note: the next draft will be draft three.



The Gladiator Book2:

Whenever I’ve died it’s always been the same. When I was living I’d like it for awhile, but then get tired of it. And when I was dead I’d feel trapped by the waiting. Not waiting as in time going by, you know how it is when your dead, there is no time. But waiting as in let me get past another hurdle, another life, let me get one step closer to getting out of it. Fuck that, let me get 1000 light years closer. But it’s not time it’s lifetimes you gotta clear. How many lives had I lived by now, trillions? I can’t take this anymore, I want to get outta here so bad I’ll take anything. And just like that I got it, one of those lifetimes that comes along every 10 million lifetimes or so. When I started dreaming again I dreamed that I was a soldier.

But this time it wasn’t just my dream. We are all connected sure, but he was as much the dreamer of my dream as me. His conflicted with mine, adding truths as uncomfortable as they were undeniable. So, how do I tell my story without telling his? How can I tell you of the transformation from the man I never was, toward my truth that we all are without telling how he did it? One is not possible without the other. Our story is not one of doing, but one of undoing. He told me as much. He said, “You cannot do this without me, but together we have already undone it.” But done it, undone what? I am forgetting again. Let me tell this while I still can.

As I said, I was born a soldier this time. I’d already done two tours in Nam, but barely six months into my third somehow the war came to an end. In my last battle I got the shit blown outta me in on a hill outside of Denag. I wasn’t a real soldier anymore I was an assain by then. I had just come out of the jungle where I’d smoked some guy command thought was a spy for the VC. I was hold up at some shit hole outpost north of Denang waiting to be choppered back to HQ for debrief when the gooks hit and the little fuckers hit us hard. I didn’t mind the chance to kill more gooks, but it was a close one. The gooks poured over shitty sand bag walls and into the base. By the time my amo ran out they were so close that I could feel their brains splatter on my face. The last one I got, I stuck him to my elbow with the bayonet. I could smell his bad breath and hear the dry raspy sound that came outta his throat. See, I never minded killing people, I liked it. I didn’t really mind if they killed me either, then or now. The difference is that then I didn’t give a shit and now I realize that nothing really matters. Day one of that schooling came just a few minutes after that last raspy stinking belch of hot air left the gook’s lungs, it was subtle, just a shift in perspective.

Like I said, we were being overrun. The VC were coming outta the ground, and I thought we were gonna buy it , when all of a sudden the shit hit us. I could hear the screeching sound of our own jets and remember thinking they’re dumping it all right on top of us, right here, right now. I was right. The last thing I saw was a wall of fire rising from the jungle that looked just like the fountains at Cesar Palace as the concussion sucked rather than blew my eardrums out. I was out cold, but I could feel the bombing like a dull blade trying to cut through my unconsciousness, going on for hours.

When I came to my head was splitting worse than any hangover I’d ever had and there was a lotta blood dripping down my head and arms, I couldn’t make out if I was ok or not. When I tried to get up my legs felt like I’d just run a marathon yesterday. The dirt mixed with gunpowder made a soupy grey haze that you had to swim through and from somewhere farther off I could make out smell of napalm. Napalm blows up and burns orange and black, but everything here in this soup was grey. I was sure I was alone. How could anything survive this? How did I survive it? I finally got up. I figured I’d go to the top and wait things out up there, but I felt someone watching me, watching every aching step I took. I tried to shake it off, but when I saw the outline of a body down the slope behind me, I dropped and started feeling around for a M-16. Jesus my palms hurt just patting the ground. Nothing. I lost sight of it and thought it was my imagination, but then just like that he was behind me again, this time uphill. Now I really wanted something hot, but a knife was all I had. Who the fuck was that? I could make out the dark form through the grey haze perfectly. How’d he get up there so fast? He must not be hurt that bad if at all. Was he here through it all or did he just show up now? I was sure as shit here through it all and I hurt like fuck all over to prove it. I reached down my leg for the knife, but whatever he was it was going to take a lot more than a knife to deal with him.

I was still looking up at him. I couldn’t get over how dark and 2-d he was. I thought I would be able to make out some detail as he got closer. How was he armed? I wanted to know. I never found out. I was staring more into rather than at his dark 2-D shadow when suddenly it was lights out. I wasn’t unconscious That shadow poured itself out into the smoke and dirty air and just swallowed me up. I just couldn’t see a god damn thing. I can’t describe it, but I’ll never forget that feeling. It was more than just being surrounded by darkness it was like I had stepped completely outside of the universe.

I was fucking scared. Like when I was a kid and my stepdad beat the shit out of me and then nailed me inside the doghouse. I remember shivering in there and he’d come by every few hours just to kick on the sides. Then one time he ripped the plywood off just long enough to throw the dog’s head still warm inside. It rolled up in between my legs then the mother fucker nailed up the door and left me there. In the nanosecond when that dog landed between my legs I was more terrified than anyone can stand. I ripped and kicked at the door, but I was too fucking small and weak. I didn’t get out until he passed out and my mother found me. And it was nothing compared to the prolonged terror I felt in that black hole on a napalm blasted hillside in Vietnam. Whatever this was I wasn’t anywhere near ready for it. The last thing I remember was thinking I can’t take this anymore. And then there was no more shadow, no more blackness. I was back in the gray soup with the acrid smell of napalm running up my nostrils. It was weird. It was like it never happened, but I still remembered it. I was glad to be back in the war. I never thought being fire bombed would feel so good. The worst that could happen to me now as I’d get killed. I remembered it but I couldn’t be sure that it had really happened. But before it was over the answer would be so obvious that I wouldn’t ever ask it again.
I woke up on a hospital ship in the Gulf of Tonkin. I was in a huge cargo hold converted into a recovery room. There must have been 100 beds or more and each one was filled with some kid screaming for his mama. Outside I could hear the choppers. I knew that they were evacuating US Embassy personnel. I’m not too bright, but even I could figure out the war was over. This was 1974 and Nixon was pussying out of Nam. Shit, another half step closer to home and nothing to do with the rest of my life. What the fuck was I going to do now, become a bounty hunter? I had to get out of there. I did a quick body check and figured that I could still walk so, I swung my feet over the edge of the bed rails. My feet were bare but I didn’t give a fuck. A nurse started to give me some shit, but I gave her a look that said think again and she did. My legs were ok, I could walk so, I my way top side. At each set of steps I counted my blessings that I was able to climb them. For most of the guys down there all they could do is lay and hurt.

Outside the sun hit my face hard and the wind nearly blew the little flap they gave me to wear up over my head. I didn’t give a shit. It felt good to be up there. First thing I noticed was the thin line of helicopters retreating from Vietnam. I didn’t care about losing the war, but I did hate being left out in the cold. What the fuck am I going to do now, I asked myself again? This time I must’ve muttered it out loud because there was an answer, “Become a bounty hunter”. That kind of frigged me out. It was a civilian walking the other way he said it just as we drew even. I stopped and turned around feeling that fucking flap blowing off my ass again. It was a civilian, an officious looking little prick. The man next to him was a naval officer, but the suit did all the talking.

“Are you Captain Jack Ballard, he asked?” I thought for a second before I answered. Were they gonna debrief me here? “Sure I am. What’s this about?” The two glanced at each other, and then the suit started talking again. “Captain we have a mission for you and you’ll have to take it or leave it right now, before you know what it is. If you take it you’ll be briefed when your ready. Otherwise this conversation never took place.” I muttered something playing for time. “I apologize for the suddenness Captian, but secrecy and time are of the essence here. But if you agree here and now, all of your past transgressions will be forgiven. It seems like a shame to let a man of your tastes and talents go to pasture simply because the war is over.”

“Transgressions,” I muttered. What transgressions”? I looked at him, and then at the officer for just a second, but then back at that creepy little guy in the business suit. “Your transgressions Captain”, he said pausing a long time between words. I was getting a sick feeling that we both knew exactly what he was talking about. He went on.

