Monday, October 4, 2010

The Service

Suze looked into the clear blue sky of a July day. It all looked so peaceful, the simplest painting from the genius of a man without arms. There was not a single cloud to agitate the evenly coated hue. It was all chirp and sun. All summer delights and watermelon, not a single cloud to throw in a thought of moisture or a hint towards a memory of rain, for a fall that would surely come before she could turn her head towards the grass. Above her the heavens were wide and clear, resembling a roof, though as she looked she knew that beyond the obvious sense of safety were other planets, meteors, and above else, the most dangerous of all, hurtling rocks coming in her direction, containing the spores of alien life. Up above, on a July day, it only looked like summer and sweet cherry pies and fireworks. Towards the left was fall, and further, towards the white house on the corner, was winter, with its piles of snow and thick boots and smoky fireplaces.
She lay back on the grass, her long sandy blond hair framing her face like a beached mermaid. She was safe and the sky felt like a roof because right now there were soldiers out there, fighting the aliens spores with every available bit of metal and technology and ounce of human will.
As she slowly turned her head, winter would come. In a few months she would be 18, and at 18, she would be required, like all 18 year olds, to put on the lifeless gray wool pants and the suit top with ample shoulder pads. On her head would sit the pointed military hat with the nation’s yellow embroidered eagle, meant to allude to gold, though failing miserably. This would be the suit, the new mask she would be required to wear, though not even Suze thought of it as a mask.
It was just what they did, what everyone had to do. One generation after the other, marching in lock step, marching one after the other with their knees up, elbows extended, chin raised in exaggerated pride. Each year there was a new batch of enlistees. A tray of dough that seasoned and hard instructors drilled with lashes and harsh words. After discarding a few burnt and crumbling ones that just never had a chance for the cookie platter dream, the battalion would be formed.
It was not just a requirement, but a rite of passage. What every young, bright eyed and overly enthusiastic young person had to do before they turned 20. And when she returned from her years in the hostile skies alive with alien sperm, after her skin had grown used to the lifeless green pants and baggy shirt and the collared jacket and the pointed hat, then she would come back, a woman ready to vote and throw back tall mugs of frothy beer in manly competition. After her service she would be able to apply for a child-bearing passport and maybe even become a teacher.
But first, before any of that, she would need to put on those pants. She would need to learn how to hold the impossibly heavy gun with its many chambers destined for variously weighted bullets, she would learn to run in time, in position, as part of the group; not ahead, not behind, but in perfect formation. The chants would become buried in her head, melodies that would follow her into old age like white hair and memories of bloody footprints. The sound of her instructor’s voice would bury itself in her mind, finding places in her dreams to escape and re-ignite the torment of humiliation.
Before she could get the gun, before any of it could begin, she would need to go to the office. There would be the forms to fill out, little x’s and lines that would require signatures and full disclosures. Tests, weights, prodding, measurements, scans of all her most intimate parts. By the end, they would know everything about her. They could see her dreams and almost determine her future.
The blue sky could give her no words of motivation, it knew her destiny. Beside her lay a small rectangular piece of paper with the writing of machinery and machine-like people all over it. The sky could offer her no recourse, no place to hide. And just as she had reluctantly always given up her location as a child when the game was called off, “come out, come out wherever you are!” it was time to face the nation. To become a bride, giving herself, body and soul to the nation. Take me, and make me a woman. Give me your gun, the power of your explosion, and I will be your woman.
She looked down at the card, an oversized flier for the national army. “We’ll keep fighting. And we’ll win!” There were a mix of men and women, three white men, a black and Hispanic man, one white girl with a wide smile and an Asian girl. They all wore the same lifeless green uniforms, held the same black semiautomatic weapons in their left hands, their right fists raised in the belief of ultimate victory. Their smiles were white and shiny, their eyes clear as though they had never seen the blood of war, and indeed they had not, for they were models, not soldiers.
But she didn’t need to be convinced, she already was. It was a requirement and there was no place in society for discussions about pacifism or even learning about those monstrous aliens with moon-sized sperm. What was out there, past the blue of the sky, was the enemy. A cold race intent on destroying human life because it hated them, it hated their lifestyle and the human species.
Service was not negotiable. It was a requirement for the species, and Suze knew that it was time to add her body to the marching mass, it was time she became a citizen.

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