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Requiem Eternum Chapter Ten
Sub-chapter: Whispers from the Eternal

Sleeping with a gun as a girlfriend, and a helmet as a pillow is something you tend to get used to. The stink of MRE farts, men that hadn’t bathed just tea bagged a canteen cup to keep their nuts sanitary, the stale burlap of the tent smell. Then there’s the smell of gunpowder. Scent, I hear, is one of the most memorable senses we have as mortals. A scent that will never leave me is of that place.

I’m not even sure if I’m cleared to tell this story but fuck them. I grabbed my headphones and tape player with the slowly dying batteries and listened to Arrested Development. At the time the song Tennessee was big. I wasn’t black, but I was proud.

“I don’t know where I can go
To let these ghosts out of my skull”

I didn’t get much sleep, but then again I never did. I got a couple hours, and was good to go. I munched on sea biscuits I’d robbed from the Ship’s chow hall the day before, and I waited. The CG’s (Commanding General) hummer pulled up, and he went into the CP (Command Post) directly. It was still dark, the waves continued to lull the ones that still needed sleep, the small fire we had going needed more wood but I wasn’t going to do it. I kind of knew I was in store for a shitty day. I wanted to preserve my strength, and not eat much. This way I wouldn’t have much to throw up. Turns out I didn’t puke atall. A source of pride I suppose.

Before a TRAP takes place everything is cataloged. Where every piece of everything and everybody is. Our job was basically to push the broom afterwards.

“Take me to another place
Take me to another land
Make me forget all that hurts me
Let me understand your plan”

We were driven in hummers, not troop trucks. We sped the whole way with PMO (base cops) escorting us and the DoD officials at the lead in their black SUVs.

Forgive me if some of this is a hazy rememberance. I don’t wish to do any of my brothers violence with my words, but this is the best I can recollect.

I was in the rear right seat of my hummer. The crash site was in the woods, but we could see the smoldering from the road. We took a tank trail, passed a series of armed guards with dogs, and to the drop off site. We would have to walk the rest of the way in. I got out and peered about, sniffing the air. I smelled pennies, diesel, and the woods. The morning sun was trying to brighten our days, but it wouldn’t help. We hoofed it, fast. The DoD guys were behind us, and PMO stopped once we got to the tank trail. I was behind Simmons and Simmons. One was the platoon Sergeant and the other was my bud from Virginia. The platoon sergeant was slated for the drill field after he was done with Purple Heart. He never went. He was about as harassed as they came, but he went on a helo lift shortly after Purple Heart, got hit in the head with the donkey dick, and his heart valves went backwards for a time or some such shit. Regardless he was crushed he couldn’t be a D.I. He would’ve been a good one too.

About a hundred yards away the tops of the trees were shaved, broken, or missing. Like Thor had come through in a bad mood. The dark smoke line was growing thicker and more clear. The stench of pennies was getting more acrid. I also detected a smell like chicken that’s left out too long…

The clearing, crash site, was… fucked up. There’s no other words for it. Two mangled machines, camouflaged things everywhere, a mixture of blood, oils, shit…. It was everywhere. The dirt was wet like it had sprinkled on a beach. Not soaked, just a little wet. Luckily our boots were black so we didn’t see the color of the wet. I touched the dirt and it was redder than Alabama clay…
I breathed in the Death. What they were going to ask me to do I most definitely did NOT want to. No one should’ve had to. Then my mind switched to the guys’ families. They’d need their closure and shit. Their flag in consolation that those years of labor and love had not gone up in a maniacal struggle for life from a fucking human shredder of Cobra rotors. They didn’t die in vain. Taps would be played, flags given to Moms. Apple pie would continue to be baked, and Ol’ Glory would still fly right? Consolation my ass.

So I did it. We split into fire teams (four guys) and moved North to South. First we were to find papers of any kind. We’d search pockets of the torn pieces of the guys…look on the ground, look through the machines. Flight logs and official papers were already secured. We were after the personal shit. It didn’t get much more personal than where I was right then. I didn’t see any papers. Next we were to… make the piles.

