Pilot 04 - Madness
So many bodies. I can see them even now, sprawled on the field. Most of them arenít even human bodies. Just lumps of metal, either whole and disabled, or in pieces. Massive things. Like big gargantuan apes, only clumsier. They donít look human, any of those mobile suits. Not in the least.
So why do I keep seeing human bodies lying there instead?
Especially when I know that thereís a good chance a lot of those suitsí pilots survived. I mean, the things are huge. Huge! You can blow an arm off and never touch the pilot. Most of the suits that lay on the field were intact--a guy can get knocked around in one of those, but to kill someone you have to either hit the cockpit or blow the suit up. I left the suits intact whenever I could.
So why do I keep seeing bodies?
Ah! Sometimes they get up, stand up and walk towards me and all they say is, "Why? Why?" Why did you kill me, Quatre? Iím just fighting for what I believe in, just like you are. Iím just following orders, just like you are. We shouldnít be fighting. We should be friends. You donít have any friends, do you, Quatre? You had one, maybe, but you killed him, didnít you? I could have killed you, Quatre, but you got to me first, you got to all of us. Maybe if I had killed you, we wouldnít all be dead now, just you, just one worthless, sinful, child killer lying cold in the sand. No oneís loss, right?
No, no! I cry, hating their words because theyíre too close to the truth. I killed because I had to! I hated it! I didnít want to. I never wanted to kill. I said I was sorry, didnít I? Didnít I say I wouldnít kill you if you surrendered? Why did you keep coming?! Why did you force me to make good on my promise?!
Donít make this about me, damn you! This is your fault! You could have backed down. You pulled the trigger! You blew up my suit! You killed me! You killed me! Iím only a little older than you, man. I had my whole life in front of me. I was gonna climb up Ozís ladder and be a general and be famous and make buckets of cash and marry my girlfriend and have a family! You ended that! You took that away from me! Bastard!
And I curl in on myself, trying to turn my back on the words, but I have no shields. Theyíre right, after all. Iím sorry. Iím so sorry. Iíd fix it if I could. But I canít. Iím so sorry.
They circle me like a pack of wolves. They have no faces. They alternate visages between metal MS helmets and bloodied masks. I did this. I blew their bodies to pieces. I made them die in pain and agony. My fault, all my fault. And I canít change it.
If I sit still long enough, theyíll leave. Theyíll come back later, but for now, they leave. They kick me on their way past, spit on me, bloody globs of saliva, call me things Iíve never called anyone in my life. I sit and shake, and hold my tongue. If I ignore them, theyíll go away.
Theyíll go away. Theyíll come back later, but for now, theyíll go away.
Are they gone? I canít open my eyes. Are they gone?
Oh, thank AllahÖ
They say youíre always the last person to know when youíve gone crazy. But no one else knows about this, no one knows about these horrible ghosts that haunt me night after night. Maybe theyíre dreams, and Iím just having nightmares. Or maybe theyíre real. They leave no hairs on the carpet, no bloodstains in the upholstery. But theyíre there. Oh, theyíre there. I feel their breath on me, hear their words. Because--itís true. Everything they say is true.
They arenít the monsters. I am.
Even with them gone, itís still true. Even if theyíre just figments of my imagination, itís still true. I canít change that. And thatís why I canít fight them.
But I wasnít all wrong, was I? It wasnít a big mistake to join with the Magunacs, like I thought it was. They taught me to be someone other than the little rich brat my father had raised me to be. They found in me the compassion everyone says Iím famous forÖ ah, God, Iíve killed more than any of them, I didnít start killing until I came to them, isnít that some sick irony? I used to think it was a crazy mistake to have joined them, to leave my family behind, that it would ruin me. But it kind of saved me, kind of made me someone I could get along with.
And at the same time, still, I doubt. If I hadnít joined them, if I had stayed with my father, if I hadnít changed, if I had remained young and naÔve and just another rich kidÖ How many of those pilots would still be alive now?
No. If I think like that Iíll go crazy. I have to stay sane. I have to stay healthy, so I can continue to be useful, to fight, to defend the colonies.
And continue to kill.
I used to think there was another way. That there had to be another way to defend, another way to get the point across. I thought surely the UESA would listen to reason from the colonies. There could be peace talks, debates, delegations. I grew up in a political household, after all. Iíve seen what talking can accomplish. Words have a lot of power.