“Let’s begin with Private Sean Mattingly, Captian”? “Who”, then I knew who. Sean Mattingly I’d forgotten all about him. It was easy for me to do that after I’d killed a man. The suit could see it register on my face. He fucking had me. Mattingly was a stupid little piece of shit who should have kept his mouth shut. Him and his fat fucking girlfriend Todd Olbermann had a bad habit of falling behind on runs. Todd was a fat pig, but he never seemed to lose any weight. To me he just seems to keep getting fatter. It pissed the drill sergeant off any kicked off our asses for it. And that pissed me off! So, after lights out one night I stuck a sock down that fat fuck’s throat and beat his ass. I thought I’d get away with it because I just hit him in his blubber belly and left no marks, but Olbermann ratted me out. I lost it. I made up my mind I’d get that pencil prick back before the end of boot camp and I did it.

The last week of boot camp we spent doing drills deep in the swamps of Louisiana. The swamps and heat were supposed to acclimate us to Vietnam, but it also allowed a space between the sergeant and Olbermann and me. Enough space for me to kill him. I just wanted to do it, I didn’t even give a shit about getting away with it. So, first chance I got I took it. During a live fire exercise one rainy night I put a bullet right in the back of his fucking head. You should’ve seen it open up, just like the watermelon I used to blast when I was a kid. The force shoved his whole body into the mud so deep they almost couldn’t find him. I thought shit sure they’ll know it was me. But this was 1973 and we were going to Vietnam they didn’t even bother to ask. They ruled that an accidental shooting by persons unknown and a week later I was dropping out of a chopper into a hot zone in Vietnam. I hadn’t thought about it since.

“We’ve had eyes on you for a while now”, he said. “We have eyes out for people like you.” What he really meant was that we have weight on you. The sun was in my eyes and I had to squint pretty hard to look at him. “So, what you want from me is to be an assassin?” “oh no” he said in his most bureaucratic way. “We are just a private enterprise in the market for our own bounty hunter”. Private enterprise my ass, and I knew that bounty hunter met assassin. So, of course I took the job. There was no need to lean on me. I’d killed people for free so, to get paid for murder, to me that sounded real nice. And that’s how it happened. Standing on deck in my pajamas at the wind blowing around my ass I became a professional assassin.

I stayed on the hospital ship for about a week, getting better. Other guys came and went, some in body bags, but the ship stayed just off the coast of Vietnam moving north as best I can figure. What were we waiting for? The choppers that had been ferrying men and material offshore where gone now, but we stayed. Why? A week later and we were still there. I felt like an ass hole doing laps around the deck while guys were screaming and dying inside. But we stayed another week. They offloaded more patients and bodies onto a troop carrier and I was practically the only one aboard, but we stayed put just doing circles in the Gulf of Tonkin.

One day as I was on the aft having a smoke and catching some rays some sailor came by to take me to that creepy little civilian. I followed him into the tubular maze that was the guts of the ship. You could always hear the hollow sound of footsteps that sounded different than they did in the ground. He took me down crisscrossing cobweb of metal steps into the bowels in of the ship. He opened the door and I stepped into a cabin about 20 feet square. There was a general, an Army captain, a naval officer. With all that brass in there you’d better believe that I gave the smartest salute I could. I never really looked at him, but he was there too, that little creep. The captain introduced himself but I honestly don’t remember his name and the general, well I’m not supposed to say his. The civilian’s, to this day I still don’t know it. I was told to stand at ease.

We were all standing just inside the doorway, but the general lead the way and they all follow him to a table and sat down. I remained standing. “You’re rated as a sniper. Is that correct?” “yes sir” I responded to the captain. “Can you use a 50 caliber? Yes sir, I sure can sir,” I said. “What’s the range on that thing,” the captain asked. “Well sir, I’ve hit a melon from a mile out before.” Everyone broke out laughing, but it died when that little civilian fuck started in. “So, it must have been really easy plucking off Olbermann. How far were you about 20 yards?” I cleared my throat and started to answer, but fuck it, I don’t have to answer to civilians. Then the captain asked so, I cleared my throat again and said, “Sir I have no recollection of that event.” Why the fuck did they keep bringing that up? What did they want me to do so badly that they had to blackmail me into it. They don’t have to blackmail me into killing anyone. There was a long silence. It was the general who broke it, “how are you feeling now son? Are you fit for duty?” “Sir? The war is over sir?” The general told me to sit down and I did. Then general offered me a drink and I took it.

Five hours later I was staring at a wallet sized picture of the North Vietnamese Colonel. This was the man they wanted me to kill, threatened to charge me with murder if I didn’t. On the chopper inbound all I could ask myself was why? I was headed to a spot in North Vietnam that I only knew as coordinates on a map. I didn’t know the terrain or my way around, all I knew it was going to be hot. Why did they wait to the war was over to try to kill this man, payback? Why was it bugging me? Was it because the war was over? Why should that matter to me? It never would have before. What the hell happened to me up there during that hill bombing?

I stuck the picture in my shirt pocket as the blood red dusk closed in on my tiny chopper. Less than 10 minutes later it touched down in the pitch dark. “See you here in a week Sergeant” one of the men said. But we each knew that probably wasn’t true and that’s when I knew they weren’t even coming back for me. That’s why they picked me and that’s why they used leverage on me, because this was a one-way trip for me. I wondered if anyone else aboard the chopper knew that. I would have blown it out of the sky if I thought they knew, I hated anyone getting over on me. But really it didn’t matter to me either. I could be one way or the other about. It was another strange and subtle shift that I couldn’t explain. Then my mind went back to that dark thing, how I could see it or see the world papered over it. That thought lingered and then faded away like the sound of the chopper in the distance.

If my intelligence was right the colonel’s command base was an old French colonial plantation. I had been dropped about 5 miles out. The jungle was thick and moving through it undetected was easy. But when I got to the edge of the jungle and saw what I was up against I couldn’t believe my eyes. The house had a perimeter of 500 yards of cleared ground surrounding it. The Fucking gooks had ripped a jungle out by the roots just to make the house unapproachable. They had done a pretty god damn good job. May as well turn back now, 500 yards is like 500 miles. I wondered who they were trying to kill him or me.

I could hear two guards moving in the woods behind me. I lay very still, but very comfortable as they stood on either side of me. You get used to laying in the grass so close to the enemy that you can see his boots. What you didn’t get used to was a suicide mission with no way of completing it.

I spent the next day and night in the jungle thinking things over. There was a road that went from the jungle into the camp. You could be sure any vehicles going into the base were searched real good. But I was wondering about the cars coming out. I knew that sooner or later the colonel would have to leave. With the war over, maybe security would be light, and maybe I could wait for the Colonel come to me. I’d setup out by the road and then ambush the car. But even if I could tell a decoy from his real car, how could I be sure that he would even be in it? I’d have to lay up in the trees to see how the colonel moved around. Shit I could be here a month, but it was the only way.

I moved in the night through the brush along the side of the road for about 2 miles. I was looking for a place were a car would have come to almost complete stop. I didn’t find that, but slipping around like a snake through the grass I got a risky sick idea. Even though they had cleared the jungle to the dirt around the villa, out here the brush moved almost up to the edge of the sloppy mud road. I knew exactly what to do. I cut the tree, but leaned it against the brush so that I could push it over easily. Then I moved back toward the camp, climbed the tree that I’ve already picked out watched the camp and waited.

I knew that I would have to wait for an insanely long time. At first this didn’t seem so wacky to me until sunrise when I got really hungry. It’s not that I couldn’t come down out of the tree, but I would have to wait, hunt and forage inside of pissing radius of the enemy. That would be a pain. This was Oberman getting back at me from the grave I thought. Then I realized he wasn’t the only one they could have used. How much weight did they have on me? It was just a matter of how closely they’d been watching I guess. I moved down into the shade and fell asleep. I didn’t wake until it was early evening and that was only because I was being eaten alive by big narley Vietnamese fire ants, each one big enough to bite your hand off. It was possible I realized, as I escaped down the tree killing the ants on my body as silently as possible, that I had missed the colonel leaving the compound while I was coping zzzs, but I thought it more likely that he’d move by night instead. Sure the war was over, but here I was anyway and maybe he was expecting someone like me to be here. When you live in war uncertainty is the only constant, you learn to live by your feelings and right now that’s what my gut was telling me, that he was still in there.

