I started planning a post for today. It was going to be a discussion post about complicated, controversial topics and be very thoughtful and….and then I realized a) I am somewhat dead from wrestling with my current WIP and do not have that kind of mental energy, and b) I am a small people-pleasing chameleon and wHat iF I sAY SomEthINg wRONg.
Fun-fact: Another post idea I had for this week was titled “On Being Thoroughly Exhausted People-Pleasing Chameleon”.
But ANYWAY. This week a friend and I decided to both write something in response to a writing prompt she picked out (not unlike Jem Jones’ Quirk series!), so I thought I’d share what I wrote with you folks 🙂
Here’s the prompt: Looking up at the man about to kill me I realized something. I wasn’t the hero in this story. I was the villain. And no one would mourn when I was gone. They would dance and sing on my grave.
A few things:
- My friend actually gave me three prompts to choose from, and I picked this one…because it was the angstiest.
- I went straight to my ‘vaguely sci-fi war’ default setting.
- (I still don’t understand why this is one of my default settings, but it IS.)
- OH FIRST PERSON POV HOW I’VE MISSED YOU
- Hardcore channeling Murderbot’s voice. I didn’t realize it…until I did.
- Seriously. The writing style.
- It’s such a fun style to write though 🙂
I was protecting a nation under attack. That sounds noble, doesn’t it? I’d been in this fight for years, and that was how I had always thought of it. I was fighting for what I believed in. Yes, some of our methods for dealing with the radicals were extreme. But desperate times call for desperate measures, don’t they?
I guess I got so caught up in the fighting, I stopped thinking about the world that was taking shape behind our lines. It wasn’t like the President sat us down once a month and explained over tea what he wanted for this nation, what he wanted for the people.
I was proud. There, I said it. I was proud of what I was doing. I had made it into the President’s most elite squad of fighters, and we were going to change the world.
See, it sounds so stupid when I say it now.
On the day the capital fell, I got in 28 confirmed hits. I don’t know how many of them I killed and how many were only injured. Or how many were only injured, but badly enough that they would die a few hours later. It wasn’t like I stopped and chatted with them and asked how they were feeling.
No, I don’t have their faces burned into my mind’s eye, haunting me forever, because I wasn’t looking at their faces.
So it all went south. Obviously. The radicals—or revolutionaries, or whatever you want to call them—overpowered us. One by one I lost contact with the members of my squad over the comms. And then, suddenly, it was over.
Lying on the ground with a bullet in my leg and my weapon gone, I started to think back on my life and my choices, because obviously I was going to get killed by these cheering people pretty soon here, and this would be the last chance I’d have to think about all my great deeds or whatever.
Except, as I lay there on the ground bleeding, staring up at the smoky gray sky, I didn’t feel nearly as noble as I thought I would. I didn’t feel like a martyr. I could hear the triumphant crowd shouting and cheering, but it didn’t sound like a bunch of victorious demons. They sounded like people. Happy people. People who had done something good. People I had spent the last several years trying to shoot in the head.
But for a good cause, right?
A man came over. I heard the crunch of his boots in the rubble before I saw him. He was breathing hard, sweat running down his face, and a patch of his hair blood-darkened, but he was smiling. Not grinning smiling. It was more of a I’m-so-exhausted-but-man-we-did-it-I-can’t-believe-we-did-it-there’s-real-hope-for-the-future-blah-blah-blah kind of smile. And of course he was wearing the stupid rebel uniform. In case I had any possible doubts about whose side he was on.
He stopped, standing over me. And yes, he had his gun out. I was kind of hoping he would hurry up and get it over with before I had too much time to think about what was about to happen—how badly it was going to hurt and how fast I would die and whether it would take more than one shot (ok so I had already had way too much time to think about it).
Looking up at the man about to kill me, all the things I’d been thinking about while lying there listening to the people cheering finally lined up, and I realized something. I wasn’t the hero in this story. I was the villain. And no one would mourn when I was gone. They would dance and sing on my grave.
