The Blind Sniper

For ten years, I terrorized the war-torn countries. I led the fight, kept the war moving forward. I fought
from afar, just beyond the next mountain top. Untouchable. I was the angel of death, the reason you
look over your shoulder when you walk down a dark street. I was the one that brought justice to those
that attempted to escape it. I was the best sniper that ever lived. I served my government, obeying their
orders to the letter. Never failing. I brought down the monsters. I saved thousands of people at the cost
of my own soul. People have died by my hand. Hundreds. Maybe even thousands. I lost count after the
first hundred. My tour in the army was coming to an end, though people begged me to stay. They
wanted to use my eyes to bring down the next enemy, the next dictator, the next target. I was a tool,
nothing more than a pawn on the board.

But not to everyone.

I was out on a mission in the outskirts of the Valhalla. I was going to provide backup to the squad that
was transporting ammunition to some of our forces that got pinned down a few towns over. It was a
standard relief mission, hardly notable in any way. I was there just in case something went wrong or
someone tried to stop us. It wasn’t supposed to end like this. We were attacked, outflanked and
ambushed by a much larger force. I climbed the nearest tower to get better vantage point of the battle. I
took down as many enemies as I could before running out of ammo. Someone else climbed the tower,
having spotted the barrel of my gun. They came up, beat me to the brink of death and dragged me out
into the open. They were going to kill me, but someone recognized the name on my dog tags. They
knew I was the infamous sniper that had tipped the scales of the war. And they decided on a fate much
worse than death.

I returned home nearly two years later, a broken shell of the person I once was. Yes, I received some
medical benefits from the army, but it wasn’t enough to sustain much of a life. I got a tiny apartment on
the bad side of town, where I lived alone. My family had thrown me out years ago for joining the army.
They were extreme pacifists and saw me as a murderer. They thought I got what I deserved. I had been
gone for so long that my friends are long gone.

I am alone.

They took my eyesight away from me, leaving my face scarred. The marksman I was is gone. There is
nothing I can do to fix it. All that I am and ever was, is gone. I don’t know what to do myself. I can’t get
used to it. I still remember the sights. The beauty. And the knife. I see it in my mind’s eye, just out of
reach, taunting me. I wake up sometimes, certain I’m still trapped, still imprisoned. What they’ve done
will change everything.

I went to a church for a while. Actually, I went to several. None of them ever seemed to fit. They all said
the same things, none of it interesting to me. Then they attacked me. Killing is wrong, they say. No
matter the circumstance. I don’t understand. I’ve saved lives by taking others. How is that wrong? Do
they know how many fathers and mothers got to come home to their children, unharmed, because of
me? Do they know how many children I have saved and returned home to their families? I’ve done so
much good. How could it all be so wrong? I stopped the evil from destroying the good. What do they see
that I don’t? What am I missing?
I tried some art. Woodworking had its appeals, so I gave it a shot. But my hands shake too much now.
They are too damaged to hold the tools properly. I gave up quickly, having only hurt myself more. I went
to some therapy sessions. But they didn’t help. I could understand the message and see the potential to
be better, but I just didn’t care to try. It didn’t seem to matter. What was the point of trying to fit back
in? I’d been gone for twelve years. I couldn’t find enough pieces to put my life together.

I stayed in my apartment for a week, completely unmoving. I didn’t eat, didn’t sleep. I couldn’t. I was
done trying. I couldn’t keep moving. My train had been derailed. I wasn’t ever going to get back up. I
was thirty years old with nothing left to give. What am I supposed to do? I couldn’t find a purpose. I
guessed I wasn’t supposed to. I started to waste away, my body falling apart from the inside out. I found
some solace in the bottom of a bottle, but it was never enough. Never enough to make the nightmares
stop. I started to spiral downwards, falling farther and farther from the tracks.

And then I hit rock bottom.

I had lost my apartment. Lost every penny I ever had. And I didn’t care. I just wandered aimlessly, nearly
getting run over by passing cars. I wished it wasn’t nearly. I was starving. I would try to follow my nose
to some nearby restaurant, but they would always throw me out. I guess the scars are too terrible for
them to see. No one cared to make it stop. One day I tried to steal the food I couldn’t find anywhere
else. I guess I should have known it would end like this.

I raise my hands out towards the cop sitting across the table. The handcuffs jangle slightly. “What do you
think?”
“You’re a former army sniper?”
“If that’s what the papers say.”
“Don’t you get disability payments?”
“How much money do you think I get? It’s like a hundred bucks a month. What am I supposed to do with
that? I can’t even get a job. No one will hire me.”
“You can’t be denied a job because of your blindness. That’s against the law.”
“You think they care about the fuckin law? I’m useless to them, deadweight. Another army vet who has
lost their marbles. Don’t be so naïve.”
“You said your family are stringent pacifists.”
“Yep. Cowards. Losers. Every last one of them.”
“Do they know where you are now?”
“They disowned me. Why would I ever bother?”
“They haven’t disowned you.”
“They did. I remember the day they threw me out of the house. I remember the laughter. They laughed
at me and threw me out. I remember their faces, their disappointment. I was everything they hated.”
“But it isn’t true.”
“The hell you mean it isn’t true?”
“You come from a long line of soldiers, not pacifists. They’ve been searching for you for months after
you dropped off the grid once you returned home. They didn’t disown you. They were so proud on the
day you signed up to join the war effort and even more proud of all the good you’ve done.”
“That…” My head starts to throb. “That isn’t true.”
“It is. And you know it. You’re time in captivity has twisted your memories. The people there did terrible
things to you. But the world you went off to fight for isn’t going to abandon you. We’re here to help.”
“Tell me you aren’t a therapist. I don’t want to listen to another fuckin therapist.”
“Not a therapist. Just a father.”
“A what?”
“A father. I’m your father.”
“No. No you’re not. I remember my father. He… He… He’s not you. I know he isn’t you.” I try to pull
away but the handcuffs stop me.
“Open your eyes.”
“Why? They’re broken.”
“They’re not broken. You just need to remember how to use them.”
“What are you talking about?”
“You receive such small disability payments because you aren’t blind. Open your eyes.”
“I can’t. They took that from me.”
“There is no they. There is only us. Just us. Here and now. Safe and sound. Open your eyes.”
“I can’t.”
“Can’t or won’t?”
“I can’t, you fucking moron. There isn’t anything to see. They took it away. I remember the pain. I
remember the agony.”
“It was just a dream, made up by your mind.”
“Why would my mind do that?”
“To lead you away from the truth. Because you can’t deal with it. Because you’re too afraid to face what
stands in front of you.”
“I’m not afraid!”
“Then prove it. Open your eyes.”

Darkness. Not darkness. Not anymore. “Open your eyes, little sniper.” The man’s voice is thickly
accented, barely understandable. “It’s time to face the day.” He pulls open the door to the tiny cell that
is my home. “You’re got an appointment with the doctor.”
I claw at the ground as he drags me out. My nails crack and bleed as I try to stop the progression of time
itself. There is no escape. Not from this. Not from him. “It’s just a dream,” the doctor says as he digs into
my mind. “Just another nightmare for you to live while you’re our guest.”

This isn’t real. None of it is real. Just a nightmare. A way to torture me. To make the fantasies as terrible
as reality. There is no escape from the torments.

Not from here.

Not ever.