Who Is Chosen


J. Edward Tremlett

 Trotsky: So even an assassin can make the flowers grow.

"Variations on the Death of Trotsky" - David Ives


Today I saw what is left of a man when the world decides he must die

{Sorry. That was pretty bad, and I promised that if I did keep a journal during the war I'd try and keep the flowers clipped. Much as possible, anyway.}

He'd probably been there a week, what was left of him, when we found him this afternoon. Taliban, we think, but it was hard to be sure. Might have just been some poor goat herder took his flock the wrong way, stepped on a minean old Soviet mine. No guns, no ammo, not even a knife, so who can say?

There was a crater where the mine had been, and when we fanned outward, looking for more, we saw that there were large and small pieces of him scattered here and there, around it. They were dried meat and bone, barely recognizable as human unless you knew what to look for. A partial, clawed hand that could have been an animal's, a length of skinny thigh that could have been anything, and what was either a kneecap or a light rock until you kicked it with your boot and saw it wasn't a rock.

Only the head told the complete story. The eyes were empty, frightened pits and the jaw was locked wide open in a last scream. There was a long, bushy beard crawling with bugs, and a mess of matted hair under a dried, flaking turban. No nose or ears, barely any skin on the bone, but once we found it, we could say that we had found a man.

I thought this might make me sick, but it was more sad than disgusting. Animals had taken the soft, juicy bits and gone away, and the Sun and the heat had done the rest. It was like someone toppled an upright mummy from its case and it had crashed to pieces on the floor. No, not disgusting. Not at all.

Disgusting came when Joe found the head and held it up, laughing that quiet, wolf-laugh of his at the fearful expression. Kevin told him he might catch something, but he just gave Kevin the look. Kevin shut the fuck up, went back to looking for more mines. Anything to get away.

And then Joe dropped the head to the ground, unzipped his pants and pissed in its open mouth.

"This is ours, now, my enemy," he whispered: "Take this with you on your voyage back to the worldwheel - your land is mine."

Then he zipped back up, got his rifle and told us to head on. Sam might have said something about more mines, but he didn't dare, Fire Leader or no. We just went back into formation and prayed Joe knew where he was taking us. He's Guide, after all, but still...

Should have paid more attention in Basic. They told us how to navigate without a map or a compass, or a GPS, just in case. Hell, we talked about it in Boy Scouts. The Worst Case Scenario.

Well, that has happened, and here we all are. We are up deep muddy without paddle and no radio while we go looking for the shooter who took out our Squad Leader. And the new captain of the ship's a crazy asshole who thinks his Gods are going to save us from Taliban.

If he doesn't get us killed first, that


Were under attack, just then. Shooter was up in the hills. Almost hit Zeke in the back of his head, but he'd moved an instant before.

We ate dirt and grabbed cover, but we'd picked a shit place to water ourselves. Wasn't enough cover for all of us, and we had to move down. Would have, too, but Joe had other ideas.

He stood up and got a few rounds off, but not to cover that retreat. He shot to kill, and I think he succeeded. Even with a rifle at that range I think he got him.

We'll know soon enough. Joe says we need to get over this mountain before nightfall, so we'll know. Frank asked why we had to get over it tonight, and Joe just looked at him and said "Destiny lies there. Get used to it."

Jesus. The way he looked just then, he reminded me of the man from my dreams - the one going down that long, dark stairway. Lantern in one hand, staff in the other, walking with enough confidence to sell beard-lice to Talis.

I still don't know who he is, or where he's going, or what he looks like under that cowl and cloak.

Not anymore than I know where we're going, come to think of it. I always thought the Guide was supposed to keep us appraised of the current location. No such luck this patrol.


Halfway up the hill. I'm alright, for now, but Frank's shitting it from the height. I hope this guy we're after was the shooter, so we can go back to the fire base with something to show for it.

Just for fun, I pull out my compass. It's just like yesterday afternoon, yesterday evening and this morning. The thing's still spinning around like a top. Useless.

Marty looks at me, looking at it, and I can only shrug. There's nothing more to say, and he looks three times as lost for the silence.

