There was a time that you can now no longer remember, when someone scraped you off their shoe and taught you how to be human. How to have arms and legs, how to have a face and a body, how to wear clothes and cut your hair and see things and be seen. There was an adjustment period, but after that it was a gloriously certain time, when meaning could be plucked fully-formed from thin air like ripe fruit. You loved that.
Now you hold a weapon and aim it well. You run where you’re needed to run. You crawl on your belly like an insect when flak bursts deafeningly overhead. When bulletholes bloom like dandelions out of the wall inches from your face, you crouch down springlike and return fire. You know how to glare through sunglasses and bust teeth and kill. You’re religiously familiar with small-group tactics and psychic warfare and lying under oath. You move like a pro between the battlefield and the homefront and the interrogation chamber, because you understand the truth: that they’re all the same thing.
The war you’re fighting is always going. It’s different every day. Today, you jumped from a helicopter onto a dune and walked for hours in abusive heat with all your gear on. You were connected to your squadmates with a long rope that dragged in the sand. After a while you collapsed facedown out of exhaustion and dehydration, and the others pulled you along so that part of your face was sanded off. At last they stopped for a bit and poured their water on you, and hit you until you came to. That was when you found there were a few people coming the other way, so you all got together and did some violence. You won. You left blood to soak into the shadows between dunes. You took their water, and when one of your comrades collapsed much the same way you had, it was you that got to do the dragging and pouring and hitting. So that’s okay, you guess. It’s difficult for you to tell, these days, which parts of it you like and which you don’t.
And you sit on your bunk, or your cot, or your rut in the sand every night, and make little snatching motions with your hands in the empty space above you. You’re not sure what you’re doing.
Someday, it’ll come to you. A memory of what you were before you got taught. An infant, dark-bright and aquatic and venomous. You were urchin-esque. Brilliant and spined and multifarious and confused, like something from esoteric Ezekiel. A Living Creature.
And then, if you haven’t yet been killed, you’ll sit up for just a moment close to midnight, and wonder why it is that you’ve never felt as though you really exist when you wear that uniform and wade through jungle to burn things down. And you’ll wonder, just briefly, what it’d be like to drift through the ocean, spirit-like and uncertain as the day you were born.