Front Line: The war in Sri Lanka
Front Line

by Ajith C

I canít remember much. Just bits. Like a blur. A screwed up film projector lurching, spluttering images out of time. Thatís they come. Shards of memory like bumper cars. Coming screaming in cycles and waves, like a siren. Sometimes I donít want to remember more, because its like a minefield; step on a memory and its activated, and then you have to keep pressure on it and pray to God that it doesnít come bursting through like a pit bull tearing of his leash and blow you apart from under your dick.

I remember running back. We were always running but this time it was back, I think, because we werenít shooting as we ran. Before, it was dawn. We were waiting, brown sweat crusted around bodies, eyes open, tight like a fist and red like dusk. Daybreak was croaking like a dying man and we were fighting sleep, our heads leaning against the tingling metal of rifle butts. I think Sugath got it first. He was pissing on the side of the hut when he got hit in the stomach. He staggered against the wall, still pissing, first blond urine then pale blood and Sugath was staring down with inflated eyes at the strange pain of his body.

And then it was like a live wire. The machine gun came hurtling in spurts, like the ricochet of a snare drum, bursting and flourishing. We crawled out of the back door and ran like rats, hunched down, scurrying like the trails of a lighted fuse. The hut behind us exploded and we could sense the air push at our backs. In a few seconds they were after us again, bullets spitting and mortars spraying through the air. We were running, fast, then falling, running again, being whipped by the tall grass. The bullets started hitting us and men started falling as if a hand had grabbed them from behind and snapped them back. The bullets were hissing past me, looking for flesh to hit, asking men their last killing riddle. I just ran like a pig, scared and ugly, pissing down my trouser leg, running over my name and through the webs of my feet until a sunset exploded at fast-forwards and Godís hot breath snuffed me out.

When God pulled back my eyelids, it was dark and there was a body lying on me, our legs tangled together warm and sticky and I thought it was Shanthi . It was like when I woke up in the middle of the night and she was drooling on my chest. I closed my eyes as if trying to will my way back into a dream I had been woken from. I ran my hand over the head of the body but its hair was caked with blood and caught my fingers. I lay there, in the strangerís bed, and it took me a while to realise that my body wasnít in pain. I pushed the corpse off me and its stomach opened up on to mine. I shuddered away from the wet snake and stood up. The snare drums were still ringing, slow now, without rhythm, without form, the music of violence, the soundtrack to death. And then I canít remember.

I keep forgetting. I canít find my memories from three days ago in this whole shit mess. Itís a long listless junkhead trip, a dying staircase, each step crumbling as you step to the next and the only way down is a long fall.

I remember squealing at my stomach, steaming and smelling like cordite, and my hands pressing down on the blood, thick and dark and slick like engine oil seeping from between my fingers and my body burning and twisting from the inside out.

I remember fighting death with screams and tears and rage.

I remember giving up.

And, fuck it, after that I donít remember shit.