Predators and Reapers by Matt Jones

1.

The day stuck out for me because I discovered a sasquatch underneath the barracks. I investigated closely: this was not a military-issued sasquatch. He had wormed his way beneath the shower room, and was curled in the opposite corner from where the floor got soggy and sagged. As I shone the flashlight up and down his hulking body, dozens of greasy frogs hopped away from the light. The sasquatch huddled next to a drain pipe, where marks in the fungi suggested he’d been licking the nourishing scum.

Truth be told, it was the saddest sasquatch I’d even seen, but also the happiest, I suppose, since it was my first. He was snuffling in the dirt, his enormous hands pressed over his eyes like the flashlight beam was a laser. His fur was filthy and matted with sweat and frog oil.

“You are far from home,” I said, looking at the thick fur. It was 50 degrees Celsius outside—halfway to boiling—summer in Kandahar.

To my surprise, he responded. His voice was deeper than a bear’s. “Yes. Very far. Please no hurt. Have seen too much hurt.”

The sasquatch could not know that he was pleading for mercy from a drone operator. That I had seen dozens of people killed by missiles and bombs. Imagine begging compassion from a snake.

Maybe it was the job.  Maybe the war swirling around outside the camp. Or maybe I wanted to prove to myself that I was still a person capable of a good deed.

I should have turned the sasquatch in. Maybe we would have shot him as a terrorist, or spy. Instead I took a whole sleeve of Saltine crackers, my penultimate, which my mother had sent me in a morale box. I slid the crackers and two bottles of water into the crack at the back of the barracks, where his eyes glittered in the dark.

But I felt for him, the big bastard. He was hot in his coat and chomping the heads off frogs. “Don’t let anyone else hear you crying,” I said. “I can’t protect you. Avoid discovery. Preserve water.”

The sasquatch nodded his huge head in thanks.

My doctor tells me if I am to heal from the war, I need to tell the whole story, no matter how painful. There will be drone strikes, and barbed wire, and forbidden love in bunkers. I am sitting in the wake of my strength with all the other cripples. I have taken innocent life and destroyed pieces of myself.   

But the story starts with a kindness, and that matters.

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