But it will never work. Never. And only because weíre human and we donít function like that. Rashid told me once, something he had heard as a boy, full of dreams of glory, when he first joined the army. A soldier on his own is the height of humanity and honour, willing to put his life on the line for the betterment of his country and the protection of his beliefs. But war, as a whole, is nothing more than mass murder. If you ask any young soldier on his first, starry-eyed mission, if he is willing to die for his cause, he will say yes. But I guarantee he is lying. He has no idea what he has gotten into, no idea what it means to die for what you believe in. He cannot begin to comprehend what he has done, what he will do, the magnitude of his betrayal to God and all men. He sees only the glory, the chance to feel like something powerful, the chance to be worth more. He does not see the blood that will be spilled. He does not see the horrible, consuming guilt that inevitably follows. He does not even imagine his own body blown to trace atoms in half a second, and his descent into the very depths of Hell. He does not see the fire of battle, the fire of the funeral pyres, the fire of damnation, noÖ the only fire he sees is the fire of his own foolish passion.
None of the soldiers I killed expected to die. The all expected to go and go until the war was over, and then to go back to the same life they had before the madness started. Would that I could give them that. Would that they could all go back. Would that I could go back.
But it doesnít work like that.
I was just the same, before my first battle. I was just as arrogant as every soldier Iíve ever faced, more so because I, in Sandrock, was well protected. There was no chance I would die--I would fight and win, for the colonies, for peace, for glory, and I would go back to the life I had before. Blood? Fire? Death? No such thing. Lies, all of it.
But I was so wrong.
Maybe old warriors feel this, too. Maybe they donít always feel like they are fighting for the true cause. Maybe they stare at a battlefield and wash their hands after until theyíre raw, trying to get off the blood. Maybe they see the old ghosts, and wish, so passionately that it hurts, that they could undo every single one of their murders.
Or maybe they just die too, sink farther and farther back into themselves until the cause doesnít matter, the deaths donít matter and even they donít matter, nothing mattersÖ Maybe they go on instinct and fight without thought of their own lives or any other lives theyíre faced with. Maybe they just give up, and half-heartedly curse any day that they ate not killed as well.
When I was young, before I was a murderer, I swore that such a thing would never happen to me, that I would never lose sight of what I was fighting for and never become such a machine. I would never cease to feel, I would always be compassionate and caring and love even those I killed.
Damn my intuition that I was right! Damn my empathy and humanity that I should be unable to build a wall between myself and my enemy! How I wish for just a moment of ignorance, just a moment of blissful naivety, a moment of hardened numbnessÖ anything, anything but this aching, chewing guilt.
My hands are spotted with blood. My own. Some is dried and turning brown, some is still bright red and fresh, weeping from the scabs and splits that reopen every time I move my fingers. I washed them for hours, until the skin washed away with the feeling of death, and I was left with even more blood collecting in my palms than I had seen before I even turned the tap on. The water that drips off my fingertips now is streaked with it, the evidence of my humanity running in diluted rivulets down the drain. The water is so cold I donít even feel it anymore. My hands are numb and tingling.
The reflection in the mirror doesnít betray any hint of what I really am. My hair is blonde and gleaming, like something straight out of a fairy tale. I wash it every day with the best shampoo, after all. My eyes are pale blue and innocent. My skin is white and my cheeks are pink. I look like a doll. I look like someone who has never heard a gunshot, never seen a corpse, never felt the hot spray of blood across their fingertips. But I have. My reflection is no reflection at all, just a masterful artistís rendering of childhood. I hang that painting in front of my blackened soul, hoping that maybe some of its redemption will rub off on me.
That doll in the mirror has never killed.
When my face is relaxed, it has a natural look of almost surprise. Iíve seen that expression on so many faces. Because itís the face everyone wears when they realize theyíre dead. Theyíre all surprised to feel the crushing weight of mortality land on them. Itís shocking. They never expect that fatal blow. They never expect to die. That surprised look is always the last look their faces ever wear. If their faces are intact later, they wear that expression to their own funeral, to their own grave.
And I wear it all the time. I donít know why. Maybe Iím expecting death. Maybe Iím hoping for death. Hell canít be anything worse than what Iím already subjecting myself to, right? But it never comes. Maybe Death sees that face and thinks Iím already dead. I always get out. It doesnít matter who else dies, how close the explosion is to me, Death always misses me.
No matter who else it takes.
No matter how close it gets.
No matter how sure I am that I will be next, it always sees that relief, and skips me. And takes someone else. Trowa. Death took Trowa. Death killed Trowa. It skipped me and took him.
No. I killed Trowa. Me. I pulled the trigger and it was my gun that spat fire towards his suit. It is me who carries full responsibility for the explosion that blinded me and sent his tiny, armourless body hurtling through space to a slow, cold death.
Allah, I barely even knew him. I called him a friend, my one friend, but who was he? Just an expressionless face, another of the pilots, just a wordless mystery that somehow managed to handle both a Gundam and flute with equal artistry. I never understood him, what or who he was. I had no right to call him my friend, and less than no right now.