{A thought: maybe Larry isn't sympathetic enough? I know what I see in the dreams, and how they work out, but I don't think the audience will connect with Larry like that.

{Who cares about another bruiser who wants to get his stupid ass killed because his cousin Pete was on one of the planes? That's too ordinary. This should be something different.}


Yeah, Joe got him, alright - dead bang, right through the fucking eye. Little hole where the eye was and a big hole out the back of the head. Brains all over the rock, feeding the flies.

But it wasn't the shooter. Not according to Joe. The rifle's the wrong kind. John-Samuel got hit with a .303, by Joe and Kevin's reckoning. This guy just had a Kalishnikov. Probably took it from a Soviet, back in the day.

Kevin says his father used to have a Lee-Anfield {sp?} and they'd shoot it off in Upstate. That's why he knows the sound it so well. I don't know how Joe knows, and I don't want to ask.

Joe's down in the pit with the body, now, "sending him off." Frank's trying not to look down where we came from, and the rest of us are trying not to hear the noises coming from the pit.

Zeke tries his GPS, and sees if it's any better upside down. No luck there, either. It still thinks we're in Akron, Ohio. Fucking high tech military...

Joe comes back, later. There's another trophy on his belt, and the look in his eyes is just a little less humane human there

Just a little less. I think that says it all.


Over the hill and hunkered for the night, finally. Looking from the top of the mountain we see nothing familiar. Nothing at all. So damn lost.

Joe says we're not lost. Says we're only about two mountains and four clicks from the fire base. We can make it there by nightfall tomorrow if we hoof it, as long as we get the shooter, first.

Is he right? Lost track of where we are, what day it is, how long we've been slogging it. Might not even be in country, anymore, come to think of it.

But that's what Joe says, and we can see that's what he wants us to do. But no one wants to hoof it. Move too fast and you miss stuff, and stuff gets you killed. Just like that poor guy back there with the mine.

No one thinks Joe's right. They just won't say so. They're afraid of him. We're all afraid of him.


He's praying, now, away from us. I don't know who what Joe's praying to, but I can hear him cutting the skin on his chest, his arms. I look over and I can see him kneeling there, cutting himself and bleeding all over his trophies.

I can hear the wind picking up, too. Somehow I know he's smiling at that. But I'm afraid to think of why.

Joe is going to get himself killed. I know it, deep down, like I know anything else. I can see how badly he wants to die.

Which is fine for him. But I don't want to join him.


{Scene 2 or 3}

Larry: I have decided to do it.

Jenny: You can't be serious.*Silence*

Larry: I went to the recruiters. I thought I'd be the only one, too, but I wasn't. There were a couple other guys in there, all with the same look in their eyes. Kind of funny.

Jenny: You're going to enlist.

Larry: That's what I said, honey.

Jenny: Which... which branch?

Larry: Marines.

Jenny: Oh god... Larry, my father was a Marine. They put him feet-first in every hellhole we've been in since Korea.

Larry: I know. That's why

Jenny: Couldn't you be in the Navy? The Air Force? Jesus, Larry, you could get into the Air Force with no problems. Your uncle-

Larry: *turning around* I'm going for the Marines. The Marines will put me on the front lines, which is where I want to be. I thought about this, and this is what I am doing.

Jenny: But why? For God's sake, why?

Larry: It's destiny. Get used to i


Last bit should be *silence.* Larry isn't Joe. And thank God for that.

Why do these things come to me in dreams, only? Why not while I'm awake? And why do I dream of the man before they come?

Yes, I think know that he is a man. Under that cloak and cowl, there is a man, and that man knows he's going to die. Or maybe he's already dead, and something worse is going to happen to him.

But he's completely at peace with it, as though he knows and it matters, but he has to do it, and...

Shit. I can't describe the feeling! Not properly, anyway. But it's so powerful, it has to be used. I just can't get it down and out onto paper, anymore than I can get that word out of my mind.

It's following me around, now, like a fly in the air around my head, whispering. Whispering it over and over. But what does it mean?

Why do I have "THOO-see-mohs" stuck in my head?