My dear friend David Medinnus took the time to write a fabulous (and chilling!) response to writing prompt #26, but blogger wouldn't fit it in the comment box. I am posting it here for him so that you can enjoy his unique view of a shattered life.
Thanks so much for the post, David!
Here's his work:
Jon stared at the weapon that lay disassembled on the coffee table. Unassembled, the Steyr GB 80 didn't look particularly menacing; for the most part the pieces appeared to be just the miscellaneous flotsam and jetsam of any engineering shop. When assembled, however, they were so much more than the sum of their parts, and the honored forefather of the entire Glock manufacturing philosophy. Developed during the end of World War II, the Steyr had been mass-produced to replace the aging P38 pistol used by European law enforcement. They had seen decades of service until the mid 1980's, when the Glock line of polymer and polycarbon frames had replaced them. A remnant of the age of dark steel and cold iron, the Steyr was well-past its usefulness.
Like its owner.
Jonathan Stone had an affinity for the tools of the trade of his (some would say) mis-spent youth, and often used their care and maintenance as a form of meditation. The cleaning solutions, lubricants, and cleaning patches almost moved by themselves as Jon recalled what was likely to be his final conversation with Marlene Rogers, who had been his lover until a few hours ago.
The evening's downturn had started with an innocent telephone call. Jonathan had been in the shower; he had been in the catacombs of a data center, running new cable between demarcation and switch. The enclosed space between the raised flooring and the concrete slab was a spiderweb of ethernet, fibre optic, and electrical cabling, all of which could easily become unplugged when transversed by the unwary, and the work being done required meticulous concentration. By the time he'd finished, Jonathan was dirty, sweaty, and exhausted.
When he had finished his shower, he had dressed and returned to the living area. He could almost feel the chill from Marlene.
"There is something wrong?" he asked, a master of the completely obvious to the end.
"You got a call from Grizzly48. He was curious to know how you're holding up," she began, ice water dripping from every word. "He said that you and Freya36 were close, and he was worried."
Jon went still inside, and he felt his emotions recede in the distance, as if he'd loaded them into the back of a moving truck.
"So, how are you holding up... Zero9?" she continued, her voice going from a rigid frigidity to blazing sarcasm in milliseconds.
"I'm fine, Marlene," Jon lied. He listened to his own voice, which had gone flat; even he didn't really believe his answer.
Jon didn't remember in detail what she said next, although he remembered the subtext; he didn't love her, as love can only come with trust. He didn't trust her, or he would have told her about having worked for the state department as part of an "urban counter-terrorism team". That he'd signed the Official Secrets Act was apparently not germaine.
She didn't understand -- and he wouldn't want her to be able to -- that he hadn't been handling out civil citations. When his team went into the field to 'arrest and detain', it was with the knowledge that any mission where they actually arrested and detained anyone had been a failure.
When the state department cried "Havoc!" and released their team, it was understood that there was not enough evidence admissible in a court of law to ever convict. It was understood that judgment had already been passed down, and that the object of the mission represented a "clear and present danger" to their country.
What they didn't tell you was that every time you pulled the trigger of your gun and watched the innards of another human being splatter against the wall, a small sliver of your soul withered. They didn't tell you that the powerful bonds with the rest of your fire team could be shattered into rage and raw grief, and that when those scarred over you were left with an instinct to cringe away from human contact. They didn't tell you that when your knife entered another human's body just under the sternum, avoiding the rib cage on its way to the aorta that you would feel the death as it claimed him, traveling from his body to yours like an oil spill across a body of water.
They didn't tell you that the only people who would understand were the same people in the process of destroying their own souls for God and country - because they couldn't. The members of a fire team had a notoriously high churn rate, and were too valuable to waste in promotion to command.
Jonathan had left while there had still been a modicum of his own soul left intact, knowing full well that if he was not a model of discretion, he could very well find himself under the category of a Clear and Present Danger.
In the two decades that followed, he had learned that the only way around the emotional crippling he'd endured was to re-open the wounds and keep them open while they healed.
He'd learned that the way people looked at you changed if you didn't reflexively flinch at the carnage to which the human flesh is heir, whether by accident or malice.
He'd learned that a lover's gaze inevitably turned to stone if they could ever internalize and understand what you'd done, regardless of the reason. He'd learned that some pain, some anguish you couldn't share with anyone, and that some actions were beyond redemption.
He'd learned that when you gazed into the Abyss and it looked back at you, you never saw its gloating stare at claiming another victim.
He'd learned to swallow grief like 200-proof vodka, and not to share or show anyone else. In trying to help they'd ask questions he couldn't answer, which led inevitably to confrontations about trust issues.
Marlene had slammed the door on her way out - out of the apartment, probably out of his life. Jon had walked to the closet, removed the false wallboard panel hidden my a home-made shoe caddy, and taken his "box of toys" to the living room.
The Glock 26, disassembled, cleaned, and oiled. Four clips loaded with 9mm 110 grain hydrostatic shock rounds.
Each of his three throwing knives, sharpened on a stone, cleaned, and oiled.
A finger tree saw that had never been drawn across wood, oiled and re-coiled.
The Steyr GB 80 was the final instrument taken from his toolbox. It had belonged to Sharp21, who had been his first fire team operations "manager". It was both a tool and reminder, a legacy reeking of blood and cordite.
One day, the tools of his former trade were likely to not be replaced in the box, but rather to end up in a forensics pathology lab. Jonathan would be beyond the pain that meant he still had the capacity to heal.
But not today.