“I said, ‘SHOOT HIM!’”
A machinegun rattles. A man dies.
He does not pass away like the elderly or terminally invalid—lying in a hospital bed in the soft receiving haze of curtained sunlight, each breath labored and forced until they’re not anymore. No spectacled doctor in a trim white lab coat waits with two fingers on a flat artery. No one announces the time.
The dead man is the fucked-up earthy brand of dead. He is OD’d dead, murder-victim dead, and taste-the-shotgun-barrel-on-your-tongue dead. He swam the machinegun waters and is now lemming dead. He is dead in every kind of way except peacefully dead. He chose the path of most resistance. He is firefight dead.
Now his body is a barrier we have to cross, the final shattered remains of an insurgent strongpoint boiling with smoke. We move slowly and with purpose. I am number three in the column. We are still alive but could be dead inside too, and the tiny hairs on the back of my neck stand like cactus needles.