I was careful as I moved. I knew there were VC around and I didn’t even want to disturb the Macaws. I moved away from my position. As soon as I cleared my position I dug a hole and took a dump and then made my way to the river where I took a swim to dislodged the remaining fire ants, got some water, even stabbed a fish with my army knife. I cleaned it fast and ate it cold. Then I made my way back collecting up some bananas as I went. I returned to the same location, but this time made my way up a mango tree sufficiently far away the ant infested lodging place of the prior night.

As I made my way up it became obvious that this one one perfect. I was in a sea of big green leaves you couldn’t even see the ground or the sky. The branches were big and comfortable and as dusk settled in I wrapped myself around one and waited for night. Once it came I climbed up high. The branches were still fairly thick all the way to the top. I swam my arm around a few large leaves and cleared the top of the canopy, it was as if I broke the surface in the deep ocean. There in the bloody tropical twilight for 360 degrees all I could see was a thick canopy of lush green leaves and the diffuse dying sunlight that was half absorbed and half reflected off of them.

As the sun set I settled in. I found a nice Y shaped branch at the top of the canopy from which I could see the dim lights from the compound. If a car left that place I’d be sure to see it. When it got dark and the sky had a million stars out, I still couldn’t see my hand in front of my face. I turned over on my back and put my arm under my head. I could just as easily be lounging in a hammock at a Club Med somewhere as on an assignation mission in a war that was over. It’s all in how you think about it I always said. Some guys go out on a mission and they are all up tight all the time, just because they are in a war. There will be time enough to be uptight alright and you’ll know what to do, but until then save you energy and relax. Right now I thought that a cigarette and a bottle of rum would really complete the picture for me. Booze and cigs, some guys wouldn’t touch them. They were too afra
id of jonzing out when they got into the bush and had to go cold turkey. But just like killing, cold turkey never bothered me. In fact I kinda liked it. In fact sometimes I’d go cold turkey with a bottel and a pack of Marlbarros right next to me. I liked wanting it and waiting for it at the same time, knowing that it was only me who could cause and end my tourment. It made me feel alive. And when I finally did dig in, I don’t know. I mean it was good I guess, but never as good as it seemed it was going to be, when I was waiting for it. What was the point of having it if you could get it I guess.

It was the same way with women I guess, a little different maybe.

I could drink with the best of them in the other didn’t smoke or drink. I’d seen it before, guys get into the jungle and be jonzing for a fix they’d give their position away. You could see it, they couldn’t hold their hand straight for three days. Not me, I was disciplined enough to stay away from the shit.

I’d been married once. I didn’t see the need to stay that way. I didn’t need love, well I knew that was a lie. But I always lied about love. I lied to my wife when I said I loved her, when we got married, then I lied again when I said I didn’t, when we got divorced. Women were different than booze and cigarettes. You had no control over when it was that you couldn’t take it anymore, they had it. I had only enough discipline to stay away from rather than deal with them.

Guess I felt that way about people too. They were too much to deal with, all the lies, all the bullshit. That was the one true pure thing about killing someone, it was final, he was dead, you knew it and he did too.

Usually waiting I don’t think about a thing and time crawls, but tonight my mind was yacking away. I took a look toward the compound, but there was nothing. I could feel the wind shifting and a stiff breeze blowing from the east. A few minutes later and the low grumbling of thunder came into the jungle. Soon it would be raining and that would be all right too. If I had to move the wind and rain would muffle my sounds, otherwise I’d just stay up here and enjoy it. And that is just what happened, it rained and I didn’t move.

When the first strong gust hit it felt good. It made the big floppy leaves rustle around and blew the mosquitoes out. It felt so good that I actually dozed off up there, until the first few sprinkles woke me up. I knew then that this was going to be a big one. The milky galaxy was behind some deep mean black clouds. I couldn’t see the clouds, but I couldn’t see the stars anymore. I sat upright with my legs crossed Indian style and rode the steadily swaying branch. As the droplets grew fatter and dropped harder I remembered how much I liked the rain. As a kid I used to run into any one of the old rusted out cars around out place just to listen to it hitting the roof. Once I got away from a beating by my step-dad when I bolted out into the rain. He was too fucking drunk to follow me out. Didn’t mind beating the shit out of me, but wouldn’t get his knickers wet. He stopped at the front porch like it was a wall. Guess he thought it would sober him up.

It was raining that day when I blew the back of Olberman’s head through his face. It was coming down in buckets. It took only a split second to do it, to erase all he was and all he’d ever be. And all over what, because he made us run, in boot camp no less. Fuck that’s what boot camp is all about. The drill Sargent is professional asshole paid to find shit wrong and to make it up when he can’t find something. But Olberman was a fat fucking jelly belly who disgusted me. That I judged him made it easy to kill him, not what I thought he’d done to me. So, it all came down to how I thought about it, not what it really was. Well that will make him feel better I guess.

Now it was streaming down in sheets. Several flashes of lighting lit the jungle like a strobe light and I could see the canopy top waving back and forth. I pulled the leaf of an elephant ear toward me and curved rather than folded into a trough, then put it to my lips and drank as if from a fountain. That water was pure.

It wasn’t until the storm moved off that it got light and then it got hot. By 9am it was over 90 degrees and sweltering. I’d had plenty to drink the night before so, I wasn’t thirsty, rather I was starving. All I’d had for the last 24 hours was a cold fish some bananas and mangoes. I wanted to find some breakfast really bad, but something just told me to stay put. Then I didn’t mind being hungry. In my mind I was in the game now, “lean and hungry”, out for a kill. And I knew one was on the way. As I’ve said, in a world of uncertainty I listened to my gut and stayed put. The jungle was a sauna now and I was forced to stay in the sun on top of the canopy to survey the old plantation house. I could talk my mind out of being disturbed by hunger, but not the heat, by 2pm it was brutal. But suddenly all consciousness of that dissipated like the steam off the leaves when I saw two cars coming down the road out of plantation and toward the jungle. I waisted only a second to be sure that cars were actually on their way out. I had no way to know if the Colonel was on board, I just knew.

I dropped below the canopy as a diver below the waves. I was vaguely aware of the relative coolness in the shade. My shirt felt much hotter than my body as I used the branches like an express way, sliding down smoothly in the shafts of light. It felt like I was gliding rather than falling and there was a moment when I forgot about the mission, my guilt, everything except my body sliding down the jungle. I jumped the final ten feet, and bent my knees so that my butt touched the ground and before I could stand up my good fortune occurred to me. Not only was the ground still wet, but because it had just rained the tree that I was going to use to block the road would draw no suspicion. They would blame it on the storm. I sprang off to the ambush point and dropped the branch across the road as planned.

I can’t remember a single step I took on the ground. No sooner did my boots sink into the still moist earth and carpet of leaves it seems that I was in a race against time. It was the sound of two cars that wafted through the woods and told me I was going to be too late to block the road. I really had to turn it on to get to the tree that I had cut down and left tied standing up next to the road. I got there before they did and cut it lose and watched as it fell across the road. I swear that the mud was still splashing up in the air when the cars made their way up to it. They were going slow because the road was muddy and that gave me time to slink back away from the road and take up my position in the deep shrubs along the roadside. My sniper riffle was right where I left it. I got down unrolled it and sat in a three point with right knee and both feet together on the ground as the cars passed. I already had the butt firmly in the crook of my shoulder with the barrel down. If I got lucky all I had to do was to raise the barrel and shoot. I wouldn’t even have to stand up.

