The Moral Conundrum

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Status: In Progress  |  Genre: Other  |  House: Booksie Classic
After finding his hometown destroyed, a veteran is forced to question the moral framework of society. The story attempts to view the world from the eyes of a sociopath.

The story is complete in the sense that it has a beginning and an end. However, some parts are fragmented and it lacks much of the backstory.

Submitted: August 04, 2017

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Submitted: August 04, 2017

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The Moral Conundrum

 

 

 

 

 

I woke up to the sight of a sterile white ceiling above me. Around me I saw an array of tubes crossing over my body before a dull throb in my left leg forced me to lie back down. Although my body was in a hospital, my mind was still on the battlefield, my heart pounding as the adrenalin continued to flood my veins.

Memories came in flashes. There was the sound of footsteps, muffled by the knee-deep mud. Rays of light just making its way through thick jungle.

Gunshots. Yells. Pain shooting through my leg, leaving me paralyzed.

 

 

 

It was nearing midnight when I finally reached my hometown. It would have been unrecognizable had it not been for the small, battered sign which had “Hickory St.” written in bold, white print. When I first spotted the sign, a dull sense of horror and disbelief went through him, and for good reason—the area had been utterly destroyed. Buildings had been reduced to rubble. Glass from shattered windows was strewn across the road. Ghastly structures which were the frame of these building were all that was left, the only remnants of what the town had once been.

I exited the bus in a daze. There was the sound of the engine for a while, followed by silence.

I stood there for a while, noticing that the silence was gradually becoming louder. It therefore seemed to be closing in on me. And as the rear lights of the bus faded away entirely, the realization that I was completely alone came over me. It was my military instincts that told me this indicated that I was also vulnerable. This vulnerability forced me out of my state of disbelief; it was, however replaced by a rapidly accelerating sense of panic.

With each step forward, there was a sharp increase in my heart rate. What was originally distant structures loomed overhead, creating the illusion falling into an ever widening abyss. I looked upon the world before me with an increasing sense of horror.

The town, as well as the surrounding cities, had been subject to relentless bombing by the nation of Roake. This was the conclusion of a 4 year war between them and the United States, primarily over the propagation of nuclear weapons. The decision to attack a high civilian population may not have been a miscalculation, and instead was planned in the attempt to force a surrender. This could be considered a success—they won the war shortly after—but the consequences were tremendous. Thousands of families had been ripped apart and homes had been replaced by rubble. Children were forced to know a life without their parents. There were infants on the street short after, unable to comprehend the catastrophe which had occurred.

There was no conscious consideration behind where I was going. However, my subconscious, as it seemed, was pulling me toward my home. Faces of my family members flashed through my mind, fuzzy from years of separation. I remembered the tears they had shed waving me away to the army, not knowing if I would ever return. Both my parents and my younger brother were there at the airport. What would have been a pure sense of love and longing was instead a dull, almost physical pain. It was as if it was strenuous to feel those emotions due to the lack of use. In an attempt to end these feelings, I began to think.

 It seems there are only two types of people in this world: enemies and cowards. And the latter is little better for they had succumbed to the former. One simply had to see what was left behind to ascertain this fact. The town had become the foothold of the Roakeans, these people whom we had up until now murdered in a glorious fight for our national identity. Once the war had concluded, it had been accepted that their control had become the new status quo. But it was I who remembered that this society was still the enemy, and we still have to fight back. It was I, and I alone, who would not stay silent in response to the atrocities committed on the people I care about. For the war was not over. No, it had just began. They may have taken my dignity, they may have taken my physical strength, they may have taken my family, they may have taken my life as I knew it, but there was still one thing I could conclude with confidence. They have not yet won the war. I must be the true hero. I must be the one to save the world from the insidious.

As these thoughts reeled through my mind, the outside world began to change. It was no longer the desolate town I had once thought it was. This transition occurred gradually at first, but accelerated. What I had mistook for silence, was replaced by the almost inaudible sound of sirens in the distance, increasing in pitch as they neared. What sounded like voices followed me around with every step I took, hushed and incoherent. The ground seemed to be moving under me, making me nauseated and disoriented.

I would not have found my home had it not been for a part of our mailbox which I noticed on the ground, partly concealed under sediment and brick; the house itself had been destroyed, rendering it unrecognizable. That battered piece of metal was all that was left of the almost two decades of memories I had had.

Having been hobbling around on my good leg for several blocks, I decided to sit down on the sidewalk, exhausted and dehydrated. I noticed a puddle of water in a small pothole, and found that my face was discernible in it. When examining it, I came to the revelation that I had undergone a significant physical change. Of course, that could be seen on the superficial level. A scar could be seen along my face due to the injuries I sustained (I noticed that they were also on my hands). My cheeks had become hollow due to the difficulty I had had in eating. Bags had formed under my eyes, due to the sleepless night I had undergone in the hospital bed.

There was something more though. And this change was something which was not immediately recognizable, but slowly dawned on me. My identity itself has seem to have transformed. For one, I had lost the appearance of confidence and optimism which I once had. This had largely been replaced by a blank and featureless expression. But there was something else. There was something sinister which could be seen in my eyes. It was something which both frightened and, in a twisted way, fascinated me. Something vicious, sadistic...and evil.

