Speaks and Walks (Chronicle)
This is the soldier, a man who stands clear of others.
Whatever brought him here is of no concern to anyone but himself, and those he encounters on a daily basis are either utterly disinterested in the subject, if they're doing their damn jobs properly, or barely coherent long enough even to voice it, if the soldier is doing his.
Besides, there really is blessed little point in thinking about it, let alone voicing it to other soldiers, not in a life that is filled to the brim with action and movement and devotion to an endless cause. He got here, through difficult times, and now that he is here, he is at one and the same time disconnected from the world around him, and more intimately connected to it than anyone he knew in his past life. He is never truly alone, and in the fugue of endless motion where he spends almost every waking moment, he feels sacrosanct.
His weapons are an extension of himself, as they are with any even half-decent soldier in whatever army you care to name. A weapon that isn't an extension of you is wielded only for show. But in this case, he himself is also part of the weaponry, and not all soldiers can make that claim. The weapon is not what he holds in his hands, aims and fires; that's merely the outward evidence it even exists. Nor is it what he moves and blinks and breathes, which is but a vessel for the weapon, a holster and a shell. It is the inexorable movement itself, this constant pressing onward, of him and of him and of him, storming like hail.
He is aware that he is loved. And yes, the people love him, at least the ones he sees on the sidelines. Asteroid colonists, planetside tribes, old and new civilizations: When he has time to look around, in places he isn't being sent to ravage, he is inundated with feelings of relief and salvation. But there is a deeper love, too; not from a sentient being so much as from the perceptual universe in which he exists. He is alive and has a purpose, and the world he sees around him is devoted to maintaining both of those conditions for as long as possible. If this is not the purest kind of love, then he does not know what is.
The others like him, they feel the same way, at least so far as he can intuit. Salvation is not a common topic of conversation. They are bound by their allegiance to a faction, and from what he can tell, they all do feel that allegiance - but it, too, is not often spoken of. There is a duty to the inhabitants of whatever blasted, war-torn surface they're rushing over at that point in time, but that duty is even more intangible. It's there while it's there, and then they're somewhere else. Their primary duty is to the endless onrush itself, to honor it by maintaining it, and in so doing, save themselves, from past lives and misdeeds and regrets.
He does not know what he did to earn this, but he will try all he can to repay it until the end of his days.
This is the soldier, a man who stands clear.
Whatever brought him here, he is occasionally unclear of. Those he encounters on a daily basis are either utterly disinterested in the subject and focused instead on trying to do their damn jobs properly, or barely coherent long enough to voice anything at all, though the soldier increasingly finds that he cannot silence them fast enough.
There is blessed little point in thinking about his situation, he fears, let alone voicing it to other soldiers, not in a life that is supposed to be filled to the brim with action and movement and devotion to an endless cause. He got here, through difficult times, but now that he is here, he is starting to feel increasingly disconnected from the world around him, and instead rather uncomfortably connected to a past life he is no longer sure is entirely his. He is never truly alone, a situation that unnerves him more with every waking moment, and he is beginning to wonder if he is cursed.
It is not that he feels broken; rather, he simply does not feel right. In the past, he had withstood the submersion into his vastness of his life because it also had a tether. Now he feels as if he has passed down the chasm into increasing darkness, and if the tether still exists, he is no longer entirely sure what is on the other end of it. He wields his weapons, and he looks at them as he fires, as if they were in the hands of someone else entirely.
He wonders if he is someone else, entirely.
Whatever person he is, it doesn't seem to be the one who holds in his hand, aims, and fires his weapon, nor is it what moves and blinks and breathes. The only proof that he still exists from moment to moment lies in the motion, this constant pressing forth, and so he storms onward, in creeping fear of the moment where it's no longer him, him, him.
He is aware that he is admired. And yes, people look to him as a flickering beacon, at least the ones he sees on the sidelines. Asteroid colonists, planetside tribes, old and new civilizations: When he has the semblance of mind to look around, in places where he doesn't feel ravaged, he is inundated with feelings of other people's relief and salvation. But there is a deeper sentiment, too; not from a separate pack of sentient beings so much as from whatever exists in his own head, be it perceptual or not: It is alive and it has a purpose, and the world he sees around him is in some fashion devoted to maintaining both of those conditions for as long as possible. Whatever this is, he doesn't quite know any longer.
Those of the others who are like him, at least so far as he can intuit, appear to feel the same way. Sanity is not a common topic of conversation. They are bound by their allegiance to their faction, and from what he can tell they all do still feel that allegiance - but it's not often spoken of, and their duty to the inhabitants of whatever hellhole they're rushing over at any point in time is growing even more intangible and nebulous. It's there while it's there, and when they're somewhere else, it feels uncomfortably distant and inapplicable to their lives. Their primary duty is to keep the rush going, to honor it by maintaining it, and in so doing, save themselves, from their lives and worries and fears.
