent, ignoring the obvious truth – that war is always wrong, and a war of aggression, unprovoked, a thousandfold more so.
The work of a demon. But that demon is nothing more than a man, it wears my skin and my skull; it is nothing more than me.
How, and why?
I...I cannot recall what thought it was that convinced me to command this was I mad, then, and still now? Was I not in control of my mind?
A still small voice was trying to answer him, but he would not listen. He could not, for it spoke the truth. He would take anything as answer, anything to plug the void. Anything but the truth.
In his heart and in his head there was only turmoil; raw, roiling, nauseating turmoil. Thoughts whipped back and forth between bitter self-loathing and cold rationalization, and his gut was clenched in a constant, throbbing sickness.
There must have been another way, must have been some higher path than the one which led to this field of endless death. Or else what is the point? If this is it, if men are no more than disposable units, if lives are there to be used as props in the politicians’ grope for power, then what is the point of it all?
He wracked his memory: Where did I first go wrong? Where did I first veer off course, and could I have chosen differently, then?
His memory was unresponsive. He could not replace the red fields of the present with the ghosts of the past.
Well, why, then? What reason can be given for all this?
A reason: “To protect the people.”
Which people? These men and boys and husbands and fathers and sons who lie dead at your feet, dead in their thousands?
Or was it to protect the tens of thousands who live on the opposite shore, all the wives and sons and daughters who now must live with the consequences of your dictum?
A reason: “More is at work, and at stake, than my will alone.”
Indeed. But instead of opposing these other wills, you complied with them.
A defense: “I had to. It was my duty, my job, my nature.”
You chose. How could this have been the right choice?
A denial: “There was no other path. I chose the lesser of two evils.”
The lesser evil is an evil nonetheless. There is always, always, always another path.
Where? There was none!
You did not see it because you did not look for it. You assumed there was no other way. And in so doing you blinkered your vision, closed off your heart, and you blundered on past Fate's fork.
A plea; enough of this torment: “What’s done is done.”
It is done indeed.
Please. Please stop.
As you wish. As always, it is as you wish...
His heart was hardened, he sensed how his mind rushed in like an antibody, scabbing over the violent trauma done to his conscience.
Numb. He felt – nothing.
Because he had to. He had to believe, also, to carry on, to make believe; that his commands had served some greater good, that there was no other way, and that these men had died willingly.
He forced himself to think that, in time, the bereaved would come to understand these deaths as noble sacrifices. That the lives which were drained into these fields would fade into an abstraction of honor; that the medals meant something more than a hollow, hallowed symbol of freedom, a painted eagle upon their chests.
That it meant anything, anything at all.
Anything but the truth.

A boy and girl, barely past puberty's door, cowered between the faces of the fallen. Wide-eyed, holding hands. The dead eyes of their father stared back at them, leering from a crushed skull, and the prayer beads they’d braided in his beard only yesterday now dripped with other men’s gore.
He watched the children from up on his hill.
Nothing. Ashes. His heart was already cranked closed.
But there under the psychic scar lay a splinter of the truth he'd learned, prickling, refusing to remain buried forever:
I will one day return to torment you, whispered the truth, for you and I both know this scab of rationalization is nothing but bullshit. It is temporary. You must sometime accept that you failed to find another way, that you settled for the slick and easy whore Utility – you sleep with an excuse; an excuse for moral failure.
That, ultimately, it was you who killed every single one of these men. You drove fractures into each and every heart they once were a living part of. In the fissures you have consigned a father’s ghost. A father who has killed. This too you have done, you have driven the spectres of dead killers into the minds of their own children.
The longer you ignore me, the more viciously will I fester when the time comes...just as you and I both know it will, that it must, if you are ever to be redeemed.

The truth is you feel torment because of love. Because you resist love, and the terror of asking forgiveness, and the agony of change.

You will suffer, you must, until you learn to find acceptance, and to channel the shame of your basest nature into the alchemy of a flawed but bettered man.

Your emotions are a moral compass. You have buried yours. Why?




blood red crimson death path way


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