by Makishef

Five Instances in the Life of a Perfect Soldier

One: The Burden.

Your fingers clutch at the sheets, and the nightmares consume you. The faces of the dead rise up to meet your seared and lidless eyes, and their gazes are blank with confusion -- they don't even recognize you, their murderer. The world sways about you, fire and ice and poison all wrapped into one painful, thrumming wad of human nerves.

Your mouth is open, but you make no sound. But there is a strange croaking in the background, and maybe that is you, that primal sound of animal fear. Your face cannot contort; there is no snarling rictus, no drawn eyebrows or sunken cheeks for you. No, you are perfect, and you are deadly, and you are damned for eternity.

Zero -- nothing, nobody, nameless and faceless and hopeless. This is you. Perhaps you, like that complex creature you guide, are able to predict things. Your future is full of destruction: more deaths, more faces, more guilt, more nightmares, and all so strangers can have a life better than yours.

You want nothing to do with strangers.

You wake up to stained sheets and muzzy lethargy licking through your body.


Two: Damnation.

Your fingers curl at the handle of your gun, and you cradle it to you like a child that just might bite, hair dripping sweat into your eyes. But you're perfectly still, awaiting your opportunity to add another face to the neverending hoards of them.

You're careful, squeezing the trigger with a tenderness you don't show humans, and the first enemy soldier falls. You want to close your eyes, stave off that glimpse of his face you know you'll get, but you don't have time for that. The second bullet follows quickly, before his companion can react.

You are grateful that this mission relies so heavily on timing, else you might be tempted to linger, turn the bodies over and look into their faces, carry the weight of another two souls on your narrow shoulders.

You rush headlong toward your next goal, and you save looking back for later, when you have ample time to grasp futilely at redemption that will never come.


Three: The Fall.

You catch sight of one of them: his hair is dark and his skin is golden and he moves like a serpent. He is exotic, graceful, but there is a frisson of tension -- fear, perhaps -- chasing up and down his spine like the caress of a lover.

You catch sight of one of them: he looks like a child, eyes huge and face ashen, with delicate hands you know are made to hold the shapely body of a violin, to coax beauty from something soulless; those hands were not made for machines and weaponry.

You catch sight of one of them: he is quiet, like you, but his stoicism is his sanity when yours is only the mask of it. Of them all, you understand him the least, despite your similarities. His eyes remind you of moss on the underside of a boulder, for he is patient the way you are not.

You catch sight of one of them: his madness is your madness. It floats around him as he moves, flashing in his eyes and the white of his teeth when he smiles that almost-smile, that almost-grimace. You think of falling when you see him, and there is a painful twist in your gut.


Four: Release.

You escape with your body intact, but you are not whole. You have not been whole for a long time, but perhaps you would never have realized this if he had not come to you to prove what could be.

The first time he crawled into your bed, your lips met the sickeningly sweet taste of him, and the two of you fumbled. Your hands slid over hot skin while he hurt you, failed to breach your heavy shields, but you didn't begrudge him for it when he spent himself between your thighs and not inside you. After all, he made it up when he slid fingers over you and pulled you into his oblivion.

You gave yourself over easily.


Five: Redemption.

You wrap him in your madness, and he fills you with his own, and sometimes it's nearly enough to make you forget the chasm within you, but only while he is near. It aches, emptier than ever, every time he leaves again.

You have never been dependent, and you have never been left wanting. Or you had not, until you met him. His madness lets him change the rules, but the one he cannot bend is that it is fair for you to do the same.

He calls you his savior, and you whisper to him that he is yours.

He, too, has somehow learned to coax beauty from a soulless object.

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