They came to the branch and stopped. If there had been only two soldiers I would have engaged them first, before killing the colonel, but there were three and they were being cautious. They speaking a mix of Vietnamese and French and the French I could make out. “Attention, attention, one of them said very slowly. As expected the blockade drew no suspicion, they pulled right up to it. Three men got out and began inspecting every nook and cranny around them. The one who was speaking french was looking up in the trees, while the other two were bayonet-ting the shrubs along the side. I was fucked. I had anticipated two or three cars with the colonel in the second car. So, the colonels car was stopped right in front of me and my line of sight would be perfect if I could just fucking stand up. But this fucking VC knew I was in there. He scanned the low bushes back and forth over my position. My face was caked in camo and cloaked behind the leaves, but somehow we made eye contact. I closed my eyes to make it go away, but I could hear stabbing his bayonet pass my left side then my right. It was ten inches either side. Then the men sprayed the bushes and up in the trees. I jumped outta my skin, but my body didn’t move. I was much too afraid to. When it stopped I opened my eyes. Only the gunpowder hid the smell from my shit stained shorts. But now I couldn’t believe my luck. As the solders cleared the road the colonel sat up straight or something because I could see his head from where I was. I wouldn’t even have to stand up. I took a second for me to raise my rifle and get his head in my sights. It was a task I had performed a million and one times, but this time something happened that had never happened before. Sometime between when I pulled the trigger and the round exited the barrel I felt it. I was him and I felt the bullet go right through my brain from one side to the other. And just as if he felt it too he ducked.

I have no idea where that round landed, but I’d sooner answer that question than figure out how the fuck he knew I was there. The sniper rifle only holds a single round. They are not meant to miss. So, I dropped it and without even coming out of my crouch picked off the shocked shit less corporal who had tickled me with his bayonet a minute ago. Still without ever standing I was able to roll out of there and back into the jungle just before the machine gun fire from the other two VC obliterated all the brush in my old position. The last thing I heard just as I came to my feet and flew outta there was the car door slamming shut.

As I jetted out of there it wasn’t me I was worried about it was my mission. I was OK right now. I was fast and the compound and all of the VC were behind me. All I had to do was make it do was make it to the river. But my mission was dead. There was no way to take the colonel now. By now every VC on the planet was looking for an Amercian running through the jungle and they’d be all around the colonel. Unless. I dropped so the two VC on my ass could catch up. They did, running full bore and straight up. Even laying on my stomach with a 45 I was able to drop them in mid stride and they never even knew they were dead. Now the colonel. If I knew this guy like I thought I did he wouldn’t be cowering
back by the car, he’d be chasing me too. And that car door I heard slamming told me that I knew this guy. I needed more than a 45. I went over to one on the dead VC, a kid who didn’t have a face anymore, and pulled his amo belt off. Then I picked up his still hot AK47. Now I’d hide and wait for the colonel, I knew that he was coming. But I was wrong about that, he was already there waiting for me, a big mother fucker. As I stood up with the kid’s AK I heard him coming up behind me. How the fuck did he do that? No one did that to me. But when I turned around my weapon was already leveled and his 45 was still rising up. I had him. Dead to fucking rights I had the son of a bitch, but I never fired my weapon. As I faltered he took two steps and put the muzzle of his 45 to my forehead. It was cold, hadn’t been fired. I can’t say why, but that told me something about him, I don’t know what, but something.

I turned my head to the right and brushed the 45 away from my face like I was putting out a cigarette, then a second latter gave him the best left hook anyone has ever seen, right on the button. It rocked him, and he dropped the gun and staggered backwards. I moved in but he kicked me in the balls. It was all I could do to bring both hands down and block him. But that left me exposed. I watched helplessly as his other leg came around and caught the side of my face flush. I kept fighting, but can’t remember much after that. We were mixing it up there when I saw in the grass off to my side an AK. I jumped down and grabbed at it, but when I rolled back up to my feet it was with empty hands. I fell back to the ground with my hands behind me palms on the ground I could clearly see that the colonel went for a gun too and got it. He had his 45 again. I look straight into his eyes and they were focused tightly between mine. He told me in Vietnamese to get on my knees and put my hands behind my head. When I complied he stepped in and gave me a lights out front kick right to my jaw.

The second that I came to wished that I was dead. There was a light, like the headlights of an oncoming car. It was only a flashlight but it may as well have been a freight train. I knew what was coming next, I’d been on both side of this fence before. And the more awake I became the more pain I realized that I was in. I was sitting upright in a chair in the middle of the room, my feet chained down and hands taped behind me, all standard operating procedure. Like I said, I’d been here before. The tape across my mouth went from ear to ear and I actually thought that it alone was holding my jaw to my face. That big fucking gook kicked the shit out of me and now it was really beginning to hurt. But I knew the real beating was about to begin. I had already let go. Its just pain I said, its just a feeling like any other, no need to stress over it. It worked whenever my step dad cornered me and beat the shit out of me and it worked in the field too. You’d be surprised at how well it works, sometimes.

The only light was from the flashlight on me, but I could hear people in the darkness that enveloped behind it. The cong always thought men didn’t like the dark ring that a spotlight forms around the man being interrogated, but I like the darkness. I had always taken refuge there and it did my spirits good that it was so close around me. Normally the worse thing they could do to me would be to turn the lights on. But now for the second time in my life the darkness terrified me. Not because of the unknown held within, but because of the known, he was there, maybe not in the room, but close and aware, not just of my body, but thoughts as well. I couldn’t pick up his, but he heard everything I was thinking.

Usually these begin with some sort of sparring to decide what they think you know before things go mid-evil. If they thought you were of no use to them either because you didn’t know anything or because you wouldn’t break then things went to def-con 4 and they’d be feeding the pigs with your ass. The trick for someone in my shoes was to make them think I knew something more than what I’d told them. The one thing about the VC was that they believed and with such good reason that they could break anybody. So, if you could take the beating you could maybe last long enough for headquarters to work something out, a prisoner swap or something, anything to get you the fuck out of there. But now the war was supposedly over and I wasn’t even here officially so, by my math things looked pretty bad.

Suddenly there was a gook in my face. He pulled the tape from my mouth and it pealed off with a loud tearing sound, which I know it must of hurt, but I didn’t feel it. I could that it was going be difficult to talk though. He started off in very bad English so, I answered in Vietnamese which I hoped would make me a tinny bit more human to him. I don’t know if it did, I didn’t expect to be saved, but I did want to know if I felt what the Colonel did just before I took the shot at him. But obviously I could die without knowing that now and probably would.

Most of it went on in Vietnamese, but he was taking orders from some fuck back out of the light and they spoke in French. I didn’t let on that I understood French. He started off with the normal warm up bull shit, what’s your name, rank, but the guy in the dark told him to, “Get to it”, and that was fine by me. Might as well give em what they want and get it over with. They asked me if I knew the war was over and said yes, then I shocked them. I told them the name of the general who had put the hit out on his colonel. They asked me if I knew why and I said I didn’t care. They went back and forth for a little while in French and Vietnamese. I didn’t follow it all because I was blacking out. Fortunately my hosts prevented that by taking a handful of my hair and pulling my head back until I could see upside down behind me. When he saw that he had my attention he looked back at his boss in the dark and asked me if I worked alone. I nodded and I could tell he believed me because he moved on. Next he said “How many more assassins are coming? The war is over. How many more are coming?” I said, “I don’t know”. Then he hauled off and back fisted the lights outta me. So, that was the last thing I knew before he knocked me out, that I wasn’t the first and probably not the last.

I have no idea how long I was out for. When I came around again it was dark, I hadn’t seen blackness like this since that hill bomb in Denang. I say came around but I wasn’t really conscience. Maybe because they beat the fucking day lights outta me or maybe it was something else. All I know is that it was dark in there, so dark I could not see the floor and I was laying on it, sprawled out on my right side with my swollen right jaw on the hard stone or rock. The only sensation I had was of that faint sound of water gently trickling somewhere and the cold of the stone floor, which felt good on my jaw but chilled me. I felt around some more and noticed I’d been stripped down naked. That too was SOP. I lifted my head as best as I could to look around, but couldn’t see a fucking thing no matter what.

