There’s never been a true war that wasn’t fought between two sets of people who were certain they were in the right. The really dangerous people believe they are doing whatever they are doing solely and only because it is without question the right thing to do. And that is what makes them dangerous.
A true war story is never moral. It does not instruct, nor encourage virtue, nor suggest models of proper human behavior, nor restrain men from doing the things men have always done. If a story seems moral, do not believe it. If at the end of a war story you feel uplifted, or if you feel that some small bit of rectitude has been salvaged from the larger waste, then you have been made the victim of a very old and terrible lie.
There is no rectitude whatsoever.
There is no virtue.
As a rule of thumb, therefore, you can tell a true war story by its absolute and uncompromising allegiance to obscenity and evil.
War was always here. Before man was, war waiting for him. The ultimate trade awaiting its ultimate practitioner.
It’s not enough to have a purpose. I am forever enslaved. That is never changing. Whether by physical, spiritual or emotional means I am destined to live out my days without freedom, without the chance of experiencing the things that so many of you take for granted. And I can’t be trained, no matter how hard they try.
I am a weapon, a killer. Do not forget it. You can use a spear as a walking stick, but that will not change its nature. Eventually the killer must kill.
But I’m not the only one, only the most obvious one. War is like a monster. War is the devil. It starts and it consumes and it grows and grows and grows. And otherwise normal men become monsters, too.
Forget joy. Forget hope. It has all been made painfully clear to me. When you are a child, there is joy. There is laughter. And most of all, there is trust. Trust in your fellows. When you are an adult, then comes suspicion, hatred and fear. If children ran the world, it would be a place of eternal bliss and cheer. Adults run the world; and there is war, and enmity, and destruction unending. Adults who take charge of things muck them up, and then produce a new generation of children and say, “The children are the hope of the future.”
And they are right.
Children are the hope of the future.
But adults are the damnation of the present, and children become adults as surely as adults become worm food. Adults are the death of hope.
But who needs hope when you have truth? For that is what I have. The absolute truth is a wicked sort of rush. It’s far more amusing than any lie. Both have the potential to empower and to hurt, but the truth is emotionally superior. Few people could fault you for it, not when you’ve got ethics on your side. The truth is morally unassailable. But it has no pity. It is merciless.
A team of Highwaymen caught up in accusations and lies, honest with each other against the Board and what it represents. From what I’ve witnessed since I was brought here, honesty didn’t really make anyone happy. The truth was a punch to the gut, and while you were falling, a knee to the face, then you could lie on the floor and bleed for a spell.
But I have decisions to make. Only I can make them.
I’m an ‘intelligent’ sociopath, according to the files. I don’t have problems with drugs, I don’t commit crimes unnecessarily, and I don’t typically have relationship problems. I do have a complete lack of empathy. But I consider that an advantage, most of the time.
Do I know the difference between right and wrong, and do I want to be good?
A peaceful and orderly world is a more comfortable world for me to live in. So should I avoid crossing the line because it’s ‘right’? No, the question is, do I avoid crossing the line because it makes sense?
My compulsion is to bring the lot of you to ruin. I want to ruin people.
Ruining people… I love the way the phrase rolls around on my tongue and inside my mouth. Ruining people is delicious. We’re all hungry, empaths and sociopaths. We want to consume.
I can read every word of your soul, become deeply engrossed in the study of it until I’ve comprehended every nuance and detail. But when I’m done, I’ll discard it as easily as if it were a newspaper, shaking my head at how the ink has stained my fingers gray. My desire to know every layer of you isn’t feigned, but interest isn’t love, and I make no promises of forever. Perhaps I do every so often, but you have no business believing me.
Using charm and confidence to get people to do things for you that they otherwise wouldn’t? Some might call it manipulation, but I like to consider it simply using what God gave me. And the word manipulation is so ugly. It’s what people say to disavow their own choices. If they end up never regretting their decision, does that mean that no one has manipulated them?
They tried therapy with me, court ordered and mundane. But it was too late. I was already too smart for the therapist. Or maybe I was never amenable to therapy. Either way, I wasn’t going to change. I had already chosen to view the world as a set of opportunities, and winning or losing in a zero-sum game, and I used every encounter to gain information to my advantage.