This pile was black, this was white, this was in between. I can’t describe how quickly I got numb after rolling the first few pant legs and sleeves up to try and see the color of the skin of the Marine’s piece. If there was an ID (such as a dogtag) something that was obvious it was another pile. The final pile. A bunch of us fell out, a lot of the guys puked their nice warm scrambled eggs up. I kept my diet simple, and nothing came out but tears.

Hands, fingers, fingers with wedding rings, thank the gods I wasn’t on the ID pile. I was just on clean up. I don’t think I could’ve taken much more. It was tough enough to tote a arm to the white pile or black pile. A leg… a head. I found two heads. One was … one was fuckin moosh. It was like if there was no skin on a head and someone had used it for a sort of hockey game where the sticks were made of sickles. The other I didn’t recognize, but it was in relative good shape. It was meat. It was all fucking meat now. They weren’t my buds anymore. Just hunks of fucking meat that I’d need to tote from one place to another, over and over and over and over again. Until it was time to go and drown the memory of the hell of it in a vat of as much Jack Daniels as a human could possibly take without dying.

My roomate Jay was in the team also. His usually psycho eyes were dead. I suppose mine were too.

Once the site was cleared of the great majority of the parts of people, we were on machinery. Each team had a big assed magnet to find wedding rings, necklaces, dogtags, anything really. I found the radioman’s pack. On a military backpack there’s ripcords that allow you to take your back off by simply pulling on the circle of 550 cord. His name was Gonzales, and he liked Coronas, and he was from Miami. He had a little sister whom he kindly informed me that if a white boy like me were to touch he’d deball me.

It was his pack I found, and his fucking thumb was in the ripcord…
This means he knew what was happening, and was trying to get his radio off his back so he could get the fuck outta Dodge. That was it. I couldn’t do this shit anymore.

I called for Sgt. Simmons to replace me, that I needed a time-out. Time-out consisted of a small tent where grown men. The hardest motherfuckers on the face of the earth would go and cry their fucking eyes out. I watched them cry, but I didn’t. I have since. I did when I saw Blackhawk Down. I did when I realized we weren’t going to go to Rwanda, and what was happening there.

“Take me to another place
Take me to another land
Make me forget all that hurts me
Let me understand your plan”

It was over shortly after I took my break, thank the gods. We went back to our swamp base, but not before we went into the ocean to bathe the blood, intestines… the shit off of our persons and gear. The lifeguards formed a circle on the outter sides of us as we were in full war gear, and it would be easier for the currents to suck us out to sea. I went in about calf deep and laid down. I looked to the clear North Carolina bluesky, smelled the ocean, felt the warmth of the sandbar under my ass, and let nature cleanse me.

“A mistake a mistake mistake…that’s all it was. Asshole pilot. A fucking mistake…asshole.” Their names, faces stories they’d told me… this and a billion other things flew through my mind. Showing their faces on the movie screen of the back of my eyelids. The screen was orange at first, then the faces, smiles, booze, tits, more booze, tattoos, muscles, blood, body parts, pictures, love letters, dear johns…

I rolled over and let my helmet be a face pillow. We would be walking back, and after the DoD briefing that told us we would face prison time if we spoke of anything we’d seen that day to anyone ever… off we went.

The beach was closed off to all personnel and civilians. I think the base was too, but we weren’t allowed to roam about much. We stripped our cammies off, put on shorts, and hoofed to the camp.

Hot chow came, and went back. Most of it uneaten. Our CO had managed to get us what we really needed. Two cases of Jack were in our tent waiting, along with three cases of beer. We drank, mostly in silence. Simmons told a couple jokes. Some played spades, others bones. I sat aside them all, watching them. Drinking my jack. Waiting for the time where reality would become too fuzzy to spend the energy to keep it in focus, and so go to sleep. Which I did… eventually.

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The following comments are for "Requiem Eternum Chapter Ten Sub-chpter Whispers from the Eternal"
by Robert Walker

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