Re: log: grant/matt, the woods
Alaska. Alaska was the char of flame and the chop of cold water. Alaska was slicked hair cold to the back of his neck, a gash in the shoulder, a rewrite of mission directive, a knife gripped so tightly the bone shone through the skin, blood dripping off metal knuckles, dissonance, choppy interspersings of remembered language.
Posed for the killshot on the top of the rig’s signal tower. Perfect sightline, clean, empty. During the briefing, they showed him a picture of the target, and it meant nothing. The faces were a set of features to memorize. They were the red flag, a go sign. Target features were a symbol, a sign in bright colors - this was where to go, this was the object of the mission, this was an object as he was an object, this was meaningless aside from its importance to mission completion.
He was looking through his sights at the target, judging wind interference and the vibration of waves on the rig, and the target turned.
Movement breached a gap, unintentional as a short jumping across wires. The target began fighting the guards. Stevenson? chalk and a thick accent, calling roll There was his handler, whispering loudly words. But the words didn’t mean anything. They were gibberish. Russian?
He didn’t take the shot. He couldn’t. He wanted to tell them, but his own language was broken also. Stark wet slate and tall trees, the drip of water over tent fabric Bile, raw inert flesh scraping metal plates, caught between the joints in a carmine ribbon. He was already killing them. He didn’t take the shot, and disobedience was a side effect of some thready mimicry of survival instinct, because he knew what came next.
Bewilderment. Kerosene light and an improvised map The heavy, simply crush of weight into bone. The heat of the stove for frostbitten hands. The handler’s face was gone, and on the ground they were turning their guns upward. Chaos. He realized after killing two more men that he had snapped his handler’s neck. How long had he known him?
There was another man - they called him Wilson - and he, the soldier, was breaking his face against the railing, rifle abandoned, flinging his weight like a doll onto - Oberman, that was his name - and they both went spinning over the railing and a hundred feet down. Onto the next. Mission suspended, they were objects, targets, all of them, and still that hollow confusion. These were the only people he knew. He had never known anyone else. And he was killing them.
Cold tap water like metal and dirt out of a rusty faucet, making coffee, early morning. Grant, he’d want some, scrawny -
Here was grit in the lens, here he was moving down the stairs in silent bursts, sidelong into landings where men aimed upward with automatic rifles and shouted carefully chosen words that were not language. He was covering himself in the blood of the names he remembered, shredding them into streamers in a hail of fire, a gun taken from someone fallen, down and down and down.
Halfway to the house, Matt slowed. He hadn’t walked far, but his breathing was heavy.
Matt was nothing. Matt was no one. Matt was a name stolen from a poster at a bus station when he needed one. He was a pastiche of a country doctor, a friendly veterinarian. He was a cover. He wasn’t anything else.
Four feet from the target. The target wouldn’t expect mission completion, after all this time Old programming raked at the thin layer of ‘Matt’ on the soldier. Target wouldn’t anticipate. The soldier suspended mission, but now it could resume. The name, Owen, was a nothing. Like the faces of targets, it was a thing that identified a person he already knew was dead.
He stopped completely. He reached for something, found a tree trunk, dug his fingers in so hard the bark broke away.