“I’m telling you this story because you are the only person I can trust not to judge me…
I was a soldier in the Russian Army. We were in a country which we were fighting since 1795, when Mother Russia was an Empire.
I read that the fighting goes back much farther and after all these years, the fighting still goes on. These people just want to be free of us. Is that such a horrible thing? Many of my comrades felt as I did–and still do. We did not want to be there, but as soldiers, we had little choice.
Oh, yes…we had choice: kill or be killed. Such is the commiseration of all soldiers. It was because of our sympathies we became indifferent, and that indifference led to the separation of the conscience from our humanity. We became killers. Some became murderers. Moralists would say that the line some crossed was not so fine–so inconspicuous that stepping over it did not require any thought. I can tell you that the moralists are wrong. You don’t know you have crossed the line until you have crossed it. One might ask that once you cross the line, would not a man stop and question what he has done? Fortunately, some do. But there are those who are degenerates–suffering some sort of brain fever and nothing will stop them but a bullet to the head. Such was my burden.
The antagonist of my story was a man classically trained–a pianist. You probably wonder why such a man could be a soldier. He was a very argumentative, frustrating man who offended someone with influence. Why anyone would put a gun in the hands of his enemy has always puzzled me. I had watched him murder…unarmed civilians…innocents. I will spare you the horrid details. I did nothing…nothing to stop him because I was afraid for my own life. I waited for an advantage. Alone, he walked into the forest. In a clearing was an old piano. Naturally he could not resist it. To me it was divine providence.
I could not waste a moment’s thought. I knew he would remove his helmet to play. I raised my rifle–aiming at the back of his head–just as he returned to the keys. I fired without hesitation–rapidly pulling the trigger a second time–just to be certain. The Kalashnikov did not fail the first time. I will not describe any of it for you. I executed him. Some would say I murdered him, like a coward, from behind. Others would rationalize that I released him from his demons. What does it matter? He is dead by my hand.
I am telling you this, Father, not for absolution. You were there. Do not think for a moment that I do not know what you did to those girls after Vasily killed their families, you vulture–picking the bones of innocence! You think now you are a priest it is finished? I will tell you when it is finished…”
Flash Fiction Challenge #52 at Thain in Vain
Prompt: “I’m telling you this story because you are the only person I can trust not to judge me…”
Word Count: 500
Photo: Russian soldier, Chechnya, 1994
Mostly good thoughts and many, many thanks to Ms Thain for her tireless hosting of FFC for 52 weeks. You did it, Eilidh.
22 thoughts on “The last moral man”
The fog of war?
It’s a metaphor.
Oh, “fog”. I thought you were telling me I had a typo or a lapse in logic. I get it. I have never been to war but I have certainly seen what it does to those who have been to war. War itself is a fine line we made our young men walk–often too young and with too little wisdom and, in the past, with too little wit.
Now you got it. Not a typo.
I thought that the fog of war was more intune with intelligence gathering, ie you only could see so much, the rest was unknown (troops positions, intentions etc) and that was the fog of war.
Technically you may be right. But the expression has morphed into confusion, uncertainty, and an explanation as to why unexpected things happen (such as soldiers being shot by “friendly fire.” It is actually paraphrase of something Care Von Clausewitz said:”War is the realm of uncertainty; three quarters of the factors on which action in war is based are wrapped in a fog of greater or lesser uncertainty.”
Smashing story. I enjoyed reading it 🙂
Thanks, Carole. I spent a few days trying to decide how to end it. Hope your holiday was a good one. And, happy new year. Lucy
I was expecting a completely different ending to that, but a good ending nonetheless.
What was it you were expecting? I’d like to hear it. Lucy
You had described the pianist as an argumentative and frustrating man, killing innocents without pause, and then there was the piano in the woods, obviously abandoned there somehow by somebody.
I could see the writer of the letter in the woods using trees for cover, maybe using a low branch to steady his aim as he carefully lined up his shot every intention to shoot and kill the pianist. The pianist walks around the piano his hands stroking is sides like a lost lover and he opens the cover to expose the keys and then he takes his helmet off.
As he does this the writer lines up for the kill, but then the pianist plays and the most beautiful music comes from the piano, the pianists fingers moved gracefully over the keys as he remembers a life long lost, tears streaming down his face.
The writer cannot shoot him after hearing this, he too has tears running down his face, how can someone so murderous produce something of such beauty.
Lovely, you romantic, you. I only had 500 words to work with. I never thought of that. All I could see, once he had murdered, was the beast. I couldn’t see beyond that–beyond the execution. In the beginning, the executioner states that soldiers have a choice: kill or be killed. It’s just black or white for this man. That’s why he seeks out the priest, “Father” who had been there as a soldier who had also committed war crimes, and tells him that just because he became a priest, his penance is not done.
I think you had a different take on the story than I. But that is what we do, isn’t it? Write one thing and others take away from it what they will. This was the last of the 52 weeks of this flash fiction of 500 words. I am tired of writing on demand. How are you doing, old friend?
Indeed, just a different take on it, neither one wrong, just different.
Yeah I am ok, I created a different blog which I mailed you about. I had a bit of a rant about ghosts followers here and went off blogging for a bit but think that I am back on track now.
Silly me. I thought you were going to have a totally new blog, with a different name so I have been waiting to hear from you. My brain is not functioning lately. I have been sick since Christmas dinner. I think RM tried to poison me–but she poisoned her son as well. I haven’t seen him in a couple of days–wait, no, since Christmas. I know he’s alive. I can hear him in his room which is across from mine.
Have a happy–happier new year, moi. I’m here all day if you wish to talk. Lucy
Yes it is a different blog with a different name lol, I emailed or messaged you about it. The reason I disnt announce it on my main blog was to keep the risk from non-followers following, did you not get the message/mail/notification? if not use the contact page with your email and ill mail you the link.
Brain dead. Just stick my head on a stake next to Vlad III’s. I got your message, I remember it. I just don’t remember a link and I have no idea where I put the msg.. Okay. I’ll go to contacts and leave my email, but I thought I did that already, or was that in another life?
Brava! Elegant tale that succinctly explores the morality of war – and its effects on soldiers. Brilliant. But who is surprised that you’d come up with such an intelligent tale? Not me.
thanks. Have a happy new year, Sistah. Lucy
And the moral of the story is, … if you’re walking through the woods in a war zone, don’t play any pianos you happen across.
Good moral. Thanks. Lucy