I was in my room when the call came through from my rotten colleague telling me he was on his way to my location. The plan had been formulated for weeks now and it was time to put it into action. We knew the agenda. There were others in our battalion stationed over three provinces. My colleague and I were supposed to come in from the west via train. We are no stranger to this trip and have the wounds to prove it.
From my current position we are supposed to head west by cab to the train station. No stops. And no drinking until the big show. I find myself lost in my house. Traveling in and out of each room wondering how I got there and where I was going. As I struggle to find my bearings I can stop the questions racing in and out of my mind. Is this happening? Who will make it? Who can be trusted? I brush my teeth again thinking it will calm the nerves. Only ten minutes until he gets here and there’s no turning back. This is the moment some say you hear a voice. I’ve been told the voice instructs you to do what’s in your best interest. But no voice inside me even gasps a whisper. So there I was telling myself I’ll make it out alive. There will be more of us this time, power in numbers…we are all fucked. He arrives and the look in his eyes only reinforces my previous thoughts. The stress is too much and I grab us a beer. But it turned into two, and some whiskey. I tell myself this is bad. Already we have strayed from the plan, but then I have never truly been able to feel comfortable in that atmosphere. Sobriety is for rookies, wet behind the ears. Not us, we are breed from the same pedigree as the warriors of the sixties. Our knowledge and experience will help us prevail.
We get in the cab, but stop first for more beer. Just enough to get us in, then we’re ready. The train system in this area is unique to anywhere I’ve ever been. Who are all these people and where are they going? Spirits are high, but what for? Do they know the terror that lies ahead for them? The impending doom which washes away the excitement of New Year’s Eve.
The Brick City, last call for more beer before we are in the belly of the beast. My friend grabs a regular, but I know a double is necessary. On the last train the wondering eyes of the freaks are on us. Are we talking too loud? Is our topic of conversation too much for them? Maybe our conversation about escaping a terrorist attack was making them nervous? Maybe we were the terrorists? Are we? Is this what our patriotic spirit of a good time lead us to become? What side were we fighting on? Who am I really?
The train gets in just before the crowd turns hostile towards us. Last chance now for grub and a taste of normalcy. Hold on to these memories I tell myself. They might be the last instance of who I thought I was. Just the thing you need on a trip like this. It helps you remember you were once one of the ‘normal’ people, but never will be again.
The village we arrived in is weird and inhabited by every ism and orientation one might ever think to associate themselves with. Where from here? The troops from mainland rendezvous with us. Finally a moment of clarity and decency. But something goes wrong. Their eyes are glazed over. The product of cocktail hour gone wrong. A trip to the bar is our remedy. I liked the place. It was everything I needed. Billiards and hard drink. No reason to leave I said, but we came to this place for other reasons. We stay for a few more until we get word from the rest of our party that they have made contact. It’s time.
We arrive on shore. The clouds unleash on us all they had. A warning shot from the heavens to turn back. This is not for the faint of spirit. Only those with true grit, and we were chock full of that! Our attire and umbrellas form a great black snake in front of us. Parts swaying from side to side trying to dodge the heaven’s warning shots. No one moves. We guard ourselves with what we have. The snake grows restless and shouting from the body begins to fill the air. Will we last this out or begin turning on each other? Eventually we slither forward to the gate.
Two gates permit our entrance. The gatekeepers hold a cold look in their eye. With their demeanor they wave goodbye to the good souls passing through. I have what money I could scrounge, but none for the boatman. The boatman sees it as a one way trip. The last for your soul to make. But I plan on returning. Across the fiery river we will brave together. To the depths of the underworld, we will conquer and return to tell stories of what we have seen.