the whole of life

by the Lady Rose

There's nothing to do about it. You start to die the moment you are born. The whole of life is cutting through the pack with death. So take it easy... Your stars have already let you come quite a long way since you left your mother's womb and whimpered at the cold air of the world. (Ian Fleming)

As yet another bullet sang by his ear, Solo found his mind wandering off the Korean battleground while his body dropped once more into the endless mud. The oozing black liquid squelched through holes burnt in his clothing where molten metal had grazed, but he had ceased to notice such inconsequential reality. The gun in his hand recoiled as he finally fired off a shot, sending a jolt of electric adrenaline through the core of his being more potent than any illicit drug. He didn't know just yet that he couldn't function without that fix of epinephrine.

They wouldn't recognize him back home, the grandfathers tailored to government regulations and the debutantes desperate for a man to cut them free of the confines of silk. Who he was here, he was as dead to them as the Latin liturgy to which they paid lip service.

The last time he remembered listening to the cold echo of those moribund rites was at her funeral. His mind reflexively shied away from that unforgivable void. He couldn't reconcile the image of her broken, bloodied flesh amidst the companion corpses here, but they all bestowed that same awful burden—to consecrate static memory and lingering dreams in a blaze of action that the living could not deny. So here he was, irredeemably confirming life that skimmed just past the boundary of death that both propelled him away and toward permanent inertia. This was his ultimatum, drilled into the framework of his mind from countless lessons: "Let each man be judged by his deeds. I have paid my price to live with myself on the terms that I willed."

Inexorably, slowly, surely, Solo slinked back through the slime to the other side.

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