Part 4: In matters of War, Truth, and the Illusion of choice

Part 4: In matters of War, Truth, and the Illusion of choice

A Story by words at play

The closing of the story. If you've reached this far I thank you from the bottom of my heart for taking the time to read this!

Braide was leaning up against a wall on his one functioning leg "What the f**k? Daenth you're not stupid. If we don’t leave all of us are dead."
Daenth tried to speak but was seized by a fit of coughed that subsided only when he hacked up a glob of dark blood. "Exactly, but even if you three leave, I'm still not gonna make it. Now does that seem fair? The only one to not roll over and die without a fight is the only one to die in the end?" He waited for an answer. When he realized neither of them would, he continued.
"No, no it doesn’t. So I'm righting the balance of the world. You were so eager to die earlier, what’s the difference now?" His eyes were red and tearing up, the blood loss was making him delirious. 
Cheering suddenly erupted from outside. It grew louder by the second.
Deanth motioned to Grieg "Look outside. "
Grieg cautiously peered out. 
There was no more fighting. The enemy was retreating. Men raised their heads to the skies and let loose cries of such emotion that it almost defied description. Happiness, relief, joy, sadness, mourning, all coalesced into a symphony of humanity pushed to its limits, only to come out victorious. It's a sound that a person doesn’t forget.
Grieg left the celebratory scene.
"We won. They're retreating." Had he said those words under any different circumstances they would have been filled with the same emotional cacophony the others had. Now they tasted bitter on his tongue. "Somehow, we won."
"Won... well I suppose that's good, you'll die knowing that you won your last battle." Daenths voice began to waver. Each word sounded a little more strained than the last "We won. You’ll be ok with dying now wont you? If you wanted to die so badly, why not die now? I have to make this choice. I have to... to choose."
He started rambling, his breathing became labored
"I want to choose, one last choice before I die. One choice that’s.. That’s all. It's not too much to ask.. One little choice... I.." Daenths eyes fluttered. His hand relaxed and the rifle clattered to the ground. His eyes closed. He took a breath. A soft, ragged, almost gasping breath, and then was still.
 Both men stood still. Not a word was spoken. The cheering outside finally died down. Grieg noticed Mern lying against the wall. A shot of sorrow and mourning pierced his heart. If anyone deserved to die, it was Mern least of all. He was always the quickest to reassure someone and the last to point out a fault. He kept everything together when it was sure to fall apart. And now he was gone.
Grieg turned to Braide.
"What now?" Tears glistened in his eyes, ready to spill over at any second.
Braide didn’t answer. Only hobbled over to Mern, gently removed his dogtags, and, for the last time, closed his eyes. 
The messenger stirred, apparently aware that every bit of possible danger had passed. He opened one puffy, red eye and surveyed the scene. Then slowly, very slowly, he sat up. His face a red, tear stained mess. He saw Daenth and Mern lying dead on the floor, then Braide kneeling next to Mern and Grieg standing a few feet away teary eyed. Braide attempted to get up and groaned in pain as he aggravated his broken ankle. The messenger quickly picked himself up and caught Braide as he stumbled. 
The boy expected a look of disdain and disgust from the man. He had lain down, useless and terrified during the entire ordeal. Only being a hindrance and liability when he could have at least attempted to fight. He was sure the man blamed him for the loss of two of his men, but when he met his gaze it only held an exhausted sadness and echoing grief. They said nothing; it felt as though words would be a shameful failure of what they felt. 
They stood there for what felt like hours, even if it was only a short while. The only sound to break their mourning silence was the sound of men busily collecting themselves outside, preparing to leave. Engines sputtered to life and orders were shouted. The sound of life.
"Hello?" A voice from behind, soft and cautious.
The three turned around and found a man standing in the doorway. Relatively well build but nowhere near fit enough to be a soldier. His facial features were soft and round even if mud was splattered across his face. He carried a camera with him, a blocky, black contraption that was almost comically oversized.
He paused for a second waiting for some sort of response, then continued.
"I know you've lost two of your men and “He faltered, looking for the right words to convey his condolences. "I'm truly sorry for what happened today. War is a brutal affair. But if it's any condolence I've taken a few pictures..."
He turned his camera so that the LED screen on the back faced the three men. 
"That I think will make sure they're remembered for the brave men they were."
The screen showed them a series of picture, One of Mern sprinting to the aid of Daenth, clutching his side with scarlet bursting from between his finger. 
The next of that same soldier being peppered with bullet in the attempt to aid his comrade. 
Next, a picture of Daenth laying next to the boy an arm draped over him in an attempt to protect him. From the picture you couldn’t tell that he was only reaching for his gun. 
After that it showed him with his rifle facing down a goliath of a creature. Beaten, bloody and near death he still fought to defend the boy by his side. The picture was positioned perfectly so that Braide on the floor and Grieg coming in the side door were completely obscured from the photo. A perfect fake of perfect bravery. 
The final picture was taken moments before of Braide, Grieg, and The young messenger gathered around Mern. Positioned so that they looked gathered around both men. 
They looked up to the face of the photographer, obviously hoping the pictures would assuage some grief they felt. Unaware that almost all of them were completely misconstrued. 
Braide spoke first, softly "Thank you. You'll help preserve their memory I'm sure. Now please, my squad and I need to get ready to leave." His words rang hollow and polite. 
The photographer had expected something more grateful than the empty words Braide had given him. Confused, he made an awkward goodbye and left with hurried steps.
The young messenger looked at Braide "Why didn’t you tell him those pictures were all wrong?" 
"I don’t really know. I guess.." He paused and thought for a few seconds "I guess it was because Daenth was saying what we all were thinking. It wasn’t fair. And he was just human after all. Like the rest of us."
And with that he motioned for the messenger to help him out the door.
Grieg came to his side as well and hoisted Braide's arm over his shoulder. Together they walked down the the camp and within the hour they were speeding away from Northpointe and Southpointe and Daenth and Mern. 
Braide kept the dog tags of Mern Jorgenson until the day he died.

© 2012 words at play

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Added on October 17, 2012
Last Updated on October 17, 2012
Tags: War, Choice, fiction, drama, introspection, humanity


words at play
words at play

The fields of justice, CA

If ever there was a man who could write a world into existence, please direct me toward him. I could use some lessons. more..