by Seth Dube '19
The fire burning around him, the embers popping as they tear at the wood. The smoke clings to the high ceiling, giving a mysterious vail to its true height. The air is hot, burning his lungs with every breath. A bedroom in the middle of the smoldering house is the last to burn. A soldier, standing in the middle of the room stands still. An unknown man, bruised and bloody sits with his back straight against the wall in the corner of the room. The soldiers' jungle camouflage is darkened and dusty from the ash. The only door leading out of the room is closed, but the magnificent light of the fire burns brightly from outside, illuminating the outline of the door frame. Only two pieces of furniture are present in the room. A small round table, two of the legs snapped off and missing, while the rest of the table is covered glowing ember spots as if it was stricken with and illness. Then there was a bed, a queen-size that hasn't been touched by the fire. A prestige white blanket sitting nicely laid upon the bed is slightly blackened from the smoke.
The soldier is ever silent. He begins heavily moving each foot forward, as if a large weight was tied to his boots, heading towards the unknown man. As he walks across the hardwood floor, each step making a prominent thud, he removes the gas mask covering his face, the leather scratched and glass with visible cracks. He drops the gas mask onto the floor, revealing his skin to the tempered air. A short scraggly beard and a strait expression rest on his face. Then there was his eyes, a bright shade of baby blue, a color his father wanted but never had. He stops walking when he reaches the unknown man, who is staring at him, ready for his fate. The soldier reaches down to his hip and slowly draws his pistol from its pouch and just holds it pointing down on his side.
He just stares at the man, a flood of emotion and memory came to him. The soldier's father, who was a major influence in his life, died when he was 15. He remembers his father somewhat well, a tall intimidating man who worked for everything. His father had a short beard just like he did, Maybe the soldier grew it to remember his father, or he was too lazy to shave. His father worked for the unknown man, he fed him hollow promises of making enough money to get his family out of the slums, to be able to put enough food on the table that the dream of leftovers will come true. To be able to attend school, so his one and only son could end up better than him. But those dreams of money and food turned into just dreams, the once in a lifetime business he signed into fell through within a matter of months. A well-hidden false pyramid, shrouded in fog fell apart, and at the base was his father to absorb the whole impact.
The day his father died he remembered like it was yesterday, it started like any other day. The soldier getting what little scraps he could get from the food kitchen down the street returned home with the house silent. Bills all painted in red lay on the table where he sets the small styrofoam bowl filled with soup. He then went to his father's room to tell him he returned. The door opened with a loud creak, and in the middle of the room was his father sitting in a chair facing away from him with his head down. A revolver was in his hand and the small dripping sound of the blood hitting the floor could be heard. While keeping an emotionless face he just slowly turned around and closed the door. From that day forward the soldier would never really develop a real relationship with anyone for years. The loss of his father, the only person he really knew growing up, was taken out from under him. He started to become violent, getting in petty fights, each fight fueled by the death of his father. This lead to trips to juvenile detention facilities. The only career that was willing to take him was the United States military.
The heat in the room was becoming more intense. The unknown man began to cough as the smoke slowly filled the room. The solider stayed ever more silent. His face now slightly darkened from the smoke, but a singular clean line starting from his eye cleaned his face. A singular tear breaks free and runs down his cheek. He uses his hand to wipe it away, leaving a black ash print on his cheek.
Another memory came to his mind, from when he was 19, a bright-eyed kid fresh from boot camp ready to join the war. He and his best friend whom everyone called Tex because he was the only one from Texas in the squad, it also didn’t help when they where off base he always wore his white cowboy hat. Both of them along with their squad had been sent to help the fifth infantry battalion clear out a major drug cartel located in Venezuela. One day about two weeks since their deployment were sent to scout out the possible location of the cartel's leader in dense jungle. No one on base knew who he was, the only record of his existence at all was the name "el tiburón" which when translated from Spanish is "shark".
The soldier and Tex went through the thick jungle, taking nearly a full day to reach the suspected compound. When they reached the compound they saw a few men armed to the teeth patrolling a small house. Screaming could be heard and the front door burst open. A beat and bruised man hit the dirt with force. The once boss of his father stepped out, wearing a cut and clean pressed suit and tie. He held a handgun and pointed it towards the man. Two of the armed patrolmen ran over the man and picked him up so he was on his knees. They held I’m so he couldn’t move and the boss walked over and put the gun right between his eyes. He said something but the soldier and Tex couldn’t make it out, which was interrupted by the loud bang of the gun. The unarmed man fell over dead, a pool of blood began to mix with the dusty dirt, making a dark red mud.
