Heroes and Villians

“Every villain is a hero in his own mind.”
Tom Hiddleston

Who wouldn’t be? The majority of us don’t want to admit our faults and mistakes. We want to be seen as the hero, not the villain. This desire is basic human nature. I am one of those who believe our basic nature is good, or maybe I just want this to be true. I don’t like to think that I might be a villain trying to be a hero.

But, if I am totally honest, I have to admit the truth of the above quote. Worse case scenario, Hitler. He had to think he was doing right for his country, so he must have seen himself as a hero for the Aryan race. While I might never agree with his belief – I can’t think of many who would – I have to believe he believed. If he didn’t, then the world descends into chaos where no rules apply. Maybe, I just want to think there is some redeeming quality in all men, and women, whether Hitler, Papa Doc or Al Capone. My belief does not condone their behavior (I am, to the end, an Aragon fan), but it allows me to see them as human.

Then again, I have been listening to Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand. The tortures perpetrated by the Japanese against the POW’s were beyond cruel. I reached the point where, if she had gone on much longer about their captivity, I would have stopped listening. For what they did to helpless prisoners, the Japanese guards were evil. So how do I understand that they, too, might have looked at themselves as heroes? Do I need to?

What about the CIA?  During the Cold War, they experimented with various ways to create the perfect assassin.  Who cared if their attempts included giving LSD to unsuspecting people?  Does this make them evil? Does it make them responsible when one of their subject jumped to his death from a 10th story window? Yet, I know they must have considered themselves heroes.

I’ve blogged about good and evil before, but the questions keep turning in my mind. I need to understand why the Japanese did what they did because, if I understand, I might figure out how a man who kills millions of ‘inferior’ people could possible call himself a hero, how men with no reason to hurt those prisoners under them, tortured them daily, hourly, minute by minute, just because they could.

JSW Prompt Response

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It’s not easy, but I do. It’s much easier to pretend to be as dark as somebody else than acknowledge your own. The truth is, I hate him. I hate his darkness. I hate what he has done and, more than anything, I hate what he has made me.  I am but a speck in his shadow, a thing used and left behind.  A shadow of sunlight. A soiled hankie.

Perhaps I had some darkness before. In fact, I know I did. There were days of pain and despair, anger and hatred. There were days I could not rise out of bed but wallowed away sunshine as if to keep myself hidden from what lay beyond my four walls. I hated, but my hate was directed inward. I hated what I was, what I had become, what wasn’t my life. Now I hate him.

I resisted as long as I was able, but he knew about the pain and despair, he used the anger and hatred to bind me to him.  Even if it had been only one day, the stain of his darkness would always be upon me. It is easier to do the things I did in his darkness, for him, than to remain afraid in mine.

I don’t remember the act itself, not in any traditional way.  I remember only the smell of smoke and ash, the feel of a wash of colors around me, destroying any future that might have lain before me.

Could I have helped myself?  Perhaps, but if I pretend my darkness, before him, was the same as his, after him, then I can pretend I am not to blame.

Yet, I am.  What man can force my limbs to obey him?  My mind to accept such darkness? My soul to shrivel and shrink until no more? I am but a lie that keeps on lying.

The darkness has no end. I am trapped forever, inside and out. In a white room over-filled with fluorescent light.  Whiteness all around and around until I am colorless. My body aches in my jacket, warm and still.

My arms shiver with the ache to be free.

JSW Prompt 4-18-2015 Response

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I’ve always loved the outdoors.  Whether it was playing or working or just taking a walk, I much prefer the outside.  I guess that’s why I became a hunter.  My father took me first when I was five.  I owned my own gun by seven.  Nothing much more than a glorified BB gun, but for a seven year old, that’s pretty spiffy. My Uncles hunted, still do those left alive.  My mother even went out a time or two, but the gritty details of the kill went beyond her tolerance for her husband’s and son’s actions.

Hunting is the bonding of men.  Women are too soft.  Too delicate for the burst of bullet and blood.  Theirs is the cooking and the cleaning; babies.

Don’t hate me for the truth.  It’s a hard life here what with all that’s gone by. I am the only son, the only one suitable to follow in the footsteps of my elders.  I loved the stealth of it…. the patience, the sometimes hours of waiting: researching the best places to strike.  I love every moment. I will hunt until I die.

Tonight is no difference than any other night,yet it is. Tonight starts my life.  We spread out in the forest, moving in the rough proximity to a straight line, driving the prey before us toward their end.  It’s end, rather, for there is only one we are allowed to take tonight.

Cold breezes ruffled my collar, poking about in my pockets like a child for sweets. Dark surrounds me, broken only by the sliver of the moon. I can hear my father’s, Uncles’, footfalls crunching in leaves, but I can’t see them for the dark.  Ahead, I hear the wallow and crash as the prey rushes headlong in the dark, desperate to escape. It won’t happen, of course.  We’re too good to allow that.

I glimpse the ghost white of it’s skin and my heart begins to pound. So close.  So far.  Another yard, two, and I crouch, raising my gun to pierce the darkness.

Suddenly, it’s right there, right in front of me. I read panic and fear and I can almost taste the kill. Steady, tracking it’s floundering flight, my finger slowly tightens on the trigger.  If I don’t take this shot, I’ll lose the the opportunity. My father or an Uncle will get the kill.

But not tonight.  Tonight is mine.

A flash.  A sound.  A white shape crumbles to the ground.

It’s done.  Another moment and I’m surrounded by my men, my father, my Uncles, all clasping me on the shoulders, congratulating, happy voices, proud voices filling the space around me.

All of a sudden, I’m tired.  I want to go home, sit in front of the fire, drink with the men, know that, finally, I belong.

First, I move through the woods to the carcass.  Smile when I see I took it clean through the head.  A good shot in the dark.  Grabbing my cords, I bind it’s legs and start dragging it home.  The head will be sent tomorrow as confirmation, but tonight we celebrate the night of my first solo kill.

I glance back as the body slides across the leaves, a trail of blood behind.  Once it might have held some resemblance to a man, but after all the testing, the experiments, it is no longer. Human formed, achingly thin, eyes sunk deep into a misshapen skull.

Ahead, I am drawn by the flicker of red flames through dark bars of trees.

Quote For The Day 5-7-2015

“Each writer is born with a repertory company in his head. Shakespeare has perhaps 20 players. … I have 10 or so, and that’s a lot. As you get older, you become more skillful at casting them.”
—Gore Vidal

Quote For The Day – Twofer – 5-6-2015

“Plot is people. Human emotions and desires founded on the realities of life, working at cross purposes, getting hotter and fiercer as they strike against each other until finally there’s an explosion—that’s Plot.”

—Leigh Brackett, WD

“Remember: Plot is no more than footprints left in the snow after your characters have run by on their way to incredible destinations.

—Ray Bradbury, WD

JSW Prompt 4-30-2015

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