Author's Notes: Due to conversations with Emilie lately (Miluielwen, author of the ever amazing Femmes D'Ombres), I have come to find myself completely infatuated with the character Snafu from the Pacific. Now, I've never seen the Pacific. I've only watched a few clips of it, during which time I found this character to be so utterly fascinating that I just had to get him out of my system. So I wrote this. Let me know if it's OOC for him. Or simply ridiculous. Either way, do let me know. :)
disclaimer - I own nothing of the Pacific and no disrespect is intended toward the men of K Company. This is merely fiction and is based on the fictional portrayal of Merriell 'Snafu' Shelton.
P.S. Thanks Em for the inspiration...this is dedicated to you, my friend! ;D
(Through me the way into the suffering city. Through me the way to the eternal pain. Through me the way that runs among the lost.)
There is something raw about him. Like if you touch him, all you'll feel is spirit. Raw soul. You'd expect reaction. A shudder, a twitch, a fair trade of expression. But there is nothing. As raw as he is, there is something in him that is just too dead and gone to care what sensation feels like. What fingertips brushing against open wounds tastes like. No matter. Taste and sensation are but wraiths now; they have faded away to atrophy from little use as necessity and apathy take their place.
For a moment, he stills. He is ever the eye of the storm, ever on the brink of quiet destruction, but this time it is almost death-like in proportions. How utterly motionless he has become in nothing more than a simple bat of the eye. Like he has been cast in sun-burnt casings of bronze skin. The deadly stillness at last allays and he flickers the ashes of his smoldering cigarette to the wind. He'd say, if someone were near, that he is offering his adornments, ribbons of stifled fire, to the strands of wayward breeze that pass him by.
The others are unnerved by him. The things he does, says even, they're precariously close to being lunatic with the way he skirts on cruelty as if it is a precipice. The yawning gap of this lunacy, it is a face that he seems to know by name, by countenance.
Grace does nothing to restrain him. This unnatural practice of incongruity that he has long since taken to. No amount of bodily elegance will do to persuade his outlandish character otherwise. His movements are like that of a summer's dream. Quiet and life-like, almost pensive in a budding poet sort of way. But beneath, there is no masking the rot. The gangrene that throws itself upon them and makes them recoil, as if it is truly the tangible stench of slaughtered humanity meeting their unsuspecting noses.
They say animals can smell fear. Surely they can detect him even before he opens his mouth to speak - the embodiment of their dread, the narrator of their every secret thought. They fear him because he is the darkest part of their mind taken to human form. He knows every apprehension, every buried wish to flee that they would strive to keep in shallow graves if he did not already snatch them from the loosened vaults of cognizance. He unwraps them from their candy-coated stupor. Shows them what they will be like when those fears adhere to the physical world.
Every appendage that ever aided him in feeling, in vying for sympathy and companionship, has been removed in order to survive out here. It's not personal, don't make it out like that. Like anyone means anything in this bigger picture where the individual is lost in a sea of blood and martyrdom.
It's just war.
He can't blame them, not really. He finds that the emptiness in him can only be filled by the emotions he entices from others. Some would say fear is his partiality. But it's not. What do they know? They have yet to unearth from the walking graveyard of this man, this sepulcher of skin and bone, the code which unlocks him. Which frees him into the grasp of their knowledge and makes it known to them what he truly is.
If he were to tell them, he'd say he doesn't quite know what partiality really is all that much anyway. Partial? Only humanity can be partial. He is a machine of war. Programmed to destroy that which does not have a place in the free world. What is the free world anyhow? If it were free, he thinks to himself, we'd all be formless. There would be no such thing as shape. No triangles, no words, no tell-tale smoothness of pomegranates in his hand that are heavy with ripened seeds. Certainly no fuckin' guns either.
(My maker was divine authority. The highest wisdom, and the primal love).
This ain't free. This is just the carefully composed image of what true liberation could be like. A glance into the inhuman possibility of being of pure essence, no skin to attach us to mortal ground. If that were how the pages of the book were to turn, then he wouldn't be here. There would be no blood on his hands, no tropical sun beating upon his back like a tyrant of the unending sky. He would be a cloud of being somewhere, frolicking through the void in which time and space used to collide. Wouldn't that be fucking somethin'.
He knows more than he let's on, you know. But he won't tell you that (a casual flick, another segment of his cigarette is gone).
No, no, boys, little toys, little injuns of war. It's the look in their eyes when they realize he's not quite right in there. There's something loose in his head but they can't hear the rattle, the clamor, of unfastened sanity. Because he's too far away from them for their senses to glide over him, try to translate foreign tissue into a vessel of memoirs. Make him into something like the face of tranquility, embedded shards of home.
But when they try to find a mirror of their newborn suffering, they find a corpse instead. The leer of death reflecting in eyes that are far too wide and perceptive of depth of soul to be fitted into boxes of comfort. Not all proper, anyhow. They could try, but they will only find that the comfort they partake from him is of the coldest kind. Like snow in the tropics. Well, ain't that the darndest fuckin' thing. A snowstorm made of human flesh in 'Nam. Yeah, he ain't the consolin' kind. He'd sooner let you know what you're going to find in those illusions of paradise. Underneath the canopy of blue mottled green that should feel more like grazing the surface of Eden than plunging into the pit of the undying fire.
