Flies instead of eyes
I know he is dead even though I am too far away to see him clearly.
In this part of the world, the flies settle on the eyes first, painting the upper part of a face so black, even the blackest of skins looks pale.
As I get closer, I see the man has not been dead long, as the mass of buzzing devours his face.
In my early days here, I got sick at sights like this.
But I have seen the look so often since I no longer turn my head.
I hate this place and I would not have come back had we not beaten down the new government with the promise of stealing back to country to our side of the world’s conflicts.
I still have a living memory of those poor soldiers dragged across the landscape in mockery by pathetic black Hectors celebrating their brief victory over American Achilles.
That moment made me want to kill them all, using whatever means possible – legal or not.
I am too war wise to believe foolish notions about civil rights.
We either kill them all or get our bodies dragged across the landscape.
So I kill, torture or do whatever else it takes to keep from becoming one of those dragged.
At moments like these, I fell most vulnerable – that interval after packing up my parachute and before I meet my contact.
Some deeper instinct tells me the body ahead is the man I need to meet.
I get nervous, unpacking my weapon so I can kill anyone who might lay in wait for me.
I think I hear breathing somewhere, though some strange reaction in me makes me think it is the dead man’s breath when I know it is not.
I shoot away the flies with the muscle of my pistol, trying to compare the mangled flesh to the photo I saw back at the base. Heat and busy bugs have reshaped the face into something too mangled to make out.
It is the half moon scar still visible on the forehead that confirms who he is.
And I panic.
A man does not wander through a garden he has helped seed with death.
And vengeance only satisfies when you live beyond it.
I keep think of the flies and how I might get dragged across the landscape, my death symbolic of some new American humiliation.
Will some other fool like me in camouflage get angry over my death the way I got over the poor fools before me, and will he become even more savage than I am as a result.
Over and over, I recall the sold saying, “kill or be killed,” and realize how mistaken it is, how we kill, and kill and kill again, creating an endless cycle of slaughter we can never trace back to its roots.
Truth comes too late to men like me, drawing open the curtain on the phony wizard’s philosophy only just when ready to close the curtain permanently on me.
My gun goes off.
I pull the trigger at the sound of breathing not my own.
At the sound of a click
At a sign or a laugh.
My bullet strikes at emptiness and leaves, hitting the trunks of trees over which no flies will ever settle.
When the magazine empties, I throw down the gun and flee, stripping off the backpack and anything else I think will slow me down.
I run to avoid the flies, knowing that I will soon give into them anyway.
Sooner or later, we all have flies for eyes.