Down there in all that stank it occurred to me that killing a man wasn’t always such a shit thing to do him. It takes just the subtlest shift to see it, to see that life itself is the curse, death the escape. Shit, if I’d known that I’d never a capped my step-dad, he was the most miserable son of a bitch alive. Yea that’s one stank body no fucking bureaucrats is ever gonna dig up. It took me years to do it. I’d decided to ever since that night in the dog house. Who knows maybe I could of forgot about that, but I could never forget about him, shit I saw a reminder of him every time I looked at my arms or legs. It was when I went home from my first tour. When I was a kid that SOB always tried to get me to go hunting with him. But I knew two things, first was that he always got drunk when hunted, and second what always happened to me when he got drunk. So, I never went when I was a kid, but after my first tour, well he didn’t have to ask twice. That dumb fuck never saw it coming. I waited till we were in the deep woods and it was dark, just like with Olberman. But this time it told him what I was going to do. “Hey fuck wanna say good by, because right now you’re gonna die”. Then I decked him, with a crack. It sounded just like a shot and felt good when he collapsed into the leaves. He was just coming around when my saw cut through his Adam’s apple. I had his hair in one hand and with his head held back I was sawing through his throat with the other. My first stroke ripped through his Adams apple and I remember the skin opening up. There wasn’t a lot of blood at first, it would come latter. But that first cut musta woke him, he knew exactly what was happening. He tried to tuck his chin and grabbed my cutting arm with both hands, but I kept his throat exposed and kept cutting, it would even take a full stroke now. That’s when I saw him cry and it made me stop. I saw the fear in his eyes an the spittle in his quivering mouth, just like a helpless boy about to get a beating. That’s when I got it, that he was just like me. I didn’t pity him at the time, or show any mercy. I sliced his fucking head clean off and threw it between his legs. I saw his headless neck steaming in the cold. I turned and left him there for the animals to finish off. If anyone found anything it would just his clothes scattered to shit and back. I was sure that no one would ask a lot of questions, he didn’t have many friends, but he had one that I never thought about.

I could hear the sound of the water had changed. Before it was just an unobtrusive trickle, but now it sounded like Niagra Falls, thunderous. My mind playing tricks on me I thought. Fuck that it was torture me, yakking at me even in down in this hole, bringing up shit buried so deep I forgotten about it. Why?

When I got back to the house I came in through the back door and went right to the kitchen. I pealed my cloths off threw them in the sink and started cleaning up, cleaning the blood off. That’s when my mother showed up, standing in the hallway just staring at me. What the fuck was she doing up at 6 a.m. anyway. When I turned and looked up all I could see were her eyes. That’s how it was with us, whenever she knew something about me no words were necessary and this time was no different. She knew exactly what I was doing, exactly what I had done.

What had I done? Didn’t I just get rid of her problem, save her from another 10 or 20 years of beatings? Not really I guess, I really just got rid of my own problem, my own need to get back at anyone or anything that had ever crossed me. I took my hands out of the sink and shook them off as she walked over to me, staring at me, her eyes were all I could see. She came over, never blinked, not a tear in her eyes, she came over, stopped right in front of me and spit right in my face. It was the worst fucking half second of my life. I walked around her changed my clothes and left.

Oh fuck it! I guess I can see things her way. If I tried, if I wanted. After all there weren’t many choices for a woman like her where we lived, and I had just removed the only choice she ever had, and I did it for me in spite of her. I was still thinking about that as I was driving to my wife’s house. I was supposed to sign the divorce papers. I thought it was going to simple. Drive over, leave the engine running, go in sign on the line and split. But when I saw her there, I don’t know how to put it but she just soften up and I almost lost it. I’ll spare you the details, but as I took the pen to sign my name she touched my hand and called me by my name. Her hands were so soft and this time so were her eyes. She said, “we don’t have to do this”. Looking at me like that with the sun coming up in the room I imaged growing old with her right there in that room. “If you don’t love me, then leave, but I think you love me, and, and I love you”. When she said that I got weak and it was all I could do not to start weeping like a baby. But what I did was to look her straight in the eyes and lie like I would to the enemy. “I don’t love you”, I said and walked out with leaving a clue. I high tailed it back to Nam so fast… Shit the only thing you had to worry about here was getting tortured and killed.

And here I was near death, sprawled out on a stone dungeon floor and what was I thinking about; shit in the past, none of which could hurt me anymore? Those thoughts roared so loud. When I passed out this time it wasn’t from fatigue or a beating or even starvation. The truth is that I just couldn’t take anymore of myself. The last thing I remember before passing out again was the mosquitoes biting.

The next time I came to must have been a long time. I think it was the mosquitoes that finally woke me up, but the first thing I thought about was my stomach, I was starving. As far as I could tell I was in the same position, on my side spread on the floor. I rubbed my hand across my belly and it felt small, but so too did my jaw. In fact I think I’d actually healed a bit from the beatings I got from the Colonel and the interrogator. It was like my body was numb. I could make out the proportions, but I didn’t really feel anything. And I still couldn’t see a fucking thing. I could still hear the water trickling again. So, I decided to go to it. Standard procedure now was to orient myself. The sounds came from behind me and it was a huge fucking big deal to exchange the positions of my ass and my head right there on the floor. But somehow I managed to rotate 180 degrees. My body didn’t hurt so bad, but I was weak now and it made me really fucking tired. So, I rested for I don’t know how long. Maybe I even fell asleep, I don’t know. But eventually I began to crawl toward the sound of trickling water. It was funny. Back in the war I tried so hard to stay alive and now I was going to die in here and I didn’t give a shit, I didn’t give a shit about dying, I didn’t give a shit about the rats and roaches and mosquitoes, I didn’t even feel the pain my body was in. I was somewhere else, I was everywhere else, but there was nowhere else. And then I was back inside him, inside his head, just like when I took the shot I was him.

I was him sitting in my chair pushed back from my desk with my legs straight and feet crossed. I was starring at the glass of whiskey in both hands and resting on my lap. I could see everything as if I were him and I could move in and back out again. This was fucking weirder than anything I’d ever known before. Anything except that fucking dark star that I fell into in Denang. But there he was thinking about me just like I was thinking about him. I guessed he could read my mind too so I tried not to think about anything that would give me away, I thought I won’t think anything at all. Then I realized how stupid that was. How the hell do you not think, it’s like not breathing. You can only decide what to get hung up on or not, but the brain was always secreting thoughts, like bile from the liver, it just drips. Like now my brain thought, way to go asshole, getting captured on an assignation mission that didn’t exist in a war that was over by a man who could somehow read my mind. I could not not think it, but I could kick the shit outta myself for it or not. I kept crawling.

As I crept and heard his thoughts I could tell that just like me he was scared, but instead of being freaked out over it he was beginning to make sense of things, he was actually beginning to understand it. I didn’t understand it, I didn’t understand a fucking thing. And I lost contact with him when I came into contact with a wall. Finally, I was beginning to think that I was in a dark immaterial desert, but finally here was something of this world, something that I recognized, a wall, cold, hard and slimy. I raised my torso up and leaned back against it. I felt roaches scatter and heard mosquitoes buzzing knowing full well the rats were close and took comfort in them for they were things I knew about, but I had no idea what I was experiencing. I turned my face to the wall and ran my tongue across it collecting every precious drop of tawny moisture. This is where he left me to die and I wouldn’t have thought to blame him, if I could have thought about anything else but sucking every last drop of water condensing on the wall. Maybe it’s because all I was thinking about was that water on the wall, the here and now, but that’s when it happened, or maybe it’s always happening, but I was just able to see it.

disappearing egoboundries –without myself means without god
But that’s the wall that I was pressing my aching face against, didn’t disappear, but had never really been there at all. It was only partway gone, then completely gone, then back. I opened and squeezed my eyes shut again and again, but it wasn’t my eyes that I was seeing with. And in that moment I was in that moment and no other. The shit that had or would happened to me ceased to exist to me anymore than the moments themselves. Nothing of them existed anymore so, they were in fact unreal. It’s not that they didn’t happen, but that they aren’t happening and thinking otherwise seemed illusion. I was a murderer and quite possibly will be one again, but right now I was just the body of some guy struggling to sip some slime juice off of a wall that was never there to begin with. When I saw things in that way I felt, I dunno, innocent. Innocent, that’s a big word to a guy like me. And when I perceived things that way there was no wall, no floor, no pain, no fear. It was like when I let go of my life, but this was letting go of everything, life and the universe surrounding it. Time was just like the wall. I mean it didn’t stop, it just never really was. Of course it never really was, it was so clear to when I was in it that now is all there is or could be.