It wasn’t a great feeling.
I was now even antsier for him to pull the trigger and get this over with. I certainly wasn’t going to indulge him with a lengthy evil speech. He said something to someone over his shoulder, and another man came forward, dropping to his knees beside me. Before I could wonder what the heck he was doing, he had forced my mouth open and stuck his hand inside.
Oh, I see, you’re going to torture me first—some kind of electric burst built into the gloves, probably. Never mind, these people are definitely the bad guys.
Except there was no electric burst. The man popped my abort device out of my top left molar and withdrew his hand. Because, like an idiot, I had forgotten that I could crunch it and kill myself until it was too late.
Or maybe I hadn’t forgotten. Maybe I didn’t want to kill myself, and I didn’t want this guy to kill me, and I really just wanted some time to figure out what the heck was going on. Do some soul searching, or something.
On second thought, it would be simpler to just be shot in the head.
But the guy still didn’t shoot me. He had put away his gun and was now talking quietly with the man who had pulled the abort device out of my mouth. Then he turned to me and asked, “Can you stand?”
As in, can I stand the fact that you people won’t stop messing around and just kill me already? What is wrong with you?
My face must have looked pretty blank, because he looked pointedly at my injured leg and repeated his question.
“He must be scared out of his mind,” the second man said quietly to the first.
No. I was not scared. I was trained to fight and get shot and die like this. Ok, so I had started really violently when the guy put his hand in my mouth, but that was because I was expecting an electric burst. And maybe I was shaking, but that had more to do with the fact that there was a bullet in my leg and I had lost more blood than people are supposed to lose on a daily basis and I was having sort of an existential crisis. It wasn’t fear.
Well, maybe there was a little bit of fear.
I was about to get shot in the head, for Pete’s sake.
The first man bent down and grabbed my arm. Yeah, go ahead. Break my arm. What’s a little more excruciating pain in these last minutes of my stupid worthless life?
“It’s okay, kid,” the man said soothingly. (For the record, I’m not a kid. I’m practically old enough to buy my own alcohol.) “We’re going to get you to a medical facility. Collins, grab his other arm.”
These guys were definitely the heroes. It was such a stupid, stereotypical hero thing to do. Get the villain at your mercy, all lined up for a perfect shot at killing him, then decide you’re going to spare his life. Didn’t they know that I had been trying to kill them and all their stupid revolutionary friends? Couldn’t they see my freaking uniform?
The second man grabbed my other arm, pulling it around his shoulders, and the two of them lifted me off the ground.
Fun fact: we’re not supposed to help each other if one of us gets injured. Because in the time it takes you to save one (potentially permanently damaged) comrade, you could be killing dozens of hostiles. And besides, in trying to cover yourself and a wounded comrade, you might both end up dead. Do the math. The more effective and efficient way to serve the nation is to treat the wounded like they’re already dead.
Clearly, nobody had told these people that.
I may or may not have had a full on panic attack as they half carried, half dragged me back to their medical facility.
And when we got there and I saw several other people wearing the National uniform, I thought, Ah, so they want to round us up and kill us all at once—probably as some kind of symbolic display of their victory. But they didn’t.
And when I was lying flat on my back on a table with a nurse injecting me with what she said was anesthesia, I thought, Ah, so this is where they start the torture—maybe to get some information about the spies we sent into their ranks, or maybe as revenge for their fallen comrades. But the anesthesia was just anesthesia.
That was yesterday. Today I’m sitting in a cell—because I’m a prisoner of war, or a political prisoner or something, and I’m going to have to face trial probably. But it’s a nice cell. And my leg is all bandaged up properly.
And I still haven’t stopped shaking and wondering what the heck I’m supposed to do now.
What have you been writing lately? Do you usually write in first person or third? (Or second?? Does anyone do this???) Are you a people-pleasing chameleon, or do you like to be bold about your thoughts and opinions? Do you often find yourself emulating the writing styles of the books you read? Do tell!