Post Wed Jun 19, 2013 6:52 pm

Silent Hill: Fortunate Son Prelude: You Weren't There.

They call it a lot of things, my condition; “Battle Fatigue”, “ Combat Fatigue”, “Shell-Shock”. The name that was given to me when I sought psychiatric evaluation was “Post Traumatic Stress Disorder”. P.T.S.D. That’s the one most everyone knows. Conjures up a lot of images, thanks to Hollywood and the media: Rambo with his chain gun, a crazy old uncle with a mullet and bandanna and torn-off sleeves going apeshit at some kid’s birthday party after they light the candles, bunch of other stuff. Some of it’s accurate, most of it’s bullshit meant to make a buck.

I have my own name for it. The one I use in private, not on any of those forms when I have to apply for work, or when I’m describing it to somebody who pretends to care. It strikes true in a lot of ways, incites a primal little twitch in your brain. You’re trained to know the word from day one on this earth, you come out feeling it and feel it in every squall and scream until the strange bright lights dim, and you’re (hopefully) in the arms of the mother that birthed you.

Figured it out yet? Let me give it to you, crystal clear:

Fear.

That’s what I call it. That’s what P.T.S.D. is for me. Fear. They go hand in hand, don’t you think? It may not be the medical term for it but you ask me, it fits.

Every night I have to check the five smoke detectors in my apartment, make sure they all still give off their beep-beep-beep just right. Before I lay down I take the revolver out from under my pillow and check it to make sure all six chambers are loaded. Once I put it back, I check and see if my Bowie Knife’s moved from my bedside table, or if my fire extinguisher’s still at the foot of my bed. I make sure my windows and doors are locked, that the blinds are down and the curtains drawn, that I've taken all my meds, and once my little mental checklist is all done, I lay down and hope that the nightmares will stay away. They do, every few nights, but come back soon enough that I never allow myself to hope.

That’s not even counting what I do during the day. That‘s a whole other checklist itself. But there you go: Fear. You may think that it’s paranoid, and that wouldn't be a far stretch from the truth. But as clichéd as it is to say, as stereotyped as it is for us folk to say it, you weren’t there.

You didn’t have to see some of your buddies, the men you come to trust with your life, who you've spent much of the last six months with, go from being a whole, hale, hopefully happy human being one second, and then in a literal flash, turn into something that could barely be called a bloody pulp in front of you.

But you ain't got time to scream your buddy’s name or mourn. All you can do is cuss and try and figure out where the grenade came from, leave the mourning for later. And before you know it there are bullets flying past one ear, your remaining friends shouting in your other, telling you to “Get down, get down, get down, Charlie in the trees!”

You didn’t spend weeks, months, years like that. Making friends just to lose them, trying to keep track of names that won’t mean a thing to you in a month. You didn’t spend your days worrying about losing something, because you know-just-know that the day’s going to take something precious from you: a friend, an arm, ammunition, maybe even your life. You didn’t worry about the villages you went into, whether or not the people in there were going to help you or pull the pin on a grenade, giving you seconds to take cover.

You didn’t have to worry about getting bit by some fucking mosquito that carries some great new disease with a name long as your arm. You didn‘t have to worry about the guilt of taking some Mama-san‘s boy away in a war that neither of you probably wanted. You didn’t have to worry about the fires, live with the smell of burning jungle mingling with scorched flesh.
You didn’t have to worry about a thing.

Because you weren't in ‘Nam.


But that isn't my story. You want a war story? Plenty of documentaries out there for you to choose from, plenty of books, both from people that were there and from people that weren't. Besides, our stories aren't gonna mean much of anything in the next couple of years. Nah, we’re gonna go play in the sand again for a while. Let a new breed catch this disease, this fear, this disorder.
Not to say that it’s our fault, oh no. I know how things work: You get hit hard, you hit back twice as hard. That’s what we gotta do.

But I’m getting side-tracked. There’s got to be some fucking point to my rambling about “Fear” and “P.T.S.D.“, right? Well, there is. Because I thought that I knew Fear. That I knew every page of that book from front to back, cover to cover. But imagine this: Imagine reading the book you‘ve read for years and years, the book you practically wrote, and suddenly discovering that you've only read half the book, that about two hundred new pages just…appeared. And you don’t have any choice but to read.

My story’s got its roots in that far-off jungle, but the shade of the tree spreads far and wide, friend. A popular saying is that “War is Hell”. And for a long time I thought that was the truth. But now I know that that’s false. People say Hell's many things: Other people, work, war, their in-laws.

But, if you’re lucky, absolutely lucky, you don’t know that Hell is a town. And I’m not talking about Michigan. No, I know what Hell really is, now. And once again I say “You weren’t There” assuming that you've never been “There“. And if you haven’t, be grateful of that, friend.

Because you don’t know real fear.

Because you weren't in Silent Hill.



Joseph Wade
2002