Every day I watched as that horrible red substance seeped through their shirts. My hands were rough as they rubbed against the underside of my gun. Shockwaves ran through my body as I pulled back the trigger with my peeling fingertips. I was strong but felt weaker and weaker every day, deprived of nourishment other than the taste of canned beef lingering on my tongue. My bloody hands carried the ichor of all my dying friends. How could I let myself be blind for so long? Why did I believe in you? How did you convince yourself that it was okay? I had worked so hard to try to keep them alive, to stay alive myself! My body ached through every agonising day. YOU went ahead and took part in that torture. You had undone all our hard work without a second thought. I REMEMBER that little boy who had sacrificed his last pair of dry socks for me- in that damp, dark, horrible place we were in. What did you do? You betrayed the meaning of good. Those pilots were like this little boy- giving their all, for the sake of one another.
Larry and I fought for our country and put our lives on the line. We lost men on that field, and every loss felt like a stab to my already crumbling heart. The cries of my dead soldiers stay forever etched into my mind. The bloody reality I fought so hard to get away from- body parts splattered in every direction I turned, ligaments hanging by pieces of choppy flesh, the fresh scent of nature washed over by the sticky smell of sweat, metal, smoke and blood. BLOOD. So much of it oozed from Chris’s head, and dried blood clung onto Diego’s shirt where a hole had been violently torn through. The jagged ends of bones stuck out of Johnny’s neck as I stared into his blank soulless eyes. They were my family on the battlefield. I was the last to have seen them- to feel their warmth. I watched their light disappear- and I had tried!… To save them all, and failed. Now they lay rotting away on a deserted field. I wish I had been in their position, but the instant I took one of their places, what about the others? How would I save them all?
I do not know what to do. My brain is a confused mess between hating you and blaming myself. That day Larry went missing, I hated myself for not being in his place; HOW COULD YOU LET ME HATE MYSELF?! HOW COULD YOU LET MOTHER KEEP HOPING FOR SO LONG? WHY WOULD YOU FEED INTO HER DELUSIONS IF YOU KNEW THE TRUTH… WHEN YOU KNEW WHAT YOU HAD DONE?!
I fell in love with Ann-
“She’s Larry’s girl,” Mother had said.
I stared into nothingness and imagined the smell of Gardenias- the distinct smell of Anne’s perfume that brought me joy. Her forehead against mine as I looked into her eyes, the eyes that had fixed me- the pair that had made up for all those soulless eyes I had looked into before. You had stood there and not said a word.
Guilty- is what I feel. I feel guilty for not being there for Larry when he realised you were why 21 soldiers had spiraled out of the sky to their ultimate death. I am guilty of stealing Larry’s girl: THE GIRL OF MY DEAD BROTHER. I am guilty, BECAUSE OF YOU, because you killed yourself, and now I blame myself for it. What if I had reacted differently? Would you still be here now? Or would you still have drowned in your misery and died the same way? For three years, I trusted you. I had hope for good. I believed that Larry would return, Steve would be released, and the business would thrive. Why did I have hope? Even when I knew what kind of a boss you were? The boss that would check on every worker, the boss who would be there for the opening and closing of his shop, the damned boss who would not leave an inch of his workshop unturned. The boss- the person who I thought would always do right; who was once my father.
You were my father, and I thought you were good, but you turned directly against everything Larry and I- your sons, fought for. How could a father ever do such a thing? Imagine the panic those men must have been going through, their screams blending in with the screeching of their planes, cold gusts of wind hitting their cheeks, their sweaty, pilot-stained hands trembling as they dropped from the sky like dying birds. As they were falling to their ultimate death they would’ve thought of their families, their parents who were going to lose a child. When I walked into your room and saw you on the floor- blood splattered everywhere, along the walls and bed. You did not look like a dead bird. You did not look like anything I had ever seen before. You were not my father- you were a monster. You destroyed my life, Mothers, Larrys, The Deevers, the parents of those sons: you caused us all hell. I looked into your soulless eyes and realised they were no different from what I had seen before: You had always been dead inside.
Written by Nethra Tenakoon and edited by Eden Ward. Published on 15/10/23. Header image by Cindy Zhang.