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Drugged On Vengeance
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Drugged On Vengeance
A son, father and uncle, poisoned by sweet stories of victory, courage and honour, decide to join the ranks of the army and become heroes.
[1,408 words]
Jack M Brown
19, studying Mathematics at Southampton University.
[April 2005]
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Drugged On Vengeance
Jack M Brown

Muted sunlight slipped through the clouds and gleamed brightly off the slender dagger in Neko's hand. I remember that image well. How godlike and wise in his suffering for his people, in how his power rust and corrupted to blacken his love, how he wept for his own blood trodden into the ground … as he stood over his son on that grassy field, as he stood over that fallen soldier, that fallen warrior, his child.

Vengeance can be such a satisfying thing. It can warp, distil and drug the strongest of wills to its heel. That is what it did to your father, to your brother, to his son … to me. Even your mother … and she understood the drug more than any other did having seen such things before, she saw it work its poison, she recognised its black slime that poured over and drowned the town, she saw what was to come. No wonder she sat back and watched, and wept. Everyone must face that desperate yearning; that adrenaline shot of needing pain, of wanting to inflict … your mother knew she could never hope to keep such dangerous drugs of the mind away from your brother; even her love for him could not do that. So she let it take hold, she let it find its grip, and then with one forceful tug, one great tearing through skin and bone and blood, our hearts were His.

The soldiers marched through the storm toward the town, their heads low, their faces sodden from the pelting rain, their boots trudging knee deep through thick mud. It looked like they were trying to get through a valley of melted chocolate. They brought such sweetness with them, such tasty morsels to soothe and melt in the mouth, such truffles of wonder and, true, horror, but revenge was honey-suckling confection like none other: a lasting taste between the teeth, a sugar lump of coppery blood.

They brought stories of glory and many of pain, of suffering, of other towns such as this that were shook to their foundations, burnt, blackened, you could taste the soot from these soldiers’ breath, you could smell the thick clouds of smoke that were carried in their old clothes. Even the lowliest infant could smell the dried blood that held torn woollen shirts together. These soldiers smelt of death.

Yet this was not the blood of our own, this was the blood of enemies in conflict waged past … and these were simple people like us, simple farmers with simple values, simple people with great heroic stories to tell … and we wanted it. They told of a battle to come, of a great field bathed in blood to end all wars, of green grass flecked with crimson, of heroes and villains, of great, lumbering, perfect combat. Vengeance, you too could have vengeance, they said. Make something of your lives, join us, join our ranks, join us with swords and armour and let us do battle together, let us tear down our enemies on that great field, join our ranks and taste their blood between your teeth like we have, exact vengeance on those who have hurt us and would do us further harm.

We lapped it up like dogs with water on a hot day. The cool rain crashed about the windows and we sat in the tavern, your father, brother and I, our nostrils flared with the warm air of the flickering fire, our mouths dry with frothy ale held before us. We sat silent for many minutes, your father and I, lolling over the idea to take up arms and defend our land from an unseen aggressor, from an army we knew had done wrong to many towns like ours. Vengeance, you too could have vengeance. Your brother’s mind was already made, but he was young and hardy, ready for a fight he believed to be just. The temptation … no, lust, for power, for blood, for great stories, to become a hero like none other, was too great for his young mind, was too potent a drug.

Your father went to protect the boy, and I went to protect your father. Alas, so much for that last charge, so much for that last employment. We took the rain in hand and crossed the town, our soggy clothes brought up to our chins, our hair straggling across our faces, our hearts brimming with the tales of war and blood from the bottom of a tankard, our thoughts glazed with retribution, revenge … vengeance. We went straight to your mother and somehow, bless her, with her home smelling of delicate lavender, a vase of her favourite bluebells on the table, green stalks holding up a deep blue sky … somehow she knew what we would say, she knew what was coming … she had sat down already, the news daunting her like hearing that we were already dead. Perhaps she knew something we did not.