I went on that way, going back and forth, in and out, just making subtle shifts in perception. I could sense fear when I came back to what I thought was reality, and when the universe dropped away again I felt, love. Man I wanted to stay there, stay with whatever it was keeping me in love, but then I don’t know, I couldn’t hold it. I panicked and lost it. And at the moment I did I wondered if it had ever really been. Like a dream you tried not to wake up from, and couldn’t hold on to once you did. I was about to die and had found complete peace. Now I wanted to keep that peace, more than I ever wanted anything I wanted to keep that peace. But just like the passing moments, just like everything else in our lives, just like life itself, just like that it was gone.

Replaced by the clanking of metal and saw a shaft of light that made the roaches scatter in their millions of scaly steps. I turned around, leaned against the wall. The light hurt my eyes and I shut them and passed out.

I don’t know how long I was out for this time, but when I came to it was in a small hospital unit of about a dozen beds or so. There were no guards, no bars on the windows, the door was open. The inside wall went only halfway up and I could see people walking past the corridor. Shit I was in the mansion and I could get up and walk away, if I could get up. I did a body check, wiggle toes, check, then I noticed that I was clean, that my jaw was almost back to normal. I sat up in bed and just stayed there a minute trying to clear the cobwebs. Obviously the Colonel had a change of heart regarding my fate. I had completely forgotten that feeling of peace.

After a couple of minutes a male doctor saw me and came in waving a female nurse to follow. It struck me how even in North Vietnam the doctors wore white and the nurse was female. He asked me in Vietnamese how I felt as though he knew I could speak it. I answered that it was the best I felt in a long time. I didn’t bother saying sine I got blown up in Denang. I said that I was getting hungry and he checked my pupils. By the time he’d finished the nurse had dutifully returned with a tray with rice and a mango. That’s what I remembered hating about the gooks, the way they turned every daily task into some life or death mission. Now I wondered why I hated them for it. I wasn’t mad now, I even smiled at myself a little.

The food was bland, but it made the space that it occupied in belly fell better none the less. I finished off the mango and thought about the ones I’d eaten in the tree I didn’t know how many nights ago. I laid back in the bed as I had that night in the tree, it was a natural position for me. I look up at the ceiling and wondered when. When would I be meeting the Colonel?

There was a late afternoon thunder boomer erupting outside, the kind that roll in frequently in Nam. A guard, the first I’d seen since waking in the hospital, brought me some clothes. They seemed to be my greens, cleaned and repaired, but I didn’t care enough to notice. I was too nervous about meeting the colonel.

The single guard instructed me that I was indeed going to see the colonel. He escorted me to the inner square that was open to the bullet sized rain drops and they made a distinct cracking sound as they impacted the courtyard. I thought about the bullet that didn’t go through the back of the colonel’s head. It was mid day, but it looked dark outside. The cool rain felt good. The guard opened an outer door and I went in to a short narrow corridor that ended at the door to what was once probably a servant’s quarters. He opened the door for me and followed me inside. It was dark inside except for a small desk lamp spotting the room. The desk was against the far wall, behind it a bookshelf. On a low shelf immediately behind the desk chair was the bottle of Jack Daniel’s I’d seen him drinking in my mind. Where the hell did he get that from? The carpet was red and half way up each wall ran there was an expensive wood that comes cheap in Vietnam. It was an ordinary office with a hint of cozy to it.

The guard put me in the chair and stood at the wall behind me. As I waited I studied the books. There were some on military history and theory written in Vietnamese, the I-Ching was written in French, there was a Holy Bible in English and as a bookend a statue of a gladiator of all things.

I was just thinking how nothing should surprise me when I heard the door open and when the soldier saluted I knew that the colonel had just come in. Out of ridicules habit I stood and started to salute. The guard didn’t know how to respond. I could hear him approach from behind as I came quickly to my feet, then clumsily aborted my attempted salute. I really didn’t know what to do under these circumstances. I mean how do you respond to the commanding officer when you’re a prisoner in a war that’s over? “Old habits die hard don’t they Captain”, he said in Vietnamese about my gaffe. Then he stood behind the desk and looked me square in the eye, and up and down, then back in the eye. He was just as big as he’d looked in the jungle. I noticed some scars on his face that I hadn’t seen before, old scars. His tone was strong, but even. I wasn’t worried, if he wanted me dead I’d have been fed to the pigs long ago.

He motioned to the chair for me to sit down and we sat down together, formal and very polite considering that I’d tried to put a bullet through his head. He told the guard to wait outside and sat down just as the door shut, put his elbows on the desk and clasped his hands. They were big and narley. He looked right through me with coal black eyes while stating matter of factly, “You were captured just outside the Villa one month and one day ago. So, that’s how long I’d been here. You stated that you acted alone, but with the knowledge and under the orders of members of the US military and your government”, he said as he was shuffling some papers. “Yes sir”, I said. “How many more will needlessly follow you Captain”? “I don’t know sir I said. I don’t even know why they sent me, but it would help me if I knew what they want from you. Is this revenge, didn’t you kill someone close to General,..” “We have all killed someone Captain”, he cut me off. “I know what they think they want”, he said.

“Now you Captain will stay here until I decide it’s time for you leave,” he said in Vietnamese again. “And then I’ll give you something to deliver to your superiors ”. “What, sir”, I hesitated. I couldn’t phantom what he could mean, but my curiosity was killing me. I had come here dying to know about how he could read my thoughts, both in the bush and in the hole, but now this piqued it to a rivaling degree. And while I hung on his next word the Colonel looked down and signed more papers. I suddenly realized that this was going to be just a get to know you first session. Fucking great, so much to say and nothing being said. I played it cool, I didn’t look directly at him, but at his desk and at the bookshelf behind him again. He kept looking down at the papers he glancing through and signing, but he was watching me. When my eyes settled on the murmillo he stopped, looked up at me and said, “You have interest in gladiators?

Yes sir I said. I studied all about them when I was a kid. “The murmillo was your favorite wasn’t it”? His body relaxed a little and he turned half way around to look askance at what he’d probably seen a thousand time as if he had no idea that he had no way of knowing that. If he saw my jaw drop he didn’t act like it, just went on about the murmillo. “The perfect balance of speed and size and power”, he said. “That statue is more than two thousand years old. It came from a ludus on the western outskirts of ancient Rome”.

“So, is that how did you become interested in soldiering”, he asked? “Well I never really liked being a soldier, but they don’t have gladiators anymore.” “Yes”, he said, armies are to messy, they have to be maneuvered, coordinated with sea and air components, to complicated. For the gladiator things were simple, he could depend only on himself. His opponent was always in front of him not hiding in the grass. And he didn’t have to worry about being attacked after the battle was fought”. I must have been squirming a bit, but I also thought, OK bring it on, let me have it. “Is that why you became an assassin Captain? Because you’re on your own, no orders to give or take, no excuses to make to anyone. Is that why Captain”? “There are no excuses for the things I’ve done sir, some of them anyway.”

