My eyes narrowed as the weapon in front of me let out a strangled cry. A bomb, that was what it was, simply a bomb, ready to explode at the slightest triggering movement. Casing strew over the table in front of me, the collection of powders and chemicals that lay too closely for comfort. My task was to disassemble and defuse the bomb before my time ran out. Eyes piecing me from all around, I leant over the table and picked up a knife. Carefully slicing through a layer of wires, I pried the black packet of explosives from the casing and placed it onto the table top. Alone, each component was harmless but together, no catalyst was needed to boost the reaction. This is what we had been reduced to: homemade bombs and weapons.
Lifting the other pouch of chemicals out of the metals grasp, I placed it as far away from the explosive as I could. Finally slicing through the remainder of the wires, I looked up at my instructor, the general’s, firm face and waited for a reaction. Stealing a glance at the stopwatch, I mentally congratulated myself for a record, new time but the silence still put me on edge. Silence meant hesitation and uncertainty and that meant rejection. Silence was one of the main things that I remembered about that night. As much as I could, I surrounded myself with noise; whizzing motors and even the breath of other. It was just something to tell me that I wasn’t alone. It was just something to tell me that I wasn’t back in the forest and that I wasn’t back in the wreckage.
The general’s face remained neutral as I took a step back from the work bench. My fellow cadets all looked at me, faces serious but no hard or cruel. Letting my weight switch from one side to the other, I watched as the tall man stepped forwards and nodded at me. The numbers stopped changing as the stopwatch drew to a halt. I tried to keep all sense of victory from my eyes as a dozen pairs of eyes all focused on me.
“Good job Coleman,” he said before turning back to face the group. From the general, praise was highly uncommon and so it meant a lot to me. I had done well and he had acknowledged it. When I was in a lab, I felt comfortable, but when I was in a workshop, I truly felt at home. My father used to let me join him at his work and let me watch as he built and created new innovations. Following in his footsteps, I could picture him smiling at me. I could almost pretend for a few moments that he was looming over my shoulder, watching me work.
After a few more second, the beeping began to alert us that our session was over. Group dispersing to gather out belongings, the general pulled me to the side. As my classmates filtered out through the door, the general began to speak, the words he was saying destined to change my life forever more.
“Coleman, you did good. You seem to have a skill in mechanics and so, I was wondering if you would consider joining our weapons design team. You could save lives and could help us win this war. In you, I see potential and I think that you could really make a difference.” It took a few moments to sink in. He was promoting me. He was offering me a job and place in the military where I could do something good with my parent’s names at the helm. Recounting my pledge of vengeance, I knew that this was the way to carry it out and live up to what I had promised. Letting the grandeur of the situation sweep me away with little thought, I let a faint smile grace over my features.
“It would be an honour, sir.” I exclaimed whilst still keeping my voice controlled. If only in that moment I had known the consequences of my actions and how much of a mistake it was, maybe I would have replied differently. But I didn’t know and I made that mistake. For years afterwards, my naivety haunted me as regret filled my every move.
“Thank you.” I told him as he waved me off, indicating that the conversation was at an end. Rushing away, I let a grin cover my face as I thought of what I had just achieved. Slowly, I was climbing the ladder up the ranks of the military, each day getting that much closer to vengeance.
First, I was a victim.
Then I was a cadet.
And then, after five years, I was finally being given the opportunity to make a difference and change the tide of war. Strolling back into my empty dorm, I sat down at my desk and pulled out a piece of paper and a pencil. Taking a final deep breath, I began to draw the weapons which would soon kill so many of my own kind. I began to eagerly sketch guns and explosives which would spill copious amount of blood and dye my hands burning red. I began to write the words of my legacy and the words of my own destruction.
An hour later, I sat back marvelling at my sleek designs. For the first time in my life, I had truly succeeded. So young and naïve, I was proud of what I had achieved; I had turned trauma into something more, something more than just my suffering. Little did I know that it would be I inflicting the distress and pain. Little did I know how far I was out of my depth. Little did I know how much I would regret my decisions and look back on that with nothing but anger.
Because in the end, I was the one who had to suffer. I was the one who had to watch as the world around me fell to its knees.
Because I was a fire. I was a fire with all those close to being burned in my flames. I never asked for this but yet it was now merely just a fact of my existence.
And now flames were all that I saw.
Burning, dancing, devouring flames.
Burning, dancing, deadly flames.
And they were waiting; they were waiting for me to act.
And I did.