Moment of Truth

There was a lot more blood than he expected.

The slugs were frangible, purpose-forged to shatter on impact. The wide bore of the rifle also meant a heavy load, so it disgorged brittle fists of metal that splattered on their targets and erupted into clouds of razor-sharp shrapnel. The results, especially on soft tissue, were never pleasant. He had only fired his weapon on dummy targets in practice, and only once had the company sprung for the “real flesh” mannequins, the ones with the gel-filled silicone coverings that were supposed to simulate living beings. The only thing they had simulated was a quasi-scientific look at how various rounds of ammunition behaved when they hit bloodless and inert material. Living, breathing, and thinking creatures were another matter altogether.

“Turns ’em into dead and brainless things that don’t breathe at all,” he thought, still in shock from his first kill. He dimly recalled a warning about the psychological effect of taking a life; how the sudden realization of the act could stop a soldier dead in their tracks and open an excellent opportunity for any remaining enemies to strike. Miraculously, the battle raging on around him was oblivious to his petrifying epiphany, the screams of the dying muted as though underwater, and he swam in the moment where he had gone from being Josef Han, ordinary dude and father of three, regular working man who had signed on for military duty when he couldn’t find work that suited his trade, to merciless killer.


He stood there in the middle of the battlefield, his fevered brain making every attempt to come to grips with the bloodied pulp of what had once been another person cooling at his feet. Cooling on his feet, he noted with distant disgust, and then saw that his hands were automatically recharging his rifle. It was all happening in slow motion; the slide pulling down in a smooth conditioned movement that he had drilled hundreds, if not thousands, of times. It was important to pull the slide all the way back, until it thumped against its limit, and he felt a new slug shuttle into place. He wondered with vague disinterest whether he would still be able to get into heaven.

“Of course you will,” he told himself. “Them’s the enemy. They evil.” Reality spun back up to its normal speed, and he shouldered the heavy weapon to sight down on another charging target. A light squeeze of the trigger and a soft chuff from the rifle, accompanied by a brief flash of yellow light, and the snarling face of his attacker disappeared forever.

“They evil,” he repeated, working the slide, “and I’m the righteous fire.”

2015.03.31 – 2023.10.22

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