Thursday, November 18, 2010

Bathroom Monologue: Refugee Camp Regrets

I don't regret why I'm in here. They can starve me, beat me. Call me a traitor. I'm not one. What I did was for the good. I was a General in name only, put in charge of the children and the lame. A sea of starving, helpless people, with less than a dozen armed guards, all of whom were routinely called away for more glorious service. I couldn't lead my charges to safety. The raiders would find us in any cave or stronghold I managed to reach. We were ransacked weekly. We lost our supplies and the youngest starved. When the raiders returned to find no more food, they took the near-pubescent girls as slaves. No number of missing or dead on a report changed the minds of those in command.

I remember the fifth attack most clearly. The smoke from tents they burned out of malice. The lamentations of young and feeble. A crippled mother crawling after them escaping raiders, barking for them to return her daughter. I watched her legs drag in the sand behind her, like a split fishtail. It didn’t even flop around. Other men would have found it heartbreaking. I found it inspiring, and I am not sorry for the idea it gave me.

I took arms. Only one per child. I took a couple of hands, but that wouldn’t be enough. I took no legs – every one of those children would grow up to walk. I even mailed them one of the limbs along with the reports and testimonials from children who could no longer write themselves. I packed it in salt. Six mutilated children and one arm were somehow harder to ignore than thirty dead parents.

The next week we had a brigade defending our camp. The raiders were rebuffed by bronze shields and long lances. Able-bodied men did their duty by the meekest.

Which of them gave me away? I don’t know. From the looks, I think it was some of the same children who had sworn by my testimonials. You can’t trust children, even parentless ones, to keep up your stories. I can understand the juvenile mind begrudging me my work. I don’t blame them. But I’m not sorry. Those one-armed children will live behind shielded camps because of me. If my story is spoiled and Command withdraws the brigade, then I’m still here, in a prison twenty days away from whatever carnage happens, with nothing but the story that they are safe. I have no regrets.


  1. Whoa. I was expecting a much more modern war. It was even more disturbing to think about it as present day, then be presented with lances and shields and the idea that things have always happened this way.

  2. Thanks, JA. Always appreciate you popping by for #thursdaytales. It was originally going to be about some situations in Africa, but it got subverted with ancient Chinese history, and then the best I could do was meld it into Fantasy.


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