God is vengeful, angry, and respects no one. But you can’t fight God and win. You can think that you’re fighting the good fight all you want. But the book has already been written. The ending is already set. God judges men from the inside out; men judge men from the outside in. Perhaps to God, an extreme mental patient is doing quite well in going a month without murder, for he fought his chemical imbalance and succeeded; oppositely, perhaps the healthy, able and stable man who has never murdered in his life yet went a lifetime consciously, willingly never loving anyone but himself may then be subject to harsher judgment than the extreme mental patient.
It might be that God rejects the weak and embraces the strong.
Today is going to be the real thing. The real test. I have a hard time breathing. My heart races. I can feel my palms start to sweat. And I think so many things at once, my head begins to hurt and I hear someone groan and it confuses me until I realize it is myself.
Freedom. Sweet, sweet freedom. A foreign country. Escape. It is blocked only by two unarmed guards outside that door over there.
Would they even notice or care?
The cops would come for me. Sooner or later. Two of them, three of them, an entire SWAT team, converging upon my doorstep. That’s why guys like me exist. Because every community has got to have a villain, and no amount of pretend normal is ever gonna change that.
Gotta think. Gotta plan. Gotta get the fuck out of here.
To where? For how long? I don’t have that kind of cash….
I need to keep my breathing under control. Find some sort of comfort. Tell myself it’s gonna be alright. I’m keeping with the program.
”One of the first signs of the beginning of understanding is the wish to die. This life appears unbearable, another unattainable. One is no longer ashamed of wanting to die; one asks to be moved from the old cell, which one hates, to a new one, which one will only in time come to hate. In this there is also a residue of belief that during the move the master will chance to come along the corridor, look at the prisoner and say: ‘This man is not to be locked up again. He is to come with me.” – Franz Kafka
Dniprovskyi District, Left Bank.
The walls of this room are white, stark and utilitarian. The long row of rooms could be confused with barracks from the outside, stacked on top of each other and symmetrically placed. An old sofa from sometime in the 1980s is pressed up against a small window from which light streams in and illuminates the room. Jeffrey James Roberts sits there on the middle cushion, eyes closed, deep in meditation. One halogen dome light is set into the center of the ceiling, the only artificial light source. Electricity is being rationed now, though, and the question had immediately crossed his mind asking how we were given permission to put on a wrestling show here at all.
With God… and the son of God, however… all things were possible.
After all, he was here, too.
The Son had arranged for this small apartment. Through the window he could see the waterfront. It was a nice place by Ukrainian standards, which were notably better in recent years after years of Soviet control, but that progress was halted by this year’s events. Jagged craters from relentless Russian bombardment dotted the streets outside, several nearby buildings were in ruins, and while being brought into the building, Jeffrey had noticed bloodstains on the concrete outside, no doubt remnants of a victim of the constant shelling that had taken place until recent weeks.
Two guards were stationed outside the door, one male, one female, both on high alert. At least, to their mind it was high alert. Jeffrey had found it wanting. Sitting on this small, dingy sofa he discovered a small flaw in their plan. The window was locked tight from the inside, the dirty glass held in place with reinforced bars embedded inside. A key to the lock for the mechanism to open it, he reasoned, no doubt was in the hands of the guards outside. Or maybe Michael Lee Best himself. There was no way to know. But it also didn’t matter. No one leaves this room unless the person with the key wants them to. That was the point.
Just above the window on the wall, however, a small vent to the outside, rectangular in shape with light from the sun shining through metal slats, offered up something the guards hadn’t considered.
The apartment itself was remarkably well appointed. The sofa of course, with a white fabric single chair adjacent, a round breakfast table with four chairs around it, and a small counter with a toaster on top of it and a sink set into the middle, with a small waist-high refrigerator at the end nearest the wall. The guards outside peeked into the apartment once per hour, and in the in-between, Jeffrey had discovered a closet with several wire hangers, and within minutes he had pulled it apart at the ends and used some elbow grease to pull it into a long straight wire, nearly four feet long fully extended, an at the end, he bent it slightly to form a small hook.
What the guards did not know is that in Kyiv, local statutes require there to be a latch mechanism on any building opening so that authorities can enter in case of fire or other emergency.
Jeffrey walked to the front door, listening for any sound outside, then pushed one of the chairs from the table over and under the doorknob. Climbing up onto the sofa, he eased the wire hanger through the slats to the outside and dangled it down over the window. After a few moments of manipulating the wire, he caught the latch and pulled hard, popping it counter-clockwise and causing the window, metal bars and all, to pop out from the wall about three inches.
