in the hazy milk of twilight by frooit

the pacific, sledge pov, short

influenced by with the old breed
so, this is a fictional elaboration of a true occurrence
title pulled from The Moon asked the Crow by CocoRosie

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You don't know fear until it's crippling your outright ability to breathe and cope. Until it's a slippery-warm living thing in your guts and under your skin and behind your eyes, roiling and roiling, threatening to become all you know, all you are. It'll fill what's left of your shell, you hollow little boy, and leave you nothing to use in return. You'll be babbling that booby house tune. On and on. You can still remember though, your biggest worry, your biggest pre-war fear. And that was whether or not you would be brave enough, whether or not you would turn tail and run in the face of what needed to be done. Now all you're wondering is whether or not you'll make it through the next hail of coral reef shrapnel, let alone through the long night.

You don't know fear until it's the screaming at your side, from a man on your side, and the fire light in the alien sky is another oncoming artillery dump. You, in your lowdown foxhole, crouched and shivering, the meat in a blood and coral dust soup, an orphaned child, an orphaned memory, waiting (and praying, babbling desperate pleas and bargains: if only I could have-if I make it through-if only it lets up-) waiting for the death bomb's whistle and whine to climax and the explosions to begin, the dying to continue.

And maybe this time it'll catch you up.

You don't know fear until you've gone to the edge of Hell and back and can compare. Your home sweet, home remedies. Your forgotten promises. Your resolute morals. It'll all be the brighter and more glorious, yes, oh holy shit, yes, if you do get back there. When you do, let's say, will it be the same as you left it? No, no, that's not it-will you be the same? Because this does something to a man (boy, child), to a person, to the core. Dance on the hazy borders of sanity long enough and see if it doesn't leave a burn mark, a scar. Stronger men have been broken by it. Stronger men have died by it.

And still.

What makes you think you stand a chance?

Well...

You're going to survive this war!

"Did you hear that?"

It's a no in so many words, but you heard it. You're sure of that. Out of the blue (for sake of phrase), clear as day, a revelation, a voice. So you might just make it. Beyond the fear, the insanity, the confusion, the helplessness, the shame, the disdain, the pain. Maybe you'll just leave it all here on this shit splat island, accompanied by the corpses and the scorched ground and the spent shells and the dread and the fear and the screams. Maybe you'll learn that surviving isn't such a hot gig.

You'll learn your curse is never to forget.

But you'll also learn it's your duty not to.

And that you'll have a story to tell.

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