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On The Nature of War

by Jonathan Wood

When the Elephantmen came they brought war on their heels. Their tusks tore through men. They wielded cannons like toys, fired shot that ripped through Kevlar like tissue. They understood guerrilla tactics, their skin color natural camouflage in the urban jungle man had made for himself.

But the Elephantmen were few, and men were many. Through sheer weight of numbers mankind forced a stalemate. Both sides were diminished, bloody, tattered. And so went forth the leaders of each force, the man O'Connell and the Elephantman Atok. They were battle-scarred and proud, walking into no-man's land in the cold white sun of the day.

Hard-liners on both sides did not want the deal to pass. Hard-liners on both sides sent squads to dispatch the leaders. But the O'Connell and Atok had not attained their positions without merit. Together they fought back, the two acting as one. O'Connell's machine gun rattling, Atok's great arm cannon destroying the cover their attackers hid behind. In the blood of their enemies, O'Connell and Atok found what they might otherwise have never located, brotherhood, understanding.

At the ceasefire declaration, Atok told mankind, “You will see that though we can never forget, we can forgive.”

And the Elephantmen did forgive, and they opened their borders, and gave beleagured mankind all the aid they could muster. They turned their great strength from destruction to building.

However, Atok saw that his people's largess was not met in kind. So he went to O'Connell and said, “I believe we are friends, but now it seems our friendship is one-sided. My people will not be exploited once more.” And O'Connell assured him all was well, but time proved his promises empty and once more Atok returned. But where O'Connell may have expected anger he found only sadness, for Atok had forgiven man. And O'Connell knew he held back his hand, and the sadness in Atok's stance only angered him.

O'Connell sent trucks into the Elephantmen camps. They promised aid, but held only men with guns, only death. And the men burst from the trucks, and they caught their ally unaware, and they killed, and they slaughtered, and they butchered. And man stood victorious in a war one side had not known it still fought. For O'Connell had not forgiven, and instead had lived in fear of the day he might forget to hate.


You say so much in this small space. I was drawn in immediately. My mind began filling in the details beyond the simple, straightforward narrative (which I love for its detachment, letting events speak for themselves).

Like Atok, it makes me sad, too. Mankind is often disappointing.

Posted by: Lene | March 14, 2009 12:06 AM

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