In a matter of seconds, he pulled the window open and slipped himself through the opening and dropped down to the grass on the ground just four feet below the window. He landed in a kneeling position, then looked back up at the window and smiled. Giving a mock salute to guards who had no idea what was going on, he turned and headed across the field, crossing at the intersection of a four lane road and passing a small sign which read, in Ukrainian, Мотузковий парк (Motuzkovyy Park).
Rushing through the park, he passed by a small ropes course set up for public use, where several teenaged park goers were running back and forth, giggling and laughing as they traversed the structure, and a small group of similarly aged people waited just off to the side. Jeffrey sprinted past, taking great care not to be seen, then jumped over a short chain link fence into a clearing just in front of the sandy beaches of the Dnipro River.
Looking to his left he noted several small groups of people. Three young women lying on towels, a brunette on a red towel, a blonde on a striped towel and the third, another brunette on her stomach reading a book upon a green towel. Standing about fifteen feet away were a man and a woman and near them a larger towel on the sand, upon which were their belongings, a backpack, blanket and small container of food and a bottle of wine. And beyond them, a teenage boy and his father, the father reading a book and the son with his face locked onto his phone screen.
Behind them, turned perpendicularly to the fence was another sign, this one reading Березняки, пляж (Bereznaki Beach).
Turning to his right, he saw more empty space than to his left, and with a glance back to his left one more time, he turned right and began to slow jog down the beach. Only a matter of time before someone noticed. He had to be smart about it. Stay away from large groups of people, make his way out of the city.
Then, a thought occurred to him, and he paused, standing and looking back in the direction from which he had come. Michael Lee Best had come to his holding cell a month ago, and when questioned, Jeffrey had pledged his unending loyalty to the Best family. Down this beach there was freedom, but an uncertain freedom. He could be gunned down trying to run, arrested, taken back to a much less accomodating living arrangement. Or he could walk back, climb back into his room and wait to be taken to the arena, and engage in the task he had been assigned. Michael Lee Best asked for his loyalty, and he dangled the High Octane World Championship in front of his face, and more than that, legitimacy. “The World Champion doesn’t get locked in a prison cell”, he had said. “He doesn’t fly coach, and he doesn’t ride in the back of an armored vehicle. Do as you’re told and you can live a life you’ve never lived, and something more. You can really live again.”
Jeffrey pondered this and looked up at the dimming sky, the sun making its way toward the horizon as it did each afternoon, and he was struck by an awful thought, the kind that cannot be taken back once it escapes into the open air of consciousness; it seemed to him that this was not a place you go to live. It was a place you go to die.
His concentration was broken by a sound behind him. He spun around and saw there about twenty to thirty feet back from the beach, a small girl busy at work building a sand castle. He looked at her as she smiled, humming to herself as she used her small hands to form castle walls and then began to fill her little bucket with moist sand she had gathered from the waterfront.
She didn’t notice the strange man slowly walking in her direction until he was within several feet of her. Jeffrey James Roberts stood there, not that she knew who he was. No one in this country knew his crimes, and maybe wouldn’t care even if they did. He looked around and didn’t see any adults nearby, so he stared at her and she looked up at him staring back.
Her English was broken but understandable.
Jeff tilted his head slightly, then squatted down next to her.
“Hello. I’m Jeff.” He reached out his hand to her, and in her joyful naivete she eagerly stuck her hand out and shook it, then turned back to her work. He watched. “What are you doing?”
“Building a sand castle,” she sighed. “I love sand castles. I snuck out to build it. My dad used to bring me down here. He had to go and fight.”
She turned her bucket over, forming a small tower for the end of her castle wall, and Jeffrey considered her and her tiny castle. She looked back up at him finally, turning her head slightly and squinting in the setting sun.
His instincts fought to take him over. His fists clenched and he ground his teeth together behind pursed lips until she asked him a question which broke his concentration.
“Are you sad?”
He smiled, a bit confused. “Why would you ask me that?”
The little girl shrugged.
“You look sad. My mom looks sad all the time. Everyone here looks sad.”
Inside, he chuckled to himself. A little girl, halfway around the world, concerned that he was sad.
He stood back up, then reached his hand down to shake her hand again. “It was very nice to meet you.”
She smiled. “Bye!!”
He stood there a moment. “I want to run,” he thought. “To do what I always do, have always done, for my entire life. Escape, flee into the shadows. But this time, I stand my ground. I’m tired of running.”
He turned away and walked with purpose back in the direction he came from.
He had to go and fight.