by Starling


Panting, shaking, running through the tight bush fear. His mind a haze of panicked fear. Where are they, where are those furry bastards? He would have shouted in frustration, but for the fear of death. How did the platoon ever get into this mess? We're walking around in a blasted death trap! Are they behind us? Did they see me? Oh, God. I don't want to die.

I've got to think. What's that sound? Is it them, or is it a regular animal? Dive out of the way! Did they hear me? No, I'm alive. I'd be dead if they heard me. Safe for now, until they find me.

Man, what's the deal with this stupid war anyway? I should never have come here. These things we're killing, they're not monsters like I was told. I should have gone to the peace demonstrations. Maybe if I'd protested like the others, I wouldn't be in this jungle, I would have known better. But it was such a good thing. They said, "We must destroy these monsters." They said, "It's our obligation and our destiny." Preachers, military men, teachers, I couldn't refuse.

But they're not monsters! I've seen ‘em; laughing and talking just like us. (a memory: Why, oh why didn't I shoot when they weren't looking? Jimmy'd still be alive if it wasn't for me! There they are, laughing and talking just like the boys back at camp.) They got families; they got something to protect. Why are we killing them? The military men, they said it was all a lab experiment gone wrong, but it's not the morphs that are wrong. It's us.

"Stile!" Suddenly the harsh whisper of his commander was next to him. The only man he feared more than furries. "You piece of scum! You can't stay here. Men are dying out there! Get your lazy carcass out of this hole, and keep going, or I'll give myself a reason to call you a carcass!"

The commander's gun was pointed at Stile's head. Would the commander shoot this time? The poor guy was just as scared as anyone, but he took it way too far. He took it all out on us. Man, can I really test this guy? His eyes are crazy... gotta go!

Up, and leaving the bolthole, Joe Stile ran for his life.

No, where did they go? I had the scent...too late! Now what. There! No, that's Ron. He better be more quiet, or he'll be killed. Killed? I'll be killed! Where's a safe spot? I need a breather. Those humans, chasing us like we were spawn of the devil... there!

Whew. These rifles are so heavy. But they work, just the same. I wish we didn't have to use them. What put man in the position to say we don't have the right to exist? No one can say that, even if they created us! ggrrowl. Can't they just leave us alone? I mean, we never did anything to kill anyone, unless they did to us first. Where was human compassion at the Eglin massacre? Where were high ideals and benevolent ambitions at the American Antimorphon Conference. They signed our death warrant! How can you declare war on a few thousand people and still live with yourself?

I hope Mees is okay back home. She should be safe as long as we hold our ground, and kill as many humans as we can. Kill humans... It might as well be furs we're killing. Most people don't deserve to be killed. It's the politicians I want to kill. Ooh, to be standing there, unfettered, at the Antimorphon Conference. They wouldn't be able to hold me back. Not that it would do any good, though. More bad people would just scare the voters into reelecting them. And I'd have single-handedly destroyed morphon reputation.

Not that we've got much of one anyway, but I've been hearing stories. There's a lot of fuss going on in the ‘states. We're really eating a hole in the side of the American population, and I think they're sick of it. The BigWigs are running out of excuses to keep their soldiers fighting. Our nonagression is hitting America's collective unconscious hard. They should give up soon. How long can we hold out, though? Our numbers are so small. We can't possibly sustain this kind of warfare. Our only advantage is that we've got Florida here staked out. They can't beat animals in the swamp.

...here we go. I think I've got someone's smell. On now...

Joe shook the empty can of scent block, wistful for a moment, then wide-eyed and watchful: I should probably have packed more of this stuff. Oh, well--. Something's there. In the bushes in front of me. I know it! Careful. Walk around the noise. Too dangerous to fire. It'll give away my position. Too dangerous, until I'm sure. I'll just move over here. Wait, there it is again! Now, we're talking! Right there in front of me. Now's the perfect time to shoot. Shoot! Shoot now! Come on...

The Commander had been slow. His body lay at the cat-morph's feet. His face was frozen in twisted anger.

