This is the reading of the prologue to Fire on the Mountain.
Set in the Republic of Haiti, 2084ce
“What in two fucks do you know about being in love my tovarish,” she once asked me.
At the time I gazed off into the night. One does not even fully comprehend the depth of incorrigible things a truly Russian woman knows how to say to an American man in eight different tenses of a lover spurned. She now says I am a terrorist! Or at best a baltering zealot.
A frank and unrepentant potential killer of other men. But you cannot always trust women. They often lie to protect the things they cherish. Their children. Also the future.
I was not always such a man.
No ideological calling or message from the unseen put me on this path. I don’t kill because of mere ideas. Or because of poetic visions rationalizing some means to a so-called “better world”. The terror we have unleashed was born of misdeeds perpetrated against me and mine as well as against you and yours. It is no abstraction to embrace violence when an aggressor tramples on your face. It comes quickly or it remains unthinkable. I have no time these days for pacifists and certainly not for cowardly sheep. Turning the other cheek to these people we are fighting will get you far, far worse than killed. I have bloodied my hands before as a savage avenger and certainly soon will do so again. But, I don’t kill alone like some deranged fanatic.
Oh no. We laid an elaborate plan and have subsequently received extensive support.
We are not patriots or “freedom fighters” in the traditional sense of what that means in Geneva. This is not our land, nor through the fog of war do I see freedom as our figurative or even literal ends. Our means however will certainly not absolve us in the text books of history whether we be the winners or the losers. Cloaks and daggers have long been used to abet our cause. But, the ripping of human flesh with sharp blades in close quarters and the bursting of bullets though our enemies black hearts will perhaps tarnish our family names and simultaneously bar us all from the gates of any reputable heaven. I have left men hanging in trees! But, I’m not one to believe in fairy tales. They will have to torture me for a very long time, and they will not get much for their troubles. Neither my motive nor my names are easy answers. And you probably won’t be able to pronounce it anyway.
I am not acting alone. If I am a so-called “terrorist” committing acts of semi-selective murder I am alongside many fellow blood soaked bandits. Our cause has a certain appeal to at least a Breuklyn few. And if she’s right about me not knowing how to love well, or at all, I absolutely do know how to struggle until the lights in my eyes go out.
We are called the zealots after all.
We are hunting vicious killers. We are grinding down these sly villains where they hide, cutting bits and pieces from this rapist ilk. We work thanklessly to remove a large array of very-very cruel, bad men from the earth. Vile parasites that suck our blood and steal our meager earnings and reduced us all to slavery. Along with their secondary officers, tertiary command of vicious enforcers, and basically anyone that gets in our way. And if we cut our way through enough of these people we will then begin to lay hands on the oligarchy.
Let it not be said that before we picked up our daggers and rifles we did not first spend a good many years trying all other means of more civilized change making. I loved my people, and more specifically my family, before I hated our nemesis and the cruel minority of oligarchs and war criminals that so hold humanity on a vast plantation under their iron heel, but also our common apathy.
Or called in Russian; Raspizdia.
One who doesn’t give a fuck about their fellow human beings?
No giving of fucks!
Amid the thankless grind I see the face of a young woman following us where we go to commit murder. She follows just behind to save lives and heal. A physician who found herself trapped on this perhaps morally ambiguous road we travel as ruthless knock around highway men. Or so she claims. And every time I pull that trigger I fly further from the place I was boron and the good man that she once thought I was. Were it not for her, I’d have forgotten I still had one soul left with which to barter.
Our irregular military column of hearty partisans clears a rocky ridge. Forty men and one woman, all clad in dark grey or dark blue multi-forms, wrapped in tactical bandoleers carrying the tools of our respective trades—murder and healing. We men are here to kill. The solitary doctor amongst us with her implements touches the collateral of their war, but has sworn not to treat a soldier. On either side.
That morning we look for one bad man in particular.