It almost makes me laugh, the difference in our first and last words to each other. The first time I met him, it was me telling him we should not be fighting, telling him I was surrendering and that he could put his hands down. The last time I ever heard his voice, he was saying almost the reciprocal to me.
I know Iíll never forget his voice, as long as this pitiful excuse of a lifetime keeps up with me. He looked older than fifteen, Trowa. His eyes, when I could see both of them, seemed to hold the wisdom and experience of an old man. But his voice, the last time I ever heard it, was that of a child. Sure, it was his voice, a voice I was used to, though he used it infrequently, a voice that suited him, that had never seemed odd to me. But there was some inflection behind it then, some intonation, some accent, some tone, that it made him sound younger and more innocent than a newborn.
Turn back into that nice guy I once knewÖ But he didnít. He never knew me. I was a killer when I met him. I was never a nice guy. Before I was a killer, I was a brat. No. He was wrong. I can never go back. Not after killing the one person I had the gall to call a friend.
But maybe itís better that heís gone, you know? He made me think things I would burn for, more so than for any murder Iíve committed. When I first saw his face over the com, that first day, that first battleÖ No expression of surprise could have beaten the look that Iím sure was on my face that day. His skill as a pilot, his grace as he walked out of the cockpit, the calm demeanour in which he surrendered to me, even after a moment before trying to destroy me. Maybe I have weird tastes, but nothing could have prepared me for that sight. I was certain I was dreaming, or that I was really finally dead, and here was Hellís most tragically beautiful fallen angel to lead me to my doom.
I would have followed him anywhere.
But even as I think this, I canít help but think, maybe he is a demon. Heís a boy. As I am a boy. We are both boys. How can I feel this strongly for him? I called him "friend," but that is nowhere near accurate. I knew from the first image of him, scrambled and pixely, that I had fallen in love with him. And that is wrong. Every time my thoughts turn to him, I hear my fatherís words. Words of disgust and near hatred. Once, when I was young and we were walking through a park near our home, we saw two men holding hands on a nearby bench. Nothing more, just holding hands. And Father told me not to look. He said they were betraying Allah with every breath they took, and that they would burn in the Devilís fire for their treason. I didnít understand. I was holding Fatherís hand tightly to keep from getting lost. Would I burn as well?
But now I know what he meant. I know where in the Qurían, dictated by Mohammed, peace be upon him, where it says that it is a grave sin for a man to love another man. Lust as a sin is bad enough. But a man to a manÖ
And yet we are told to love even our enemies. Twice in my life has Trowa been my enemy. Once I surrendered before either of us could do anything foolish. And the other, I shot him before he could stop me.
And both times I loved him. So much it burned. The first time it shocked me into docility, and the second it boiled my blood and made me pull the trigger. Iíll never understand it.
Both times, he surrendered to me. Both times he accepted it, accepted what he was sure had to happen, what had happened before. I think all his life heís been accepting things. He has that quality to him--not shrinking or docile, justÖ ready. Not fighting. I could see it in him the first time I saw him, and I heard it in his voice a moment before his suit exploded.
He told me only one thing about his past. Only that heíd been among soldiers since he was a tiny child. And even I am not naÔve enough to misunderstand the evil that was inevitably done to him there. A beautiful boy child in a camp full of hardened killers? They wouldnít think twice about ruining him. Evil. Thatís all I can call it. Man and boy. Boy and man. Boy and boy. It is evil. If there is no other way to solidify that in my head, I give you that. That horrible history of pain and shame that he called a childhood. I will not do the same. I will not damn him further. I will not defile him further. I will allow him that grace. I will not dishonour his memory by thinking such terrible thoughts.
I called him my friend. I lied, which is a sin in itself, but I desperately wanted to believe it. We were both if us bound for Hell regardless, doubtless for the delightful section for murderers. But I would not, I will not allow myself to shame him anymore. I will allow him to take that dignity with him to Judgement. He can stand tall and face his fate and not have to know that he willingly gave himself to another man in love or lust. Because he would have, I think. He would have accepted it. He would have let me do whatever I wanted to him. He surrendered the first time and the last time, and would have done it then, too. He would have let me clasp his hand, as did the hands of our Gundams in that first, short-lived battle. He would have let me drag my hand up his arm to his face, cup his cheek and touch my mouth to his. He would have let meó
No. I must not think of such things. Not about Trowa. I have hurt him enough. I have damned him enough. I must let him go. I killed him. Maybe I saved him from damnation, from myself, and maybe I didnít. But I killed him, and I cannot dirty my memories of him with such evil. And I cannot cling to him. I killed him. I must let him go. I killed him. I must let Allah have him now.
He was never mine.
But heís dead. Because of me. He accepted it.
I can cry all I want. He was never mine. He will never be mine. I cannot wrap his soul in such damning thought. I can tell myself that over and over.
But I can never accept it.