"Good, I got their commander. It won't stop the advance, though. People follow orders, regardless of whether their commander is dead or not. Wow, look at him. He's so angry. I wonder if he ever saw a morph before that he didn't kill right away. He really hated us. I wonder if it was all in his head, or if one of our kind drove him to it. Oh well, it's too late to ask now. I wasn't about to stand around before and ask questions anyway."

It looked like the commander was alone. All the other humans must be hanging back. God, they've all got guns, and they want to kill us. I'm so scared. Why can't they just leave us alone? Stupid humans! ... oops, prrrobably shouldn't kick his body. It's kind of irreverent.

Darn! It was just some kind of nonmorph crane. Just a bird. I guess I was pretty quiet though, because it hasn't flown away. Look at that thing, it's beautiful. It's much better than the pictures back in biology class. Hey, they really do stand on one leg! Wow...

Why are we even fighting? We don't stand a chance if all humans are as hateful as that man, the commander. He almost got me. I could swear he knew I was coming. But we can't give up, we can't leave either. I wonder if we tried to hide... nah. We're already hiding, and they still come and find us. It seems like we were just made to kill each other, morphs and man. We were, come to think of it, if you believe what the people in Washington say about the Morphon project.

"We committed a terrible mistake," they said, "Creating an abomination for the use in war. Their twisted natures cause them to hate everything and kill without pity. We must remove our mistakes, and go on with our lives without having to fear for our children."

All those words... we can't escape it. I wonder why humans are so terrible. Would we be just as bad if we were in the same situation?

No matter what those politicians say, our minds work in mostly the same way. We might even be just as terrible as humans. I can just see the savagery all morphons share, turned into hatred against man. Maybe if we weren't the ones being attacked, we would be fighting back! Maybe we'd be fighting each other.

No, we lived with humans for years. We're good soldiers, but we're not monsters. I've never met any morph that enjoys... well, there are a few. And I don't know about those lizard things. They never show their emotions. I guess morphs and man are supposed to hate each other. But I'm so tired of hating. I just want to live. I wish things were better, but is it possible? Can two intelligent species coexist, or are they bound to destroy each other? With the way this war is turning out, it looks like the answer is clear.

Though, I've heard about the protests, picketing in front of Washington, rallies at Ganes Park back in New York, the All Lifers...

...the march of Boston, the Antiwar boycotts, I here they're even giving the protestors names: Mickeys. From some cartoon character back in prewar times. Of course, I never killed a mouse morph, so I don't know if they exist. Man, I hope the government calls us back soon. We're not doing anything good here. It's just a pointless mess of shooting and death. I've seen at least three people go totally crazy over it. ‘Wonder why I haven't gone over the edge yet.

There's no reason in war. It's just some kind of pointless action that comes from fear, hatred or anger. People think it's right, but those people haven't fought in one before. There doesn't seem to be anybody left who still likes war, who's fought in one. I think only the politicians like the war now. The voters must be feeling pretty bad about electing those gung-ho hawks into office. Those people promised an "easy end" to the war, but they just made things worse. That's why people're protesting. I didn't hear about the results of the last election. News comes late here. I wonder if Johnson got elected? I hope so.

"Joe." "Ayieee! Oh, it's you. What are doing here? Are you stupid or something?" "I'm here to film, what else?" "You are stupid. This is a battle. People are dying! You can't carry a gun when you carry a camera!" "The camera's the more powerful weapon." "What do you mean?" "It ends wars. I'm risking my life more than anyone here, but if some of my film can get radioed back to the public, then they'll stop the war. Guns don't do anything, but this thing will show our people the horror that's happening here. Make them see what a bad thing this is." "Whaddya mean horror? It's--." "Don't play dumb with me. I'm not the commander. I know you've got some ideas about getting out of here." "I'd never make it." "Joe, that's the only thing keeping you from making it. But I won't argue now. I'll just follow behind. You've got ideas, and my Journalist bone is telling me that you'll make a good story. Nothing personal, but I think you're special." "Thanks, Ryan. Now, get hidden, before you die!"