But what does it meant to be evil? And what does it mean to be wrong? There is an understanding of moral objectivity instilled in us from a young age, but how is it possible to prove that this understanding is correct? The reason for something being considered wrong is because it feels wrong. But why should the feelings of others dictate the truth? And how do we reconcile the contradictions of objective morality?  We can hear of the murder of millions and not feel a strong emotion, but a video of a single individual dying brings upon the full weight of the injustice. Yet the former is far worse objectively. We often few death in a utilitarian sense. However, it is considered a just act to save those whom you love, such as your family, regardless of the sacrifice. And it is considered a noble act to kill in order to protect your nation. The thing which distinguishes these is the connection you have for something, the feeling of love or pride or hatred which it evokes. Quite simply, the distinction between right and wrong is based on how it makes you feel; the moral action was done through love which the first was void of. Therefore, wouldn’t it stand to reason that what is right and wrong is based on the perspective of the individual? Wouldn’t my decision to fight against the enemy be justified due to the desire to help others? I want to fight, I want to murder, but I’m doing it based on the desire to protect those who are close to me. This is not a cold-blooded attack; this is the noble act of one willing to fight for what he believes in regardless of the consequences.

The hallucinations began to get worse. I saw tanks rolling across the street, closing in on me. I attempted to take steps backward, only to stumble, just barely regaining my balance. There was a slow beat, which I could only imagine was my own heart. I felt a sudden gust of wind, which must have been gunshots. There were the silhouettes of people just discernible in the night sky. My father came into focus for a moment, before fading away. I attempted to understand this phenomenon, and determined there must be ghosts here. And just as I concluded this, their numbers grew, my family and neighbors coming in and out of existence. I could see past events being recreated. Fire from enemy bombs created a red glow around me. The bricks of buildings gave way, falling over me. These visuals closed in on and began to engulf me, so all that I could sense was the sounds of screams. Had these screams been foreign to me, it would have been bearable, but each scream was distinctly recognizable with someone I knew, and each one held the same agony which I myself felt. I saw those whom I fought alongside in the army lying near me, their wounds forming puddles of blood at my feet. I wanted to carry them away to shelter, but as I kneeled down, all I felt was concrete. My legs came from underneath me, and I found myself collapsed on the ground. The tanks were now mere feet away, and their barrels were pointing at me, confronting me with my inevitable death.

In the distance, I saw a figure approaching me. As he got closer, his features began to take form. He couldn’t have been older than 18. The young man was tall and thin, with long hair which partially obscured his face. His footsteps began to vibrate the ground, creating a beat which synchronized with the beating in my chest. After a while of observation, he couldn’t have been much more than a couple yards away, but I was still unable to understand if what I was seeing was reality or merely a vivid hallucination. There was something mechanical about him, as if he was not a human so much as a manifestation of something else.

I was staring at him, trying to come to terms with this, when his eyes locked on mine.

 

“What do you want?”

 

His voice was harsh but had underlying fear and panic, his words slightly rushed. Part of me realized that he was most likely simply lost and confused, but I knew that that couldn’t be what was really going on.

This was the human manifestation of the insurmountable cruelty and darkness which surrounded me. But, in apparent contradiction, this figure was mortal, and I had the ability to terminate it. It was up to me to avenge the dead and wounded who surrounded me. It was as if this had happened by design. This is what would determine my true character.

 

“You know what I want. You know exactly what I want.” My voice came out forceful, but raspy from underuse. “I want you terminated. I wanted you defeated and destroyed. I want you dead.”

 

The man, panic now overtaking his confusion, turned around and began to sprint in the opposite direction. But I knew I could overtake him, injured leg or not, and my years of military training kicked in. As I ran, there were sharp jabs of pain which ran up and down this leg, but, after all, nothing worth doing comes easy. I gave a final burst of acceleration, and my hand snatched at his shirt; this attempt was successful. I reeled him back in, tripped him, and came on top of him, all with a sadistic ease.

I then wrapped my arm around his neck and began to strangle him. He did scream as this occurred, but it was almost entirely drowned out by the screams of my loved ones. He attempted to punch at me from behind, but this merely increased my anger, and therefore my grip.

I felt the man’s pulse from his neck gradually slowing down. The rapid and desperate jerking motions of his body transitioned into a defeated strain against my grasp. It seemed as if hours had gone past, but it finally led to its inevitable conclusion; his hand grabbed for my arm just as his body went limp at last. I looked into his eyes as this occurred, but I could not determine if I was feeling euphoria or revulsion in seeing the emotions of this man.

My beating heart finally settled to a calm pace. The adrenaline abated, leaving me with a numb feeling, one which could be considered either a deep sense of calmness or the beginning of the descent into chronic depression. The fight was over, but the fight had given my life meaning. Without it, there seemed to be little left to live for.

It took several hours for the police to come to the scene. I might have been able to hide the evidence, at least temporarily, but I had since acknowledged and accepted my inevitable fate. The police officer who had been on watch in the general area noticed the dead body, called for backup, and quickly had me arrested. I remembered these events in a daze.

There was the vivid memory of me, in the backseat of the police car, looking into the distance at my home, for what must have been the final time.

 

What was the purpose of all of this? What was the purpose of sacrificing everything for what you believe in, regardless of the insignificance it will have in the large scheme of things? My actions have not made me a hero; they have not been considered noble or meaningful. They have led to me being labelled as a mere lunatic, a lunatic which creates nothing more than a kink in the fabric of society. I accepted this label, and I am aware that I am evil, but I will never lose the determination which I consider the fundamental aspect of my existence. Morality may be objective, but, if that is the case, I would rather be evil than insincere.


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