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I Am the Illusive Firing Squad

By John Evans

1st Place, Prose, and Best in Show, Create | Encounter 2023


Warning: Contains descriptions of sexual assault, the violence of war, and suicidal ideation


We begin the story through the eyes of the Marine in poetic form:

“I am fire fanning the flames of crucified flesh. I am the hot, red, hallowed blood that burns through guiltless veins. I am the emptiness so deep and oh, so truly damned. I am the illusive firing squad that bears no name. I am the indigenous in exile. I am on my way to annihilation. I am the silence that penetrates the darkness. I am the noise of the world named regime. I am a military man. I am for the sake of humanity called savior.”

Very clearly, I recall the first night. This was Parris Island, a cross between a guarded prison and professional football training camp. The year was 1971. The war was in high escalation. Training was mentally and physically challenging even for the strongest of men.


The blackness of night was thick with fear. I will at some point embrace purpose, but when? The harsh winter bore down upon our skin no matter the color, we were all freezing. Screaming voices cracked as thunder through the night. The worst is yet to come!


Ninety miserable days and nights have completed their run. Onward now into the tactical realities of combat zones, firefights, explosives, razor tip wire, and M-60 machine-gun cartridges spent with their gutted shells heading for their targets. Thus, we are taught the art of war. I was one of these students.


Explosive blasts of TNT quake these dirt bunkers (foxholes barely), till my emptied blood vessels cry out in anguished pain. Fragmented effects forced upon my neck with blood and sweat snaking down my nerve damaged spine as I lay in a field of dust and rock. Paralyzed by a thought named concussion as the spent cartridge and blunt force that waited it’s time to vehemently strike my cervical spine. Damn, I’m hit!


Surrounded by this surrealistic combat zone, phantom voices commanded me to keep moving. Belly-crawling prone, sweat and blood continue draping down my neck filling my collar with soaked blood. Stinging, burning sweat in a fevered pitch on a muggy Carolina day, now in ‘72.


And nights before in his concupiscent rage fed his hunger for salted flesh and a forced penetration of mouth and core, thrust his moistened lips around me, as I kicked and thrashed in my slumbered daze shattering an ear-piercing cry, “What the **** are you doing?!”


Fifty years later as I recollect the devastation, I have witnessed upon many suicidal rounds of congestive thoughts crippling this man’s memory of a holocaustic ‘way of life’. Sleeping night upon night with a fixed blade knife curled within my fetal position just in case the invasive thoughts became brutally overbearing my final thought would have been “now’s the time.” The descriptive voices of the explosive blasts sent shock waves through my skull and traumatized brain. And now, I ponder, was this criminal intent?


Yet, today, 2022, I am incredibly grateful to be alive! Praise given to the human spirit and inherent will to survive. Often, we fear this darkness is too much to bear. The brain thinks that the eyes must be silenced, hence, a deeply intimate hunger for love exists within the human heart. We are meant to survive!


Dying is a force we cannot stop. But the will to survive remains the dedicated factor dominant within each human heart. We desire the freedom to decide between life or death but pushing past the pain reveals a spirit of mutual love between we and our Creator resting inside each and every heart. Peace for every troubled mind struggling with this trauma. Think of peace, there will be peace. Life is truly very beautiful.






Artist Statement:

A re-written account and simultaneous submission about all unjust wars, mental torture, abuse, and sexual assaults categorized through a creative non-fictional composition of one young Marine’s journey to hell and back during the Vietnam War. In conclusion I advocate for peaceful resolutions.





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