back with a vengeance
On forum: 07/31/2003
Can anyone tell me what is humanity? What is it like to be human? What seperate us from being one of "them", the animals of (very much) lesser intelligence? Because I have forgotten. Because I have lived in the Zone for too long. The desire to just to be alive at the end of the day has occupied my mind for so long, I no longer remember what is it like to be... me.
People say The Zone is hell. People say a lot of things. When you enter The Zone, the devil took away your humanity from you. The moment you step into chaotic scene of this night club called The Zone the bouncer rob you of your identity in the world outside The Zone. You go in as a person, a human with principles. You come out - if you come out at all with your pocket full of roublesm you come out a new man with no morals, an empty shell of terrible memories as if you have undergone a complete metamorphosis under the devil's direction. I guess that's what The Zone trains us to be - people with no morals. Simply because The Zone is no place for morals.
Is morals what exclude us from being called an animal, then? What is an animal precisely? What makes us different than them, intelligence? Cognition? Ability to improvise to find a way to make killing easier? Humanity? And if the answer is humanity, then what is of us here in The Zone, people who live by the sword and die by the sword, and doing everything they like in between without the check of what define us as "intelligent lifeform"? And are we stalkers not worse than animals? We kill not for food, but for survival in a situation that we create ourself by advocating the use of guns to solve our differences in the Zone. Beasts require no law to govern their behaviour; in times of anarchy such as that in The Zone we stalkers do not hesistate to put hollowpoints into the head of people who we perceive as danger or an obstacle in archieving something we want, simply no law exist to forbid us to do so. If there is such a law, then I guess it must has been a good laugh while it lasted.
Are we not worse than animals? Or even the mutants of The Zone?
People may say everyone in The Zone is different, that no one is ever the same. That everyone behaves differently, has different ethics and principles. Then how do you set the guideline to differentiate people from being immoral? How do you know that there is even a man of morality still exists in The Zone? When is the last time you heard of anyone who, upon seeing a dead body, proceed to give the deceased a decent burial in The Zone without the fear of being shot to pieces by an ambushing brigand in The Zone eager to make quick money? In the bloodiest of war the worst in people is brought out, yet at least the dead are given a quick burial so that bodies don't have to rot and become the feast of beasts, at least an effort is made to notify the next of kin the status of the dead. In The Zone you better leave that to God, if yuo're lucky and if your companions would fork out time to do such mundane task.
No one is a moral individual in The Zone. Period. Deep down, every stalker is as guilty as sin, what makes every one of us different is how we are willing to let our dark side obvious to everyone around us. Just like how Dr Jekyl is willing to unleash his alter ego Mr Hyde under the cover of the night, when no one would check or care.
Here I was, waiting in the dark. The only source of light came from the moon, and right now the moon was doing it's job terribly. Not far away, furious gun shots were exchanged, grenades joining in the choir of death . That had been going on for the last 5 hours. I knew nothing of the progress of the conflict, only to know that "when it's over, you will be notify by radio". So far the radio had remain silent. The rapid burst of light was still very much alive not far away. It was far from over.
My dirty hands gripped the AK-74 tightly. A bayonet hang in front, it's razor-shape edged ready to do its grim duty on short notice.
I was told to watch this area just before my clan started its attack on this area. The gang of stalkers I belonged to has a grudge with the gang of people we were attacking now... over a Geiger counter, would you believe it? Apparently one of my comrade found it first, one member from the clan happened to see it too and decided to get it by hook or by crook to get it sold to The Dealer for a measley 50 roubles, if that was how much he got. The body of my comrade found the morning this morning explained what had happened.
All I was told, was that they would force them to retreat via this route, and my job was to finish them off. Simple as that.
It was almost 8 o'clock now, my watch told me. It was supposed to take only 2 hours. My clan leader had been over-confident again. And for the last 5 hours all I had done was laying prone in the dense bush, waiting for the unfortunate soul or souls to pass through before I sent them to the deity they believe in.
It started to rain.
Rain was supposed to be a symbolic change for the better, after a hot day in the "real" world. The air is cleaned after a shower, the streets devoid of rubbish that is conveniently flowed into the drain, and so on. In The Zone , rain was anything but welcomed, and the heavy downpour was synonymous to severely reduced vision.
Footsteps. I heard footsteps. Twigs were broken as somone in a hurry ran . The sound came from in front of me. The prey was coming directly at me. I slowly brought my gun to bear.
I was unable to see the stalker clearly in the rain, but his height and physical appearance suggested someone in his forties. He was not running as a young fit man should be, yet he doesn't have the frail body of a man in his fifties either. There was a LR-300 M-16-clone in his hands. Perhaps someone with a family somewhere? I didn't really care. As long as the man didn't spot me, as long as the odds was not turned on me I don't really give a damn about him. It was either him or me losing a chance to prove myself.
