an entry from The Perfect Revolution
by Oscar Deadwood

D I S C U S S I O N  F O R U M  |  S I L V E R T H O U G H T




March 19, 2013
Still on the border


        Just so you know, my hand is shaking—I could so use a beer right now. A beer would taste really, really good in this harsh land of a constant sun.

        But this, this journal, this pen in my hand, calms me in a different sort of way.

        I can't believe I'm still on the Iraqi side of the border. When we first convoyed here back in the first week of March, I was sure we'd keep moving; our tanks would roll past the ancient bunkers and trenches left over from the Iran-Iraq War. But we stopped in one of the most godforsaken places on the planet and have played mindless war games ever since.

        The tedium is torture.

        Except, of course, the interludes of time and conversation I got to spend with Tanya. The other soldiers in my squad aren't nearly as entertaining, but that's now over. I won't talk to Tanya ever again.

        It's early, and I'm due to go out again soon, but I'm not sure what they're going to do with me after last night. The seriousness of it hasn't hit me yet, even though I can't stop shaking.

        I had guard duty again last night. I was surprised to be paired up with Tanya; they usually move us around, you know, pair us up with different soldiers like they did on our patrols in Baghdad or Basra or wherever we happened to be, and some of the other members of our squad were partnered with different soldiers. In fact, everyone switched except Tanya and me. I found this fact suspicious.

        We had the 1800 to 2400 shift. I watched the sunset over my shoulder, and it was a beautiful sight. The world will never really cease as long as there are such beautiful sunsets. The dying sun cast a red glow across this persistent landscape of rock and sand, as if God (or some god, at least) had poured a bottle of red wine across the earth.

        I tried to engage Tanya in conversation, but while the sun was up, she wouldn't talk. It wasn't until well after dark that her mouth even deigned to move.

        She wanted to make sure the brass was asleep before she talked. I assured her that they were either asleep or in some colonel's tent drinking whiskey, smoking cigars and playing cards, as I've glimpsed them doing in the past while we enlisted types sweat and freeze in this harsh, harsh desert.

        "So," I started our conversation where we had left off, as soon as Tanya relaxed enough to smoke a cigarette. "To answer your question, there's no point in fighting this war, if there's nothing at home left to fight for, unless you're going to fight to bring back our way of life again, a way of life most of us have never had a chance to miss." Most of our division had spent the last couple of years scattered across the globe, forced to forsake leave and R and R.

        I continued, "The only purpose I saw in passing out the letters when they did was to guilt some of us into submission. You know as well as I do that some soldiers need no reason to fight—they'd attack a nursery school if it meant they could fire their weapons."

        Tanya readied her mouth to speak but forced it shut with a gasp. Our company commander (a captain, another one of those West Point types) and a Perfect Soldier came up on us from behind, their footsteps falling silent on the loose rock and sand.

        Tanya's cigarette was still smoldering in her hand. She took one quick drag; she knew she was busted.

        But Captain Flanigan didn't seem to care about the cigarette. I could see his face in the brutal moonlight, stern and serious and agitated. I swear I could hear his teeth grinding.

        "Sergeant Benson and Specialist Jankowski, good evening." His words were pleasant, but his voice was not. "Come with me."

        "Is there a problem, sir?" I asked. I knew this was going to be bad, and I tensed up.

        The Perfect Soldier gripped me by the arm and hauled me into an upright position. Tanya quickly stood as she saw me pulled to my feet.

        The robot's grip was tight and strong. I knew I couldn't pull myself away.

        The robot's willingness to resort to physical force was disturbing in so many ways—I mean, who could stop one if a robot got out of control?

        "That's enough, Soldier," the captain said to the robot. I could tell he was uncomfortable, as if someone else had sent him out there into the night to perform some task that he really didn't want to do.

        The unfortunate thing is that that task included me. The robot let me go, and I was surprised that it took an order from the captain. Who's in charge of these things? The one told me that it answered to General Prescott, but he's thousands of miles away. How can he possibly direct the Perfect Soldiers that are here?

        They pulled us off our post, and the captain led us towards the makeshift brig. I was surprised that no one else assumed our post, since we seemed to be ready to commence an imminent war.

        As we walked the quarter mile from our post to the edge of the camp, I wanted to ask what I had done wrong. And what the hell had Tanya done wrong besides smoking a cigarette?

        But I knew the answer.

        I'd known the answer when I'd first come into contact with one of the Perfect Soldiers. I'd known then that the world as I knew it had changed.

        The robots are not only brutal and fierce and intelligent, they are also telepathic. I knew the way you can feel someone staring at you from across the room; you can feel the eyes staring at your profile or boring into your head. That's how it is with the Perfect Soldiers. I can feel their eyes travel the hemispheres of my brain.

        I've always tried to read the science journals in the base libraries or even at Wayne State; I've always wanted to be intellectually well rounded.

        But I can never get past the first couple of paragraphs of any given article. I always gravitate to the more politically aware articles, you know, the ones about environmental damage caused by greenhouse gases and melting polar ice caps. I'm a good liberal, even if Army life has no need for political distinctions.

        We were led into a large tent, and the smell of sweat and shit and urine greeted me as soon as I stepped inside. It was the tent where the journalists were kept. I was shocked at the conditions. I assumed the journalists were kept in moderate comfort, just under guard so they couldn't report the news back home.

        But no, the journalists were kept as if they were prisoners of war.

        I counted ten men and two women. All of them were stripped down to their underwear, and the women were topless. I could see grubby handprints on their breasts. They were handcuffed and shackled, and they were forced to sit in pairs with their backs to each other. Their faces were agonized and fearful.

