The things I do for My Country

Category B: Highly Commended (2021) Monash Short Story Writing Competition

Author:  Joshua Ludbrook

Title: The things I do for My Country

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To be frank, there is nothing glamourous about what I do, nothing beautiful about the red mist above people necks, nor the tears that fall from the eyes of the relatives of the fallen. I have fought for nothing but my country for the last ten years. I have gotten to the point in which I can watch anything and not flinch due to how desensitized I am to everything that can be considered violent. I am a blood covered monster who should never be around things so pure as families and partying. So, imagine my shock when I hear that the best option for my country is not only to interrupt and stain a day of peace and celebration with my presence, but to do so surrounded by an atmosphere of pure joy and relief. 

The things I do for my country. 

People were having picnics and parties at the bottom of the hill. Families happy to hear that the civil war was finally going to be over. It conflicted me, people happy at the downfall of not just our nation, but the enemy as well. I thought, ‘Do they not understand that if we had just a few more years, we’d finally succeed in wiping them out? How do they have sympathy for those who slaughtered us beyond reason?’ I couldn’t seem to understand them. They may’ve had a point but I couldn’t see it. All I knew is that one day they’d thank me.

But let me say this, from the long hikes to vantage points, to the godawful recoil and inaccuracy and inconsistent hair-trigger on the guns we were provided with, nothing I did prepared me for this particular job. Even the conflicting noises of those inside my head and the noises of celebration outside of it, regardless of how it messed with my focus, that was nothing compared to the biggest challenge I faced that day and the biggest challenge I have ever faced during my time as a sniper. I only hope that you haven’t had to make this decision, or at least haven’t had the consequences as severe.

The things I do for my country. 

I did not know who I needed to kill, I had no name, no relatives, no background information at all; only a description. Male, Late 30s, wearing a bright orange suit. It wasn’t hard to find him. No, the problem occurred after I had found him. 

I recognized him. There’s no way I couldn’t’ve. The person who brokered the treaty, who made this entire event happen, who I had to kill, was my younger Brother. 

Looking back, it makes sense, but I couldn’t believe it when I saw his face through the scope. I didn’t know he would be there. My mind was consumed with rage and confusion; a heated debate in my head began as my mind scrambled for an answer of what to do. Alarm bells rang inside me as a fire started in my soul. If I wasn’t trained to keep still while looking through the scope, God knows what I would’ve done. The man whom I grew up with, whom I shared a bedroom, a mother, toys, stationery and even my own flesh and blood with. 

I had been paid to shoot the only man I knew who never cared about differences of opinion, skin color, beliefs or identity; the man who simply wanted love and to be loved. 

THAT is who they wanted dead. 

THAT is who they wanted ME to kill.

I closed my eyes and took deep breaths to calm myself. My mind retreated into itself and all I can remember from the moment is the loud debate in my head. 

I had a duty to my country. I had taken the oath years ago to protect my country first before anything. I had loyalty literally whipped into me. I couldn’t just leave it all behind for a man whom I hadn’t talked to in five years. 

He cared about me. He loved and respected me as much as I did the same. We never even threw a punch at each other, even as children. That level of admiration amongst siblings is almost impossible. His death would be the end of that. 

The argument was fierce, so fierce my vision became blurry and my head started to ache. It got down to the point of both sides mentioning meaningless things he did to me as a child, things I didn’t even remember till now; things like taking the last chip out of a bowl when we were 6. Surprisingly enough, the side saying I should kill him was winning. I took a deep breath as I prepared to fire; the same words ran through my mind as I was about to shoot. 

The things I do for my country.

Suddenly, everything seemed to move in slow motion as my mind focused on a noise from below the hilltop, I don’t know how I heard it from so far away, but what matters is I did hear it. Some of the partiers had a radio that was blaring my brother’s speech. He said, “…Y’know, I started writing this treaty five years ago. And every word in it, I dedicated it to every soldier that was fighting on both sides, especially my brother. I missed him; I was always so worried that he was going to die before I saw him again. Thankfully with this, treaty I won’t have to worry anymore!”

I couldn’t believe it. My scope was clouded by moisture from tears that welled up in my eyes. He did all that for me. Screw the country’s future, screw the man who hired me, I thought, I didn’t care, I wouldn’t shoot my brother. I took my face away from the scope and started to pack up and leave.

If only it wasn’t for the inconsistent hair-trigger, I would’ve gotten paid. But neither money nor country compares to family.

 

 

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Last updated: 02 September 2021