(All hope abandon, ye who enter here. These people have not any hope for death.)
He has heard the moans, the shrieks, the cries for mercy. He has been forced-fed death peeled into halves of truth. The taste of forbidden fruit, of sin and death and blood, is not as sweet as it may seem. Bitterness and metallic scarlet stain him for eternity. They all look the same on the inside. Pink as a newborn piglet. He likes to think soldiers are red on the inside. Like a heart pumping fresh blood. A perfect crimson sunset – they are the end.
Many reject him for his candor. He can't blame them now, can he? He's taken to informing them of the wages of war as if it were more than just a pastime for his amusement, his little comedies which revolve around an unwritten script. Their words, their expressions, their very reactions all fuel the vigor of his sport.
But really, he muses, it's more than that. (Another flicker, more ashes fall away). A responsibility. He's made a career out of it for himself. It's too late for him. But it might not be too late for them.
Breathing is close kin to madness now. Breathing in smoke of burning bodies, smoke infused with napalm and sulfur, smoke here and smoke there everything just smoke, smoke. This is what they shall receive if they should ask.
Him? Well now, he's so used to the scent that it's as easy as inhaling perfume to him. He's even imagined it to be so. Sweet smelling fragrance that once embalmed the skin of a graceful neck into which he'd speak as if like supplication to the heart, the soul sashaying within the fires of passion. An indentation of flesh upon the wrist that wafts somewhere in the back of his throat, his wandering mind. Back then, it was the heady ghouls of the Bayou – the swampy-salt air. The sunset wrapped in tendrils of fog. That was one demon no one ever felt the need to exorcise. To run away from, leave behind, never to fear again. Not that he ever felt like exorcising his own anyway. Why destroy the mirrors which stare deep down into the depths of one's soul?
People mostly didn't like seeing their own blackness. Their own filth. But he's a strange kind. Nothing at all like kindred spirit to much of anyone but his own devils, playmates of the deep. He likes to look down into what has been converted into nothing but war, death, war, blood and find that he's become bloated with Hell. He is a prison cell. Locking away the eternal suffering as if he has become the inferno itself. A cavity which swallows all feeling, but feels nothing in return.
With something almost like a smile, he curls his lips around a wisp of smoke, tries to catch it with his eyes. It escapes him, the far off gaze that doesn't quite see anything but its own reflection of charred soul.
He's tried practicing it, smiling, just to see what it feels like, what it looks like, if it sings a pretty tune, but it's no use. Its fragile edges tear on a rough scab that won't heal from too many yesterdays ago for him to count. Like moth wings catching on inquisitive teeth. The smile falls away, plunging into the void. A grimace in its stead. It will have to do. What else is there but the aftermath? The afterthought?
First comes murder, then comes justification. Numbed submersion into all those delirious questions of why?
Why? Well, this is war, son. War is not murder, it is sacrifice.
Well, all right then liberty. If you say so, mistress of livelihood. Of good intentions.
(Another brush of sacrificial ashes to the wind).
Even in solitary form, not framed with the searching eyes of replacements and bare chests stained with sunlight and gleaming with sweat, he emits a sort of otherworldliness to which the jungle bows. Soft incantations of the Bayou's far-off specter find him here, haunting his steps, every pull of the trigger that sends another soul reeling through him, into the cage of his bone-made blackness.
He's not crazy or anything, no. He could tell you that. Though would you believe him? Insanity just breeds more insanity, doesn't it? Gives birth to little infant seeds of explanation. If he told you his mind was there, not just a hollow cavern through which echoes of being ricochet off the walls, you wouldn't take it into consideration. Oh, it's just old man madness again raving himself off his rocker. Stay on your rickety porch of reason old man, you'd say.
It's a good thing too that he just don't give a shit anymore if people think he's lost it. Maybe he has, he'll never know.
But what some people would like to tell you is that he's just a little off kilter. Like his world's not quite set to revolve around the same sun as the others, as their own. He don't hear voices, no sir. Just whisper. Muses of the past come to inspire his will to carry on. If not for himself, than for the hell of it.
Or perhaps because in another place, another time…another part of him still exists.
Perhaps it justifies the veil of coldness through which he kills. The one which lady liberty in her slow seduction, to the cadence of her battle cry, has pulled over his eyes. A blushing bride of death himself.
Somewhere, somehow, he knows he's not himself. Snafu is just an embodiment of his inner demons chasing him through a very cruel dream.
(In the meantime, his cigarette reaches its breaking point. And it falls away beneath his fingertips, slips through his blood-painted grasp, but he's not here to bid them a fond farewell. )
Back home, he's waiting.
And when it's time, the Bayou will resurrect him from this web of illusory lies.
Footnotes: By the way, the italicized words in parenthesis are from Dante's Divine Comedy: Inferno. The parts I have selected are only a portion of the full inscription over the gates of Hell, according to Dante that is. :) Hope you enjoyed!