As the person ran closer to me, my heart pumped faster. Adrenalin. It was my finest moment. Every day was my finest moment.
He ran right beside me. With a quick swing, my bayonet cut into the man's heels. Even before he screamed he was already on his way down to the ground. The moment he crashed into the ground I used the butt of my gun to push his arnament away. Quickly I got on my feet. My bayonet was primed, and I find myself kicking into a robotic, numb state. My hands were clockwork. The bayonet plunged deep into the liver, the lungs, and the stomach of the poor man in front of me. He didn't stand a chance, he would bleed to death even before help could arrive in the nick of time.
The man tried to say something, scream even, for his mouth was forming an "o" shape. But blood gurgled faintly in his throat. He gasped for every breath, even as blood slowly climbs up his windpipes and into his mouth. He was dying.The man's eyes locked into mine. They said "I'm done for."
And then I saw his hands moving. He was reaching into his bloodied coat. Reaching for a pistol. Instinctively I kicked his elbows with full force. It's amazing how tenacious one can be to perserve his own life.
What came out are a wallet and an envelope wrapped in plastic. I was surprised.
He seemed to point both item at me. With painful motion he slowly opened the wallet, revealing a wad of cash. And then he pointed at the envelope. It all suddenly made sense - you can have the money, just help me please, a dying man's wish.
Then, he coughed blood in a violent manner, and then weak spasms overtook his body. He was dead. Even as the rain poured on his blood slowly seeped into the nearby puddle, I was standing next to this body, confused and uncertain of what I should next.
I looked at the envelope. The wallet was already in my pocket. The dead body was partially hidden not far away. The rain was working in my favour, and my potential preys who were probably running for their lives would probably not see it until it was too late.
The envelope was addressed. There were stamps even. All ready to be sent out.
Who could this mail be fore? A mother in wait? A wife eager to see his husband returning? Kids whose sole support were their father who was now dead? Something told me hints were in the wallet. Inside it I found the black-and-white photo of a woman holding a baby girl, and even so the photo itself was quickly detereorating. Must had been taken quite long ago. 4, 5 years ago? The family must be very anxious to hear from him then. The letter then must be explaining why this man, husband and father, would no longer be coming home for Christmas or whatever event special to them. Must be a letter of great importance to his man. I was morally oblinged to send them... or was I?
What is being morally right means anyway? What good would it give you? Does it give you any advantage in The Zone? Does it give me any respect? Doing good is supposed to make you feel good... but what is feeling good good for anyway? A healthy psyche? When is the last time you hear someone with a healthy psyche still walking in The Zone? People with a healthy psyche would have much preferred to be a streetsweeper then being a a killer like me.
And why should I send it on the basis of this man paying me anyway? It meant nothing, I could have looted it from his dead body anyway.
The rain had now stopped. No one came.
"Janis, they're all dead. We have casualty ourselves, but the enemy is no more. You see anything?"
"1 kill", I responded, in broken English. "Man who is afraid running, I kill him with knife in front of gun."
"Good going, Kaczlowski. Excellet job. Return and rejoin, there's a bit of loot for you too. Out."
I looked at the mail again. Then I took out my cigarette lighter and carefully lit the corner of the envelope. I watched as the flame slowly danced up, consuming the envelope and its content and turning them into ashes. The dead man must had written a lot of pages of words in his letter, for it took the flame quite a while to completely burn the mail off, but when it did I let it go off my hands, and stomped the letter onto the moist ground.
I left telling myself it was an amoral decision as I left my hideout to join my friends. The body was left behind, unburied. The beasts of the Zone would take care of it, otherwise nature would. It's none of by business. Life had to go own. It was how everyone lived.
I took out a vodka bottle, and took a deep gulp from my hand. Another day, another bottle of vodka. That's how I drown conscience.
Great, independant Iraq War journalism: http://michaelyon.blogspot.com/
From the halls of Montezuma To the shores of Tripoli'
We fight our countrys battles In the air', on land, and sea.
First to fight for right and freedom , And to keep our honor clean,
We are proud to claim the title Of United States Marines.
Our flags unfurl'd to every breeze From dawn to setting sun';
We have fought in every clime and place Where we could take a gun.
In the snow of far-off northern lands And in sunny tropic scenes,
You will find us always on the job - The United States Marines.
Here's health to you and to our Corps Which we are proud to serve;
In many a strife we've fought for life And never lost our nerve.
If the Army and the Navy Ever gaze on Heaven's scenes,
They will find the streets are guarded By United States Marines. - US Marines Hymn