“There are no excuses for any of us, “ he said, and I wondered what he meant. Now my heart was pounding in my chest. I wondered, what did he know about me, what did he not know. “Relax Captain, I have spent this last month thinking about you. Not just because you were able to get so close, not because you didn’t kill me when you had the chance. But because you reminded me of some basic truths that I’d forgotten during the war. But I am in touch with the truth again and so I forgave you and I haven’t thought about you since. And please understand Captain.” He was speaking in English now. “That when I use the word forgiveness, it is not as so often in a superior or condescending manner, but in the truer since. Namely that I am reminded that no one really hurts anyone, nothing is ever done, only undone”. I had no clue what he was talking about, and I couldn’t read his mind anymore, but I could sure as shit read his face. He was getting ahead of himself now and saying shit that he had intended to wait to say. He was about to break it off now and I didn’t want him to. It seemed risky, but I had to do it. So, I said, “Sir how did you know when to duck?” He leaned back in his chair and seemed massively relieved, like he had a horrible secrete that he didn’t have to keep to himself anymore. “I felt a spiritual bullet go through my brain just a second before you pulled the trigger and you felt it too.” “Yes sir I did sir”, I said. What the hell else could I say. Either we were both crazy or we could both read the others mind and neither one of us was sure of which was worse.

“Please make yourself comfortable in this compound Captain. There is no need to attempt to escape, you will leave on your own accord when you are ready.” He stood up and I stood up, after him, but did not salute. He called the guard who entered immediately. Just before leaving I said, “How the hell can I run, you’ll know where I am all the time anyway”. We both chuckled a bit and we both knew that we were the only two people on the planet who knew what we were talking about.

When I returned to my quarters I was beat. But it was a good beat, like I went the distance with the champ and won. I noticed that time had seemed to fly. What in my mind was only about a 30 minute face to face must have been hours because now it was dark. I also noticed that I was changing my mind about this place, that I was beginning to like it here now. Latter I would see that I was just dancing to an ancient tune in my sick mind, or the sick part of my mind. That liking and disliking just like love and hate and good or evil are just old tricks of a sick and ugly part of a mind that goes forever unseen, but once seen disappears into the nothing from which it came.

The next morning there was a lot of activities, supplies coming in, troops rotating out. I was worried of all reasons because I thought the commotion could help conceal a sniper or a bomb. I didn’t even eat breakfast, I just threw open my door and asked my surprised escort in as polite, but urgent Vietnamese that I could muster to see the colonel, but to my surprise he wanted to see me too. He took me to the colonel in an ammo depot deep in the center of the house and underground. The way down there was not unlike my decent through the bowels of the hospital ship when I got this insane mission in the first place. The exception was that while the ship was cavernous and metallic, this was crooked, narrow and dank. These were the old wine cellars, a safe place for the Colonel to hang low while the logistics went on overhead, but I could not help the thought that surely we were headed down and down was the only direction where lay my old hole. We hit the bottom and I was back down in the cellar. The corridor was more than ten feet wide, but dimly lit and I couldn’t tell how long it was. It never ended, just disappeared into to a vanishing point. There were large doors spaced about twenty feet apart on either side. I can still remember the distinctive sounds of our boots against the stone floor as we walked inexorably towards the colonel who was standing in front of one of the doors. I can’t believe this I thought, after all this he’s locking me back down in the hole. The Colonel was standing almost in the dark because of the interference patterns of the corridor lights which hung sparsely on the walls all the way to that point that vanished seemingly at infinity. When I finally stopped in front of the Colonel his face was the last thing that I saw. I couldn’t read it. We stood there for an eternal second it seemed before he sent the soldier away and I could catch my breath again. He waited until the sounds of the guards were fading up the stairway before he began speaking.

“You have to be in pain to notice that you’re injured”, he said. “Pain is the body’s way to tell you to stop walking, or don’t eat anymore of that, it will make you sick. It tells you to stop before you more damage to it. You won’t notice the pain during battle, but when the threat is past you body screams, pay attention to me, I need your help.” We were about eyeball to eyeball now and I had no Idea where this was going, but I was mesmerized, but when still looking at me, he reached out his right arm and pulled the door open, I wanted to run. Instead I followed him followed him into the darkness. He walked inside, leaving me helpless to move in the hallway. He had almost completely disappeared inside before I could manage to follow. As I stepped in I thought I heard the last of the rats scattering away. I had almost completely forgotten about the rats.

“It’s the same way with the mind he said, you’ve got to be in pain.” Then lowering his body to put one knee on the ground and I followed suit. And he put his hand big and gnarly, down and let it hover just above the stone floor. And that moment of silence I heard the water trickling again. “That is what you were doing down here”, he said. “That is the point in your life which you have come to, the point that says there must be something else, something other than this. When you were down here in the dark, your mind is free to suffer out loud. In the dark there was no place for you to hide. What can you remember about your experiences down here captain ”

At first I couldn’t remember anything. I struggled to remember and then lost focus and I wasn’t thinking about anything for I don’t know how long. But he didn’t rush me, he didn’t say a word, eventually I did.

“I remember feeling claustrophobic, I said.” “It was like being buried alive, I felt like I was suffocating in the darkness. But it doesn’t make any sense,” I said looking at the 20 ft.³ of space we were standing in.” I had plenty of space, but it felt like a weight of the water was crushing me. Thousands of gallons of water on my face, on my mind. I don’t know what it was, and that got me scared. It’s like there’s this darkness all around me. Most of the time I can’t see it. It’s like a door that I’m not supposed to look behind, but every once in a while I walked past to find the door open. I didn’t want to look in I just was. I couldn’t help it and I can’t take it back. Do you think I’m crazy sir?” I looked at his face when I said that and I could see him studying mine intently.

And then he stood up slowly stretching his legs and said, “no, I don’t think you’re crazy, but I think you’ve seen something you’re not ready for yet.” He paused a second and then said, “come on Captain let’s get some fresh air.” Well, that was about the best idea I’ve heard a long time so I said, “Sure let’s go.” Then I followed him out into the pale corridor and upstairs to the courtyard.

The air up top felt good, and it took him a couple of good lungs full of it. I was shocked to notice that I had not been paying attention to things. I had been trained to keep track of things, but I didn’t know what time it was, only that it must be late afternoon, will judging by the thunder in the distance, I didn’t know if the logistics were still going on, I didn’t even notice that the Colonel and I had been uninterrupted. It must have been by his instructions.

There were two stone railings that met at 90° angles we used to sit on. I put my elbows behind me, like I was leaning back on the bench, but the Colonel put his elbows on his knees and leaned forward as he began speaking. It was going to be quite the speech.

This was where the Colonel broke it down for me, about how none of us is really here, that the universe is just a bad dream we made up to escape punishment we think is coming for crime that we never did. That would’ve sounded crazy to me two months ago. Crazy before that bullet that never went through both our brains. Crazy like him clearly reading my mind in me reading his. But all of that had happened now and it was the old world or my old way of looking at it that seemed crazy now.

He told me about the lessons I had to learn. He said, “You don’t make it out of here until you learn your lessons.” So, that’s what it’s all about. This was my spiritual boot camp and the Colonel my spiritual drill Sergeant.

It was a long day. We said goodbye in the courtyard and I went back to my quarters.


I was tired but I couldn’t sleep. I was trying to remember everything the Colonel said, going over it again and again in my mind. I didn’t want to forget just like the dream that slipped away.

Guilt was heavy on my mind. I was guilty of so much. People like shield will always be dead. But to hear the Colonel tell it, nobody really kills anybody. We are all just characters in a mad dream from which the dreamer has already woken up. He could read my mind so who was I to tell him he was wrong?

I didn’t get to sleep till well after daylight. And when I did I was waking immediately.


I didn’t see the Colonel again until late afternoon and he was very terse. I was sitting at a card table center of the room when a guard only knocked once before opening the door and stepping through forcefully. He held it open until the Colonel came through and then left closing it again behind him. as I stood up I noticed the Colonel was holding a thick envelope about the size of two phone books.

“I am sorry to interrupt Captain,” he said. “But as I’m sure you’ll remember I told you that when it was time you would leave with a message to your superiors. Now it is time. Please deliver this to the general, with my regards and this message. The war is over. If he wants we can end it once and for all. If he wants to.”

