Article 85

Read Time: 6 minutes.

I’ve seen the world while being air-dropped into conflict zones. It’s gorgeous from up there. I’ve spent cool Arabian nights, dodging bullets in the sand dunes of the middle east. The place is still magical. I’ve lived in cramped, humid, mud huts in central America and Africa and took a dump in Saddam Hussein’s golden toilet. Presidential palace or mud hut, all latrines serve the same purpose. I’ve shook hands with more drug Lords than I care to remember. Sat down to tea with dictators who committed the worst atrocities since Hitler, but the government had uses for them, so I smiled and broke bread. But no one cared about my little farm in Idaho and the fact that my family had disappeared off the face of the earth. It was time to come home.

Baghdad, Afghanistan, Syria, and three months training Ukrainian troops. All for freedom. I have been to Thailand; several times back in 2003. I was on those unchartered flights that transported certain undesirables and enemies of the state. The fancy term was Rendition Flights. Even made a movie about it. Wore every colored T-shirt from there to Europe and Egypt in their color revolutions. I was in Nigeria teaching them Boko Haram boys how to kidnap schoolgirls, and wage their own wars, and was a special instructor in Sudan. That’s finally bearing some fruit if you watch the news. But when it came to defending home, they signed peace treaties. Multi-billion-dollar peace treaties that sold us as slaves to their political donors. I was done.

No one left behind. They had taught us well. Do I feel guilty? No. Not as I see my farm in the distance. The roof of the hayloft would need repairing. I am still uncertain as to why I am returning here. Perhaps it was nostalgia. Perhaps it was the desire to see home one last time. I cannot stay here, but I have nowhere else to go. War had come to us. After decades of taking freedom to the world by the right of our might, they had nowhere else to plunder. So, they brought the war to us.

I stopped near an old shack to bury my tags and uniform. No one left behind. I do not feel guilty. They had charged at us like an angry swarm of killer bees. We had seen them coming, like darkened thunder clouds on the horizon. Our orders were to hold the line. But like levees breaking in a hurricane, they ran over us.

This was a different type of enemy. They can’t train you to kill what cannot die. Not because they’re immortal, but because they represent the maturation of an ideology. Together with their claim-it-call mindset and an advanced AI, militarized to the max of our technologies, they were taking over. We were tasked to hold the last line of defense… this was Idaho. Last line of defense to what? I am not a deserter. But Article 85 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice says that I am, and therefore could face the death penalty. The farm was a dustbowl now. Tumbleweed was the only crop I would be harvesting if I were to stay here. One hundred acres of free-range tumbleweed. I am one hundred percent certain, that if I could package it and sell it, someone would try to steal it from me.

A mangy bloodhound came running toward me. Poor girl was suffering from hip dysplasia. She was hungry, with bald patches all over her body. I offered her the last bit of my rations and she attacked it greedily. She watched me walk away. A look in her heavy, sad, brown eyes that said, “mister there ain’t nothing in that direction.” Then she continued her sideways trot in the other direction.

This was not a dystopian future. Las Vegas was still thriving. Oregon was untouched. Those were my choices, then Seattle. I always hated San Francisco for no reason under heaven. After that, I die or swim to Honolulu. I ain’t never been to Hawaii. I could surrender and return east. Make some sort of life in that new existence. Every city on the east coast was thriving as though life had never been interrupted. Christ Jesus on the cross, just last month we were holding Salt Lake City as the last line of defense. Now Utah was no longer an American state. Someone signed a peace deal, and… well there is no need to harp on about that anymore. Happy is as happy does. A politician is only loyal to the dollar. We were trained to be loyal to the stars and stripes. High Command gave the order, we followed. Until three days ago I bled the red, white, and blue. I was done.

When I wake up tomorrow, I may no longer be an American. No siree bob. I’d be an employee of the new owners of the state. Took me a mighty long time to come to that conclusion. All the wars I been involved in, only the capitalists came out victorious. There was an energy crisis, but the oil companies boasted record profits. There was a pandemic that killed millions, but the pharmaceutical companies got richer. Africa is still starving, but we throw away grain to protect American corporate interests. I was sent for WMD’s in Iraq but came back with oil… bloody magician if you asked me. I got more medals than Michael Phelps and Usain Bolt combined. But I’m still broke as the day I joined the army and about to foreclose on my farm. A decorated nobody. Might as well be a damn Christmas Tree. Yet some balding man in a boardroom who never held a gun, much less seen his best friends blown to pieces, lives as my Manor Lord. I was done.

Can’t fight an enemy you cannot see, or that will not die. Guns, tanks, grenades, all the military might of the combined armed forces of the United States of America; useless. This enemy got us by the short and curlies. Tomorrow I would be living in Idaho LLC, or some other name that simply meant we were a goddam franchise. A subsidiary of some powerful financial institution. Most likely I will die between them tumbleweeds… because I ain’t swimming to Honolulu.

I am no deserter.

6 responses to “Article 85”

  1. This is visceral and prescient. You have a gift, Nigel. Something that stands out so strongly in what I’ve read of your work so far is your voice. It’s vital and strident and grabs the reader and doesn’t let go. You’re sharing an important message as well. Captivating stuff. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Mikey Mike… !!! Thanks so much bro. This piece was bugging me. For weeks. I appreciate you taking the time to read. And it took me years to find my voice as a writer. Happy that it’s finally being heard above the noise. Thanks for the positive comments and feedback. I am happy you enjoyed the story. 🙏

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Years ago, I was really into military history and had a big box of books on WWII and Vietnam. Among those predominantly non-fiction tomes on operations in various theaters was a handful of memoirs from soldiers who’d served in Vietnam. Your writing reminds me of those memoirs. There’s an intimacy in your writing that speaks of a deeper level of understanding. I’ve never been in the military but I have living cousins and deceased ancestors who served in all the major conflicts dating back to WWI, so this stuff is fascinating to me. Thanks so much for sharing your voice with us, my friend. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Same here..never served, but immersed myself of articles and books from previous conflicts. Especially personal stories. They are indeed fascinating.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Your story telling technique is undeniably brilliant and unique Nigel..this one is a testament to that..well done my friend.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you Mich. I’m constant working on improving. Trying different styles and genres. Consistency, and being open to criticism has helped me improve. Happy to see that the hard work is paying off and my writing is leaving an impression. Always appreciate your feedback Mich. ❤️🙏

      Liked by 1 person

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April 2023
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