This is the soldier, a man who stands alone.
Whatever brought him here no longer matters, and if he ever thinks of it, in a life that is filled with blasting noise and stomping movement and endless impact that reverberates through everything around him, he does so in the rare company of silence. Those he encounters, he finds utterly incomprehensible. He is barely coherent enough even to voice his thoughts most of the time.
There is no thinking about his situation, nor speaking to the other soldiers. His life is a series of barely coherent flashing images, sound and fury, the cause of which seems endless and unstoppable. He got here, and in these increasingly difficult times he has lost the connection to anything and anyone he knew. Sometimes - in blessed, sacred moments - he is alone, part of nothing and beholden to no one. The rest of the time, he is living the life of some other being that inhabits him, with no solitude and nothing but a haze of constant motion, like a puppet being yanked on by its strings.
During his lucid moments, he feels like he's being wielded by some other creature, in battle and daily life. When he opens his mouth, he truly does not know whether the words that come out - if he can bring himself to speak at all - will make any sense to him. When he walks, he doesn't know whether he may turn, or stop, or fall to his knees. He is rapidly becoming useless, a weapon wielded only for show. At most he can move and blink and breathe - the rest of his existence belongs to a force that he does not understand.
His dreams are of other places, and incorporate memories he knows he did not used to have. When he eats, he wonders what it would be like not to eat; when he drinks, not to drink; when he moves, to stop.
He is aware that he is feared. And yes, the people cower from him, at least the ones he sees on the sidelines. They know what he is capable of, which is more than he can say. Asteroid colonists, planetside tribes, old and new civilizations: When he sees them, he doesn't know whether they are truly there, or merely figments of the other entity's imagination. He has ways of finding out, and they work well to ground him, but those are only a temporary salve, and the relief is so fleeting when he's inundated in blood. There is a deeper fear that envelops him, too; not merely what he senses from other people, but from the thing inside him, which for all the world may be an actual sentient being. If it is, if it is alive like him and has a purpose, then he cannot see how he can possibly maintain those conditions for very long.
There are other soldiers, and the few of them who are like him are exactly like him. Everyone else treats them like they're seriously ill, which the soldier supposes is probably true, and like they're a danger to themselves and others, which the soldier knows for a fact is entirely true. Desertion is not a common topic of conversation. Sometimes, people just disappear. Whether it's of their own volition, or if their commanding faction has eliminated them from the war entirely, he doesn't know. When it comes to their superiors, information is not freely shared, nor is aid or sympathy. Their allegiance is now to themselves more than anything, and their primary duty is not to lose the tattered shreds of their goddamned minds.
This is no longer a soldier. He is his own man.
What brought him here is crystal clear. Those he encounters on a daily basis may ask him questions, and he will answer to the best of his ability, but for the most part he simply tries to do his job properly. Their voices are the only ones he hears; the one in his head is gone, at last. He does not miss it, though he does miss something like its echo. The silence it left behind is so complete, it's hard to fill.
He thinks about his past life on occasion, and talks about it to those he works with. Theirs is not a life filled to the brim with action and movement, but it does come with renewed devotion. He got here, through difficult times, and now that he is here, he is at one and the same time unconcerned with the world around him, and more at peace with it than he ever was in his past life. He is among friends now, and after the fugue of motion that was his recent past, he relishes the sense of stillness.
His weapons are still in use, because he chooses to employ them, but he could lay them down at a moment's notice and walk away forever. That knowledge keeps him going; that if the moment ever arrives where he wants to let go, all his weaponry will be only for show. It will not be held in his hand, to be aimed and fired, and it will not be inside him, moving and blinking and breathing, trying to push its way out through the cracks in his mind. In that way, even though he still fights, he is moving on, and it's only him, him, him and nothing else.
He is aware of himself now, free of noise, and to his continued surprise he finds that he bears a lot of love in his heart. Asteroid colonists, planetside tribes, old and new civilizations: He periodically takes the time to look around, if only to appreciate the life he's made and the lives he's touched. The relief he feels, at the salvation from his past existence, is palpable. There is a deeper appreciation, too, now that what felt like an alien, sentient being has been removed from the perceptual universe in which he exists. He is alive, and thanks to his training, his experience, and the clean technology now inside his head, he still has a purpose. If this is not the purest kind of life, then he does not know what is.
The others like him, they feel the same way. It's a common topic of conversation. They are bound by nothing and no one. He serves himself. If there is an immediate duty, it is to whoever is hiring them at that moment, to run over whatever blasted, war-torn surface is in front of them. But there is a greater, primary duty that is even less tangible and far more pressing. It is to the memory of that past life, of the endless onrush, of the breakaway moment in which they saved themselves from the endless cycle of lives and madness. And it is to the forces who put him in that position, knowing full well what it would do to him.
He does not know what he did to earn it, but he will do everything in his power to pay them back for that, until the end of his days.
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