The trembling Lobomorph watches them through the bushes. Barely 12 years old, she can hardly hold the shaking rifle in her paws. A desperation shines in her eyes, for this was to be her first kill. Desperate because there was no chase, no hunt beforehand. This kill only involved sneaking up in the bushes, unaware, and then...BAM. But the bam never happens. Her finger struggles, stubbornly refusing an undecided mind. Maybe if she'd been a Felimorph, more prone to stalking. Maybe if they saw her, and challenged her. But then her composure breaks, and she turns, fleeing silently back into the woods, cursing her own inner failure.

I've got to get out of here. I can't shoot another face, (a memory: shit, it blew to pieces! Oh, no. I'm all c-c-covered in...) even if it's furry. I just can't stand it! This whole war is a mistake. Maybe we were wrong in making the morphs, but this war can't make it right. Right. Tomorrow, I'll go AWOL. I don't care how many furries there are out there. Maybe they'll take me in. Maybe they'll shoot me. I just don't care anymore. I don't want to die, but I can't shoot another face! All I've got to do is get out of this mess today--.

Shoot, there they are, all of them, it sounds like! Those bushes are going crazy! They must know we're here. No, wait. I remember before, they had one guy shake the bushes while the rest of them snuck up closer. No way! Get down!

With the rest of his regiment just behind him, Joe snaked forward in the soggy mud. His eyes were reddened and sore from lost sleep and exhaustion, but they kept fixed forward. His muscles ached from strain, but they clutched the rifle like a lifeline.

The KK's are probably right on us by now. Any minute, and one could pop out of the bushes. And then...God I don't want to die. What's this? Oh, man, how did a hedge get here! It's right in my way, I'll have to jump over it. Wait--. No. Oh, please no. I think one of them is on the other side...

The signal! Now we can make our move! Forward, silently, crawl along the ground. I've got to be totally silent. No! Stop that tail from lashing! Good. Now forward again. The bushes are shaking behind us. I hope the humans haven't seen this trick yet. Shoot, they've gone under cover. It looks like they were ready for our trick. Never mind, we know where they are. We can take out a lot of them before we... die... but why? Why? It's so pitiful, that we should be forced to kill people who are just following their commander's orders! They shouldn't follow orders blindly, but I can't kill them just because they're being stupid. We're doing it too. We have other people telling us where to go, who to kill, where to stand and where to retreat. On the other hand, though, those morphs that tell us what to do are fighting right alongside us, and we're defending our lives, not attacking! The humans have their politicians who sit in velvet chairs and make decisions from furnished offices. I wish I could just stop this stupid war, and throw this rifle back in the mud where it should have stayed. Back then... (a memory:

"No, Rorche..." "Take it...you'll need it. We -- can't waste guns here." "I'll get you help." "You'll get yourself away and, unh, alive." "You're in shock." "You bet I'm in shock... It's Nature's last gift I guess. Relief from pain." "Can I do anything?" "Get my gun, over in the mud over there. You'll need it. Don't worry about me. I'm done... for." "Rorche! Rorche! ...I'll get you out of here." "You can't do that...get my gun. ‘Ss an order!" The young Felimorph took the heavy weapon out of the mud. "I'll be back." "Sure you will. Hurry up, now." )

It's all crazy, but what are we supposed to do? There's nowhere to run, and no way to stop fighting, is there? I just can't stand it. I don't want to lose anyone else to this stupid war, but the humans just keep coming! Can't we come to some kind of understanding? I mean, we speak the same language, right? The same language--.

There's one now. Right across this hedge here. He smells young. I don't want to kill him. I so don't want to kill him! Why does he have to come and attack me? It's so wasteful. Why are humans so bad?!

In a blur of motion, the two soldiers move as one, flashing up out of the brush. They stand, guns cocked and aimed. Both their faces are etched with pain and panic as they stare at each other, frozen. Their deadly weapons are pointed at each other, unfiring, neither one willing to make the first move.

My god, I've never seen one up this close. The fur on his back is just standing on end! I don't believe it. He's scared of me? But I've gotta shoot him, he's the enemy. If I shoot him, I'll die! Shut up! Just keep the gun aimed...you don't know him. What harm could come from pulling the trigger? Shoot, damn you! Shoot! But conscience refuses to listen.

Why can't I shoot? I've got to kill him. Him and every one of those bad humans that want to kill us! I've got to do this for little Mees, for all of us! There's no other way. Why can't I shoot?

