DEFEAT. 008 – A More Civilized Age

[DEFEAT. is Rendar Frankenstein’s truest attempt at fiction.   Presented in weekly episodes, the novella tells the tale of Daryl Millar – a hero who dies at the intersection of pop culture, science-fiction, war epic, and fantasy]

“The machine-guns were screaming at us and we knew that we’d have to make a move. I mean, the Japanese were relentless and there ain’t no way that a couple of pie-eyed American twenty-somethings were going to stand a chance. I looked at Bill and I said ‘Bill, when the hell should we get out of this God-forsaken trench?’

“Well, I’ll tell ya what he said, Daryl, I’ll tell ya. Even with our good buddy James’ guts plastered all over the front of his uniform, Bill flashed me a smile and said ‘Yesterday.’

“And that’s just the type of guy he was. We were in the most impossible of situations, the type of suicide mission they scare you with at boot camp and he was cracking jokes! And he was making me laugh, too! Some guys, they try to crack wise and end up coming off like assholes. Not Bill.

“So we look one another in the eyes, we do, and no more words are spoken. We both start unloadin’ all of our excess gear — which at this point unfortunately includes our guns as we were completely out of bullets. I remember, I think, I remember laughing to myself as I realized all we were wearing were t-shirts, pants, boots, and our helmets. We were basically naked as the day the good Lord dropped us onto Earth, and we popped right outta that trench!

“We started running in the general direction of where we thought our commander was, pushing ourselves harder than we’d ever pushed before. My lungs were on fire, my legs felt like they had cinderblocks tied to `em and my eyes couldn’t stop tearing from all of the damn smoke. But if we stopped, we’d be dead — plain and simple.

“So we ran, and ran, and ran as the world around us came to an end.

“Boy, I’ll tell ya, I would’ve never knew it at the time — but that was the greatest moment of my life. After looking horror in the eyes, coming face to face with my own mortality as I ran through a battlefield, everything else would pale in comparison. You think it was hard for me to strike up the courage to start my own business after I had dodged bullets and bombshells? Fuck that.”

More than impressed by the story, Daryl dug deeper. “Gramps, that’s unbelievable! Whatever happened to Bill?”

Smacking his aging paw on his graying temple, Gramps exclaimed “Ahh, shit! How could’ve I left that out? Well, Bill and I were just about where we were supposed to be — we could even see Old Glory waving in the distance. Everything seemed like it was going to be okay, when all of a sudden something flew over our heads and landed in front of us. Without a moment’s hesitation, Bill gave me a hard shove in the opposite direction and then jumped on top of the grenade.”

“A grenade?!”

“Sure was. A Jap grenade that would have killed the both of us had Bill not donated his body to the human-shield fund. What Bill did was the most selfless act imaginable — he gave simply so that I could have. If there had been even the slightest bit of reservation on his part, I would have never made it out of World War Two. But thanks to him, I’ve had the benefit leading a full, long, worthwhile life.”

Daryl and Gramps sat silently, allowing the consequences of the war-epic to reveal themselves in reflection. Gramps discretely fought the thick lump in his throat, having little trouble as the practice of the last forty-two years made him quite adept. More optimistically, Daryl nodded his head as he understood that all of the possibility of Gramps’ life (including his own eventual existence) spawned from Bill’s charred remains.

“So is it safe to say that your relationship with Bill and the memories of that day are your prized possessions from World War Two?”

Contemplating, Gramps did not completely disagree, “Well, yeah, those are both important. I will never forget — mark my words, boy — the sacrifice of Bill Jonas. But I’d be a liar to say that I came home from the Pacific without a more, hrm…tangible souvenir.”

“What is it? Can I see it?”

“Daryl, I think it might be about time that actually I give it to you.”

And with that, representatives from two generations of the family Millar made their way to a dusty trunk in a dusty attic to retrieve the real-world’s equivalent of “an elegant weapon for a more civilized age.”