The soldier didn’t like this action one bit, he motioned towards the boss but when he did he stepped into a large divot camouflaged by the foliage, he crashed into the twigs and leaves making enough noise to alert everyone in the compound. While he was face-first into the ground he heard another singular gunshot. Tex fell down next to him moaning in pain. He was clutching his stomach like he was extremely sick. The soldier tried to get up and return fire but was quickly met with some of the armed patrolmen. They were brought to the front of the house where the previous man was shot. The boss took his handgun and proceeded to shoot Tex in the forehead. The soldier was helpless as he cried at the death of his best friend. The boss then turned his attention to him but he lowered his weapon and then just stared into his eyes. He said something in Spanish and the armed men let him go. The opportunity was open and the soldier went for the boss but was stopped immediately when he got shot in the foot. Trucks were pulled around and everyone piled in including the boss and they peeled out of the compound.
Mustering what strength he could he picked himself up and hobbled his way through the jungle. The fuel of being able to tell people where he's now dead best friend was located drove him. He wanted to see him get a proper burial, even with every agonizing step. While going through the jungle, when not focusing on his bad foot, he contemplated how he would get his revenge on the boss. That’s all he could think about, envisioning different ways to end the boss. About 3 days later he was found by a tank convoy 5 miles away from the base. The soldier told the story and gave a description of the boss. The on-base sketch artist made a sketch that was almost perfect and they were able to figure out who he was. They gave him a history of his acts and one of those was that he owned the company that drove his father to death. The bright fire that was once the fire of revenge-fueled by the death of Tex, turned into a mighty forest fire, burning every other emotion in him until hatred was the only thing left unscathed.
The soldier then began his plans to find and put an end to the bosses' life. Writing in countless notebooks about possible places and sightings of the boss. He started to become paranoid that his bunkmates were trying to get in his way, so he locked up his notebooks in a safe and began sleeping in a small one-person tent in the jungle. On rotations that he was supposed to go home, he decided to stay, refusing to leave the base. He faced some setbacks with his planning, like friends telling him he’s gotta stop and he’s going crazy. He was also placed in the base jail for about 6 months, the reason for this jail time was because the soldiers commanding officer told him to cut the pursuit of the boss and focus on his home life, in response the soldier broke the officers nose and jaw, leaving him unconscious in the middle of the barracks in front of all his squadmates. The six months in jail didn’t stop his planing, carving images and plans on how to kill the boss littered the walls of the small cell.
The memory of Tex and his father were rolling through his mind as the fire crackled.
Without realizing it but the soldier was crying a little, one tear at a time dripped off his face and evaporated onto the floor. There was only one thing left to do now he had the boss in front of him. The chase that had begun 5 years ago would come to an end. He lifted his pistol and aimed in the center of the bosses' forehead. He wanted to execute him like he did his best friend Tex. Right before he was about to pull the trigger he stopped and thought. All the time hunting, the people he’s killed and affected to find him, he came to the realization that everything he’s done was to hunt this man, he had no family, no friends, not even a house to go home too.
This hit him like a brick so he took a step back and just stared at the boss. The soldier then turned the attention of the pistol's barrel towards the door frame. A short pause, then a gunshot echoed through the room and the sounds of crashing wood. Neither of them harmed but the only door leading out of the room was destroyed. The bullet from the soldier's gun destroyed the fragile burned support beam above the door. With the door gone the fire raged through and began to burn the room.
The soldier then decided to sit down on the bed silently just staring down at his feet. The soldier knew this was for the best for both of them. In his mind, he thought he’s putting an end to a monster, and he’s putting an end to the revenge-seeking, selfish and stubborn stain to his society. The fire became more intense as it ate through the untouched room. The boss while still in the corner of the room began to scratch at the walls, the will to live driving him even though his fingernails were gone and fingers bloody.
After a few minutes, the fire had set the room ablaze. From outside you could hear the blood-curdling scream of the boss as he was being burned alive, those screams fell on empty ears, for no one was around for miles. The house had completely burned down leaving nothing but ashes. A few months later when the military discovered the burned foundation of the building, they searched for casualties, the army report stated there were no bodies found in the burned wreck.