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Slaughterhouse 5: An Epilogue

By , Syracuse, NY

I look at the walls, now showing signs of decay. Movement catches my eye. I see a shadow dance with the sunlight coming in through the window. The shadow is a rat eating a beetle in the corner. So it goes.
         I now remember why I’ve never come back to this s***hole. There are no distractions here. Just walls slowly building up rust. I always knew that I’d have to think about Dresden to write a decent book about it. This book will probably not be decent. I try to piece together sentences explaining Dresden, but they don’t sound right. Talking about something that cannot be explained is more taxing than I’d thought. Sometimes an event reaches a point where nothing meaningful can be said about it. It’s too devastating or absurd. The Dresden bombings are past that point. Somehow I’m still writing.
        I look around the room and remember all of the soldiers huddled together. Now, I see Billy with them. During the war, I wasn’t much like Billy in personality, but I was just as piss poor a soldier as him. I was lanky and uncomfortable. I ran from the action. Really, I had no business being near a gun. All the best soldiers could turn off their minds, and see only us versus the enemy. America vs Germany, Good vs Evil. This let them kill lots of people. That was their job, so they did it, and a select few enjoyed it. Some went home as heroes. Most died. So it goes.
I don’t know why I like that phrase so much. I started saying it in my head during the war when someone died in a particularly gruesome way. Now, I sometimes say it out loud. People give me confused looks. They don’t get how often they think it too. In wars, when people at home hear about a bombing, or a firing squad taking out 100 people, it's always “So it goes.” They see the war, in all its glory, but not the individuals. One person dies. Thousands of people die. So it goes. People at home just hope that it wasn't too many of our men. But everybody dies eventually. Maybe when they do too they’ll realize that we are all equal in death. I think Billy Pilgrim will like that phrase too.
Walking through the hollow building now, with the dance of the rats and beetles in my peripherals, I realize how deeply each image from my time here is engrained in my head. I see these images in flashes, most of which I ignore. Its very difficult. In the corner, there's Colin Robinson. He’d been the only unlucky son of a b**** who’d lived through a German air raid in Luxemburg. The guy came out with just a small piece of shrapnel lodged in his stomach, which he proudly called his battle scar. In slaughterhouse 5, most people knew him as the shriveled guy in the corner puking up blood. He looked like a raisin by the end of the bombings. His feet were always blue and ivory. A couple of years ago, he got in touch with me and we went out for drinks. He told me about his job at a supermarket, and briefly mentioned that he’s a widower. His wife, Sharon I think her name was, died in childbirth shortly after the war. So it goes.
I hear O’Hare’s boots crunch from upstairs. The steps are even and monotonous. It’s almost comforting.
The church bell rings from across the street and I can almost hear the other soldiers praying. Their faces are tight and focused. Most of them prayed for their lives. I didn’t. They prayed for safety and gave God a friendly reminder of their bravery and tenacity. One lonely guy even thought it was important to let God know that we were on the right side of the war. “We fight for democracy and freedom,” he said. He thought that if God was going to kill people it should be the Germans outside. After the bombing, the man thanked God for recognizing American righteousness. He patted himself on the back for being part of the grand decision. I saw his proud smile as he pulled a small body out of the rubble. So it goes.
After the war, most people looked to God like they looked to a miracle weight loss plan. They wanted magic and the opportunity for a “better” life. Sometimes I wish I wanted to pray. Sometimes I think about all the people that pray, and they seem happy. Sometimes I wonder what these praying people think about. They’re probably too busy praying to think. Praying people only do it because they think it can change the direction of their lives. I don’t think it can, so I don’t pray. I guess I see the appeal of having a purpose. I’m sure a lot of the other guys at Dresden were driven by otherworldly forces to go on with their lives. Maybe do great things. After seeing so much death, I don’t really see the point in that.
Thinking about this gives me a pounding headache. Each thump in my head is accompanied by another flash. I wonder if maybe the Tralfamadorians got it right. Maybe I’m finally coming unstuck in time, and this is just the peak of my enlightenment. I’m by the door huddled next to a crying man. I see a man get shot in the gut while I hide 50 feet away, covered in various bodily fluids. I see a man smile at the sky as he pulls a small body out of a pile of rubble. All of it at once (so it goes, so it goes, so it goes). The thought is unsettling. I notice I’ve been staring at a wall for at least 20 minutes, and shuffle up the stairs to find O’Hare.




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Hannah C. said...
today at 1:07 am
Wow youve got talent!
 
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