That cat is looking at me over this hedge, but aside from the hedge there's not much other undergrowth. The terrain is dangerously open here. You can see everyone! The whole regiment... and they're watching us. Funny... the Commander's not here. But I see James, and Rita, and... good lord, there's Ryan with his camera. The whole world can see us!

The two forces, furry and human, are dead focused on the combat-locked pair of soldiers in the middle of the killing field. For a moment the battle is forgotten, guns left limp. All the soldiers, man and otherwise, have eyes that shine with a helpless desperation, a desire for peace and happiness that must be satisfied. Long exploited for war, peace and happiness are carrots dangled at the end of very long sticks, by politicians, elected representatives of an ignorant, and irrational public. Politicians, driven by fear, the promise of power and hatred, tell us that war will bring peace and happiness. But peace and happiness never came of any war. Even the defenders cannot hope to expect that peace or happiness will result from their actions. There will be no peace unless both sides give up fighting. Only in times of peace can there be peace, and only in times of happiness can there be happiness. War is neither peace nor happiness, regardless of how our leaders try to convince us this is so. They have to convince us that good can come of war, or else there would be no one willing to go to war. No one willing to go... to....

I wonder how much he's had to crawl in the mud, like me. We're both in the same bag, the same death trap. He kills me and I kill him. Then, everyone else comes and kills each other, until no one is left. I wonder what color he is, under all that mud. Is his skin black, or white, or yellow? I don't remember all the colors humans come in.

He's really not that bad, up close. All the posters back home were wrong. They showed these people as some kind of twisted freaks of nature. Freaks, maybe, but they aren't twisted. It's the war that's twisted. This war is twisting us both, making us bad and evil. I've got to shoot, or I'll die, but... No! I just can't shoot another face!

Rorche, I've failed you.

The fierce gun barrels filled with deadly projectiles, sink to the ground in tandem, as though borne by great weights. The hands are drawn down by the weapons, followed by the shoulders which slump in exhaustion. The need for comfort in troubled times is overwhelming.So, abruptly the tension breaks. The guns leave the hands, splash in the mud, and the two combatants are hugging, clinging to one another for support. Their tears are sweet after being suppressed for so long in the living death of war. The whole world watches as they let out their sorrows, and for the first time in years, find peace.


...Hey, look. Everyone's putting their guns in a big pile over there!

"What's going on guys?"

Their answer stops him short. "Look, Joe. We can't keep fighting without a reason. If any platoon was more tired of fighting than ours, I never saw it. I lost two friends to the war already, an' I'm one of the lucky ones. Morphs did the deed, but it was the war that killed my friends. I don't care how evil these people are, or how many of my friends they've killed, the hatred has got to stop somewhere."

"I don't believe it." Joe says disbelievingly.

"Believe it." another feral voice chimes in. The Vulpomorph who spoke locks the safety on his rifle and throws the gun onto the pile. "If you two aren't going to kill each other, then neither are we. I'm sick of fighting anyway."

The Felimorph standing next to Joe now speaks shakily to his undone enemy. "What are you going to do? You haven't got anywhere to run."

"Neither do you guys." Joe says, smiling self-consciously. "The people back in Washington have had nothing but morphs to fight before now. We'll see what happens when they have to fight their own citizens."

"Would you really fight to defend us?"

"No, there are other reasons. ‘See that guy with the camera over there? His name's Ryan. He's a journalist, and he sent this whole scene back to the states. People are gonna see it on national TV. If our country isn't sick of this war yet, then we'll be just as hunted as you are. Nobody seems to like deserters."

"Well, I like deserters a lot better than the alternative."

"Let's not talk about that now."

"Yes. Let's go home."

"Could we, maybe...?"

"Oh yeah, you guys don't have a home anymore, do you? Come with us, we know the way. It's a long walk, but I think we can help each other out."

"Thanks. I like the idea of helping each other out. Do you think your people will accept us?"

"We have a lot of experience with rejection. I don't think you'll have any trouble. We don't have time for prejudice these days."

"Thanks again. By the way, what is your name?"

"Joseph." the cat replied. "What's yours?"


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Last Updated: Saturday January 22, 2005 (13:55:48)