Friday, 10 December 2010

Soldier, Soldat

I carry my gun.

The wind’s howl has long gone beyond beginning, and yet still that old song is the only thing in my head. The Dylan version. The harmonica screech is ingrained along my ear canal, I think.

I carry my gun.

My boots are heavy but I’ve stopped feeling them as anything separate from my skin. They make flying fish noises as they rise from the shallow swap mud, and they make diving bird noises when they go back down. The reeds and other long grasses shudder.

I carry my gun.

I watch the ground and the horizon line and the sky and my eyeline does not waver, not at all. Not unless I catch the fleeting sound of helicopter behind me. Not unless there is a shape below the stretched spirals of cloud that doesn’t seem to carry beak or feathers or claws. Once, just once, what I heard as helicopter was just that, and I lay facedown in the mud for uncounted minutes, authentic swamp thing, until the rotor-drone buzzing departed. I held my gun out before me, two-handed, keeping it an inch above the water. Keeping it clean.

Yes, I carry my gun.

The mud dried on my face and I did not wipe it clean. I have not seen the patterns it has made there. In the few places where pools of water have opened up between the grass, it is not clear enough to use as a mirror, so I cannot be sure if the feeling I have of my boots becoming my feet, my armour becoming my body, is true.

I carry my gun.

In the distance sometimes, beyond that horizon line upon which my gaze is centred, I catch sight of brief fires. From the shape they make in the air, I can guess at the causes, I can work out by exactly how far I should avoid that zone in order to resist recrimination, or toxic contact. I have not shot at another being in weeks.

I carry my gun.

I have not seen another being in weeks. I have heard no voices, save for the old-time scratchings of Dylan in my head. No plowman digs this earth. No businessman around to drink the wine. In fact, no wine. No grapes.

I carry my gun.

I wonder if I am to be viewed as an outlaw now. If there is any place to which I can return and sleep and eat and remember with a roof above my head and four walls around me. With mud as my skin and boots as my feet, I travel through this marshland watching will o’ the wisp lights explode and maim and ruin everything beyond the line across my vision that demarcates the surface of the world. The one line across which I never seem to cross. The helicopters are beyond that line, I think, and I am listening for them always, underneath the Dylan song, underneath the fish and bird noises made by the soles of my feet in the mud of the swamp that I never leave.

I carry my gun.

It is fully loaded, I know, I check, but it feels lighter every day. It feels lighter and seems to tremble sometimes, as though it is hungry, as though it is starving for something. I still have enough rations left in my pack, but it is making me hungrier too. It is making me feel hungrier and lighter and lonelier. I have a dry-mud taste on my lips with this hunger. I wish that I could find some other beings. I wish that I could cross the horizon and find some other beings.

I carry my gun.

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