He looked me square in the eye all the while he was talking to me, but turned away immediately after he stopped. He turned his back to me opened door and left. The guard closed it and followed him.

I didn’t even bother to stammer for an explanation. I didn’t want to leave, but whatever he was up to now he had his mind made up and there was no changing it. I didn’t even wait, we left immediately.
They were going to ferry me down the river in a kind of transport canoe that they have used for centuries around here. They were usually covered with some sort of palm leaf hut, something that I could hide in. It was all per my original mission. I was originally supposed to make my way down the river to the coast. Of course that was bullshit, I was never supposed make it out alive. None of that really mattered now, anymore than it did that the war was officially over. I knew there’d be a destroyer or sub out there for a week, a month a year, forever. And I knew how to make radio contact with it. I got into the canoe at just about dark. I went below first thing. And holding a flashlight in my mouth I opened the first folder pulled everything out and put the entire stack on my knees. I had the balance a little bit as we shoved off, but soon as the flashlight beam landed on it everything came into focus for me.

There were pictures, testimony, confessions, but mostly they were pictures, pictures of war crimes. So, that was it, atrocities! And it wasn’t just a few isolated events like My Lai, this had been going on for at least a decade, this is tactical, it was planned. There was no way that headquarters to know all about this, there was no way that they weren’t directing this. Oh boy, the Colonel had them all right, dead to rights. Who knew how far up the Pentagon this went.Who knew how high up heads would roll.

The Colonel had hit a bull’s-eye on something else too. Projected guilt and expected punishment. I’ve been in the Army half my life. I know all about how command thinks. And
if it had been then, if they had had the goods on the Colonel then they sure as shit would’ve used them. So, of course they expected the Colonel to do the same. Oh man it was just like he said. The bullshit we makeup in our minds and project out into the world piles up so fast. Here they were trying to kill this man terrified of what he never even thought of doing, giving him no other choice but to do it. I didn’t need to see anymore. So, I packed things up and went top-side made up some stories of my own.

It was dark up there as dark as it was below. The sky was as dark as the river and you couldn’t tell where one began and the other ended. I dangled my feet off over the edge, knowing there was water near below, but I could’ve just as easily have been dangling them over the edge of the airplane.

It was beginning to bother me now about the Colonel, the way he just cut me loose like that. The bonds of friendship wrap themselves around us stealthily, expectations grow like weeds in the grass, you don’t notice them until they are there. After all he had taught me about forgiveness and judgment, there I was doing what I had always done. Being a servant to my thoughts and mind. And I remained a servant even after I heard the Hueys.

I heard lots of Hueys, six if I was right and I was. They sound like no other bird in the sky with their long blades that chop the air into pieces and send them scattering up and down at the same time. The back-scatter reverberate in your gut for minutes. I screamed at the Colonel’s men in Vietnamese to turn the boat around, but they refused. They said they had strict orders to deliver me to the coast, no matter what. Then I realized what should’ve been obvious, the Colonel sent me away to save my life. Maybe he figured command would be getting impatient after not hearing from me by now, maybe he got some advanced Intel, maybe he just had a feeling. Whatever, he sure got it right! To him life was unreal so, then was death. But he wanted me to get away to learn the lessons of this dream, and get out of it. Fuck, what was so special about me? It didn’t matter, I was still fully invested in the very dream he wanted me so badly to leave. I was going back to save him. The kid at the wheel must have been 15 years old, I brought my weapon up to his head told him to turn the boat
around. He didn’t flinch nor did anyone else, and we kept going down river. But when I jumped overboard and started swimming for the short turnaround, fished me out and we
went back up river. I was still dripping wet on the deck when it hit me. What the fuck am I doing? The mind is so silly, so willingly caught up in a drama designed to distract. He didn’t want me to save him, he had already saved me, but here I was going back into a war that was over in a universe that didn’t even exist anymore and never really did. But shit I went.

We hit the shore and began to run the mile or so from the river to the Villa. I have all my weapons but still must’ve broke a world record. As I ran though, I couldn’t figure out how I was going to clear the distance from the brush to the villa without getting picked off by the Hueys, but when I got there I knew exactly what to do. Two of the birds were on the ground in the empty space between the villa and the jungle. They were waiting with their props rotating. It looked exactly like an extraction. All I knew was those birds were sitting ducks. I pulled my sniper riffle and set it up in the Y section about shoulder high took aim at one of the pilots and squeezed off the round. All you had to do was see the chopper spin out of control and roll over to know I was dead on. The blades broke off against the ground and debris from the resulting explosion took down the second chopper as it tried to lift off.

The fireball kept the other choppers away and everyone’s attention while I was able to haul ass into the villa. Odd thing was that all the guys inside were my guys now. When I got to the what had been the wall around compound I had no trouble climbing through a hole and into the compound. The Hueys circled around, but I knew they weren’t going to fire into the compound again. They were waiting for their own guys now who were engaged in a firefight with the Colonel who was isolated behind some burning rubble. I could see some of his officers bodies strewn around, but I couldn’t tell if he was dead or alive until I saw one of the

DELTAs take it. Then I knew that he was alive and kicking. I also knew that he was outnumbered four to one and the other Hueys would be touching down with reinforcements at anytime. Then one of the DELTA tried to circle around behind the Colonel. I picked him off from where I was. The shot went right through the back of his head. You could see his body slam face first into the ground and he was dead before he hit it. The other three Americans couldn’t figure out what had happen and never did. They each died without ever seeing the shot that killed them.

Finally I was able to get to the Colonel. I called out to Him. “You idiot,” he said in English, “Get outta here!” Well needless to say it was too late for that. As soon as the other Hueys lost contact with their DELTA’s they recommenced their rocket attacks. Get outta here he barked again, “I have reinforcements”. And sure as shit I could hear Migs. I knew there would be VC ground troops, probably choppered in from Hanoi, close behind. All we had to do was hold on. But some things are best let go of and I never should have come back here. I never felt the shot that killed me. I never knew if it came from one of the reinforcements from the remaining Hueys, or even a surviving VC who mistook me for an enemy Amercian. All that I knew is that I was dead. My last words to the Colonel were, “ I tried to tell them [the war was over], but I never got the chance.” I died there in his arms.

No sooner was I dead than did the fighting stop. There was the sound of secondaries, and the remaining Hueys flying away. The Colonel held me there that way, not sad but just
studying the situation. He looked like a mathematician who had found a flaw in his proof. “You silly boy,” he said as though he were talking to a child. ” Now we have to do this all again.”

The last thing I remember was the spotlight, like I was being interrogated again. It flooded he inside of my car just before the crash.


It didn’t matter, I got it.

I can see peace.
a journey from hate to peace.

Thats the moment I realized nothing could hurt. something could kill me, destroy me, but nothing could hurt me.


Smoke clearing
I’d get him all right, but I really didn’t know what I’d do with him when I did. I had no way of knowing what he would do to me.
it never bothered me

For awhile I thoufgt he was Jesus, but he hit too fucking hard to be Jesus.

I had the chance to make it this time. But I am sure, that I will make it next time. That’s all I’ll make it for sure I’ll make it next time, or the time after that, but I will make it, I already have.
I have not made it. I won’t make it this time, but thanks to him I am closer, though I have no idea why he did what he did for me.

Jesus told Spurrio to try to change perception from the self to the universal self.

[9:50:49 AM] ROBERTA: those are there in a battle of dark forces and light forces to keep the world of duality going
[9:51:06 AM] ROBERTA: the results of their battle is the shift in magnetism%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%
Lucilia though that Juses suffering was so great that it encompassed the pain of all of mankind, but when she put her ear to his split and bloody lips the last words she hear him say were, “I see peace.”l


in the center of an infinite universe outside of everything that is real, at the bitter end of an eternity that never was.

He was just studying me, but he wanted something too. I was right.

Then he paused still looking through me and said in English, “You will soon know everything you need to know”. Whatever the fuck he was talking about it had nothing to do with my mission.