        Two Perfect Soldiers were in the tent with them, walking around them in a slow, methodical circle.

        I knew this wasn't going to be good, and I longed for the politically correct army that had existed when I'd enlisted, the army that had treated journalists like royalty, the mouthpieces and advocates for the military agenda. But that has all changed in a very short time.

        "Sergeant Benson and Specialist Jankowski, you are suspected of sedition and disloyalty," said the robot that escorted us, and I noticed for the first time that each of the
Perfect Soldiers had a slightly different face. They looked similar, as siblings would, but not identical.

        "However, you have been given an opportunity to prove us wrong and to ensure your freedom."

        My fear had started to slip away, only to be replaced by anger.

        My brazen self, the Ben Benson that arrives when cornered and irritated, reared his insolent head.

        "Sedition, huh? Have I ever disobeyed an order?"

        Captain Flanigan quickly shook his head, as if that alone could save me from this robotic or electronic judgment that was being guided by god only knows who.

        "It doesn't matter, Sergeant Benson. If someone accused of murder pleads their innocence because they've never robbed anyone, does that make them innocent?" a Perfect Soldier asked as he stood in front of me.

        He got me there.

        "And we have proof, by the way. Listen to this."

        He repeated, word for word, in my voice and in Tanya's, every political conversation that Tanya and I had ever had.

        "There you are, Sergeant Benson, in your own words. You don't believe in this operation or anything the Army has you doing. That is, by some definitions, sedition and punishable under the revised UCMJ."

        The UCMJ, hanging on every wall in every military office across the globe. I wish I'd taken the time to read the damn thing. But I hadn't.

        "And Specialist Jankowski, you are guilty of moral crimes."

        She looked at the Perfect Soldier with eyes that seemed to say "Fuck you and die".

        "Moral crimes, yes. Sodomy, to be precise. Need proof?"

        "Fuck your proof," Tanya said, her strong words the opposite of the sureness of her voice.

Later entry.

        I had to stop writing for a while. My body was starting to collapse and I had to get some shuteye before it was time for duty again. But I was excused from duty, meritoriously, the new company commander told my squad leader; I can spend the next 48 hours in any fashion I please. Let's see… A movie would be good, maybe grab a bite to eat, or maybe just sit on my ass and stare at this lunar landscape that is starting to close in on me like an all-encompassing straightjacket.

        Unfortunately, one of the robots had proof of sodomy.

        The Perfect Soldier removed the top of its fatigues and exposed its body. The torso was shaped like a man's, but it was featureless; there were no nipples, no belly button, just a smooth, featureless terrain of its chameleon-like skin.

        Except a monitor appeared where its stomach should be, like on some childhood television show that I vaguely remember.

        And there was Tanya, highly detailed in that robot's screen. I could tell it wasn't a recent video; her hair was longer.

        I'd been wrong about Tanya—and glad of it, even though what I saw on the robot's monitor was uncomfortable.

        She definitely wasn't gay.

        The monitor showed Tanya with another man, and to put it bluntly, she was blowing him. You know, sucking his cock. Hence, sodomy.

        The screen went blank and the robot donned his uniform.

        Captain Flanigan asked, "Proof enough?" in a quavering voice.

        We hadn't been disarmed yet; Tanya and I still had our weapons. I wish we'd been disarmed.

        I really wish we'd been disarmed.

        Tanya screamed and fired at the robots, but of course her bullets were impotent. The bullets just bounced off the Perfect Soldiers, sounding like raindrops falling on a tin roof.

        So she turned her weapon on Captain Flanigan, who had taken cover behind me, his head peering over my shoulder.

        She shot him right between the eyes, and I could hear and feel the wind and heat of the bullet as it almost singed my left ear.

        Captain Flanigan fell backwards immediately, and blood poured out of his forehead in a furious gush. I could hear it gurgle.

        The robots all pointed their hollow index fingers at Tanya and fired silent bullets, bullets that tore her body to shreds, making it an unrecognizable montage of flesh and bone and hair and blood.

        And the journalists, their already anguished faces spattered with Tanya's blood, closed their eyes as they screamed, terrified. They looked so pathetic and helpless. I lost it.

        I've always wondered what a nervous breakdown looks like—I mean, do you just collapse in a heap, or do you just start freaking out and blabbering incoherently?

        I think I have an idea now.

        So many emotions came rushing at me in the tent. You'd think fear and anger would be at the forefront of those emotions, but I know now that my soul is a twisted one.

        I was jealous of the man Tanya had been with, some other soldier that I didn't know. He got with her, so to speak, and I didn't. Now I never would.

        And that in turn made me furious, and the whole insanity of the situation erupted in me.

        I started firing my weapon randomly and rapidly across the tent.

        I deliberately killed all the journalists.

        Now, I keep reassuring myself that I put them out of their misery—and they were indeed miserable—and I keep telling myself that they would never be released, and what would have happened to them once we crossed into Iran? We wouldn't have taken them with us. I suspect a robot would have left them to die or perhaps would have killed them all, as I had just conveniently done.

        The Perfect Soldiers were pleased.

        "Well done, Sergeant Benson," said the one who had escorted me. "You have passed the test. Your loyalty will never be questioned. You performed the task we were going to command you to do. You are free to go."

        Numbly, I walked out of that tent and across the camp to my berthing tent, where I sit now, shakily writing away.

        I was played, as they say. Played for and like a fool. But what can I do?




Copyright © 2006 Oscar Deadwood

A B O U T   T H E   A U T H O R:

Oscar Deadwood lives in Royal Oak, Michigan with his wife and two sons. He has written two novels, The Trinity and The Perfect Revolution, both available from Silverthought Press in 2006.

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