The morning was rich with the smell of displaced earth, thick with the probing air after a thunderstorm, the leaves and grass appearing more green than I ever saw them … but the blood from the weary soldiers no longer smelt of needing vengeance, of victory or of honourable and holy battle, instead pungent and sour like a morning sickness, of a diseased health, and once again they smelt of death. We joined their ranks.

Vengeance … it smelt more of misery now, of grey skies and bittersweet tears, of hearts broken and loves lost, of unrequited love. Where had that sweetness of chocolate gone to? How could we have been so deceived? Stories were no longer of heroes and villains, of great battles, of perseverance in the sight of loss, of life in the sight of death, but of despair, horror, blood, bones and of the loss of friends, of the disappearance of everything holy, of the waste of life. We had joined a troop of skeletons heading toward the great fiery mouth of hell, furnace of the dead.

I felt your brother’s fear as we stood on that great, golden field, unspoilt as yet, holding the two great armies in the palm of its hand, biding its time for the moment when it would bunch up its fingers and crush all. I felt your brother’s fear as he put on a brave face, trying to smile even, knowing full well that your father and I were only there because he was, because his hotheadedness had brought us to the green, because his youthful hardiness, his willingness to fight, his want to suck on the juices of the drug, to place that sugar lump on the back of his tongue and let it soothe his blood thirst, because he had not given a thought to his father or uncle and that he knew that we could all die, no wonder he was scared.

We listened to one last sweet story, one last great lie for a great battle, one last effort to distort our minds, one last taste and touch, like that of bear flesh, of one more thrust, of one more suck … we shall fight on this holy ground, this battlefield, this green that shall drink our blood and be merry, and we shall live on, ever fighting, till our land is retaken. We listened, we lapped it up and then we fought, crazed on sweet, sweet morsels, crumbs, enough to keep us going. We fought like those great warriors we envisaged, those that we heard so much about. We died like them too.

Muted sunlight slipped through the clouds and gleamed brightly off the slender dagger in Neko's hand. I remember that image well. On the ground was your brother, bloodied, the grass flecked with crimson as we were told it would be, the earth drinking his blood like we had drunk the stories of vengeance. Before I could stop him, Neko ran back into the fray of the battle and that was the last I saw of him, that was the end of your father.

I trudged away from that carnage carrying your brother over my shoulder, my boots slipping up to the knees in mud left from the rain, my clothes torn, foreign blood drying and entwining with the sinews of my makeshift armour, my own sweat and blood between my teeth and like a final rush of sugar from the chocolate it kept me going. It kept me trudging on homeward.



"You definately have a way with desrciption.But when I read a story I like to get something out of it.I don't get anything from this piece except a well desrcibed battlefield.If that was what you were trying to accomplish then well done, but if you were trying to convey some type of message then I didn't get it." -- Dave.
"It's supposed to explore the myth of honour on the battlefield and the 'eye for an eye' way of thinking, which can drive many to do the wrong thing." -- Jack.
"Wow, Jack, I didn't know you had this kind of writing in you. This was so well described. Most of the stories I've read of yours don't seem to aspire to this kind of description. But I gather now that you were just writing like that on purpose, either that or you have been secretly slaving over the last few months polishing this aspect of your craft. I personally seem to have so much trouble showing and not telling. And I could definitely see a message or central theme to this piece. Good job." -- Michael Harris, Detroit, MI.
"Yep, I've had the nose to the grind-stone. Cheers" -- Jack.
"Your response to Dave is good because it was not condescending. However, like most pacifists, your cynicism and obvious disdain for war (the "myth of honor" on the battlefield) merely mimics the rhetoric of naive' anti-war sentimentalists who I'm sure would love this piece. This could have been a civil war battle or perhaps another war, no matter, but what was their alternative? To walk away and forgive the enemy? To wait until another town or village was revaged? Or maybe just run and hide hoping the enemy will go away. Tentativeness and uncertainty cause more deaths in war than vengeance and fear. You do not enter a battle with half-assed notions. You must feel justified or you will surely perish. Vindication and retribution are goals. Vengeance is merely another motivating factor. The sad part of civil war is that the label of agressor can be applied to both sides. " -- Richard.


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© 2005 Jack M Brown
July 2005

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