It’s just before dawn when we finally catch up with his trail in the barrens of this dusty, dying and terrible place. The poplar trees sway heavily in the rustling morning wind, which offers our lonely column no real relief. We mill about gauging reactions, sipping gingerly on our water. A few lay down their battle rigs but keep their dusty irons always on the ready. We are hard men in rough grey khaki stained with sweat and grizzle but never tears. Some wear black or dark blue partisan caps. Others have checkered sand-gypsy scarves about their shoulders or brow. Most carry various calibers of former and Postsoviet rifles. Our doctor, she still wears a lab coat, a blue uniform, and wears a dark green military cap.
We march on.
The official name of our column is the Z.O.B.-Dublin Detachment also called the Fighting 99th. It is composed of Shtarkers, Shatahs, Fenians as well as a popery of the Haitian peasants from across the southland. If you’re not familiar with these particular edged colloquialisms, well I suggest you look them up in the appendix of exotic foreign vernaculars. Suffice to say they are just different ways to designate a “bad motherfucker.” Except Fenian, that is an Irish political nationalist ideology of the early 18th century.
We go one foot after another. We walk with a heavy defiance, with cold eyes that view the barrens like hungry wolves. We are each a raw material mined from a foreign conflict, smelted at some point on Breuklyn’s coast into the violent war machine we now compose. Sun-burnt freckled faces, which had first turned cherry red in the glare of the Caribbean high noon. Dread-locked islanders with accents well edged for song. Also some post and former Soviets with shifty morals and a small band of self-proclaimed Yids that never lift a finger on a Shabbos but refrain from emasculating headwear. And the native people that had not asked us to come here look. I suppose they wonder if we foreign faces are to be the turners of a bloody tide or the worst harbingers of an impending catastrophic event. At this juncture the book is still open.
We march to this dead place to bear grim witness.
War on this island fortress, and war in the world of man have burnished us into unrepentant murderers that have killed and will surely kill again. That we kill to stave off an even greater genocide by murdering its perpetrators, is the rhetoric we hide our murder behind. And if each of us came to this wasteland below the Choke Mountains beyond Illubador out into the contested borderlands about the Valley of Antimonite with some noble pretense to liberate the Haitian people from the iron heel of the MINUSTAH and the NGO Republic and their Maccoute or FRAPH-rapist militia bag man; then periodically, it is the low volume atrocities like this one, which sometimes take the greatest toll on our resolve.
Roped up from the highest palm tree visible to all we men and single female of the Z.O.B.-Dublin detachment is the ghastly site of a hanged man we all knew and like a brother loved. A thick sanguine pool had formed below him. He is eviscerated. Slashed to fleshy ribbons perhaps just a few hours before we came upon him. He had broken camp at dusk, spirited himself away and wandered out from our garrison in Cange right into enemy hands. Had our ruthless jackal opponents had some notion of who the man was, he’d have been taken to a filtration camp like the others—the poor founding bastards of the Famni Lavalas Alliance- and flayed for information, tortured until he could no longer remember his Yiddish name. Perhaps this was better albeit completely inglorious. There is nothing about the condition of his corpse to make us think his end was particularly quick.
I knew this man so long that it was like stumbling upon a fresh crime scene of a beloved family member. To others, he was a tovarish of sorts, a less than humble man who sustained so many with his savvy and stalwart acts. The rest knew him as a fearless comrade and champion to so many souls not cut of his tribe’s cloth.
We find our close compatriot hanging disemboweled from a hook—his eyes gouged out, hands lopped off, bayonet marks slashed about his body— exsanguinated in a tree of death. He is now cold, wet and dead.
“Cut him down!”
“Cut him down and bury him deep,” commands a Pale Officer.
The future was evidently to be far bloodier than the scientists and high priests had originally prophesized and predicted. The physician’s blond hair, it blows in a swift desert wind. She looks away from the bloody mess we’ve made just for an instant.
Violence is the longest road to nowhere, but we seem to be making great time.