I am the frog.
I can hear buzzing under the plastic insulation I placed on the wire. The metal of the container box shows all its rust now: it isn’t glistening in the pool of light encasing it. Ten minutes.
“Doing what is right,” they call it. It is what you read on their badges, what their news agencies claim, what their politicians dole out with all sincerity. It is the reason behind every action, and the motivation behind every crime. It is what, either by being tricked by others or tricking themselves, they believe. It is their ultimate rule. It is what I break. It is what they resent me for. It is, despite its masked ugliness, beautiful. They have taught me that.
I am not like them. They cannot see.
I was seven. Televisions were not as extravagant back then, but it did not matter. Through the fifteen inches of a multicolor screen, I first noticed it. The wall. When an explosion blows out a hospital, sending the charred, flaming remains of what used to be someone’s wife or brother into flight, or when images of the aftereffects of a missile attack are dealt out to the public, with a man in a jacket that spells PRESS guiding viewers through the mayhem that results, you can see it, if you look close enough. The wall in all its deceiving glory. On television, I saw the bombed-to-shreds buildings, and was told by a smiling man in brown glasses that these wastelands before me were the images of war. The unmistakable footprints of death leave waste in their wake, and it leaves a mark. A mark I saw in the terrified eyes, and screams, the girl in a simple purple dress stained in dirt and dust holding another tighter and tighter still trying to muffle her wails of pain, the calls for help. Tighter and tighter, as if her loosening her grip would kill the other girl. Couldn’t the foreign men with cameras help, I wondered. Clearly, they couldn’t. It was small at first, a tiny detail that got bigger and grew to become all I can see.
“Why?” I asked. No one replied other than to tell me that it was the right thing to do. There is honour in military action, and that was no exception. In the larger scheme of things, it matters little if you kill ten others in pursuing a target. Or a hundred. Or half a country. Right is right and must be pursued at all costs. I could have been that girl whose head had half of it incinerated. It wouldn’t have mattered to them. It wouldn’t have mattered to the people like me: the ones on their sofas, huddled around a living room, around a television. People like me; at least, at the time.
The wall was slightly in view then, a mirage that hid once I neared, the thread of an artifact in the corner of your eye that jumps out of view once you look in its direction. Why is this happening is the first question you ask. It is only natural to look for a reason to calm your outrage. I was offered plenty. Honour, love of country, hatred of the others. They were wrong and we were right.
Terrorist. That’s what the men in green helmets, machine guns in hand, are out to capture. One out to insight terror, one whose heart so overflows with dark, inky evil that they would make their life mission to kill innocents and rob them of their piece of mind and life. Terror. Fear. A terrorist is a maker of misery. Seven minutes.
I was ten. My mother cried. When your son dies in battle, I cannot imagine doing any less than she did. Her cries pierced the air around me, as if slicing through it in neat bands. But she was consoled. “He died serving his country,” she was told. “He was doing the right thing.” He had died of a bullet wound to the neck. By the time his accompanying teammates were able to reach him, deep into enemy territory, where he’d been shot, he had bled to death. It takes a few seconds for that kind of wound to drain you of all life. His friend from the military told me this, on account of the dead soldier being my only brother. He wore formal military garment. As he recalled the events, tears streamed down his face and he wailed as though the liquid were paining him as it exited his eyes. He told me I deserved to know how my brother died. That he died upholding what everyone virtuous and true holds to be right. After he’d left, I remember hating those responsible for my brother’s death.
They say a frog placed in boiling water will jump out, but one that is placed in cold water that is slowly heated, will not understand, will not perceive the danger. It will be cooked to death.
I was thirteen. The man in the square is looking at me. He’s looking at everyone there. His eyes scan the crowd, finding every face and feeding it looks of earnestness and truthfulness. I was watching the president give a speech. Talking, he detailed why the country was entering war again. A terrorist organisation must be brought to its knees. Freedom must be granted to a besieged people. We were to sacrifice for the common good. I believed him. There was no reason not to. I was afraid. A week later, the tanks left. The fighter jets darted away. The men with guns were loaded onto massive ships and shipped to where they either kill or be killed. And if death was to be their fate, they would die with honour. Other times, I see the man laughing.
Instead, the country invaded was torn to pieces. The dead, all civilians, were too many to count. Some things engrave themselves into your memory. It was then that the wall was clear. Over every action, over everyone who believes in the deceit, is a thin, dark film that shows the true nature of things. The wall is over everything. The wall is what shows the politician to be a power-hungry chaser of wealth, whose interests are far from what he advertises. It shows wars fought in the name of freedom, dignity and liberty to be no less criminal than what they supposedly are enacted to fight. It showed me, and everyone like me, everyone who took their words to be true, everyone who feared and cried and chanted and loved and hated when they said to, to be blind.
I see it.
There is no right. There is only a surprisingly simple machine wherein I was given no choice but delusion. I was played with and told what to think. I refused to be a part in their games of greed and blood. The blind around me do not see, but they must. Three minutes.
The domino effect requires only a little push to be set in motion. One small force sets the machine in perfect chaos. It is that which I intend to do. It will only take my small act to make them realize. They must see what I see. They must drink of my blood. They must drown in misery, just as I have. Then they will know. Two minutes.
The low purr still escapes the metal box. At midnight, when I press the small button in its middle, I will die. The charge will light the fuse in the ignition chamber, and set aflame the explosives packaged inside. Instant death. So little of me will remain that they will carry my remains in their palms. This is my purpose. I am the frog who was transformed without knowing. And, like the frog deceived, I will die. My time has come. I realized my purpose. When I die, they will realize theirs. The ignition will set ablaze the letters I wrote. They will see my final message, written in ink of red flame. One minute.
I close my eyes. The last thing I ever see must not be this world. It must not be this beast. I think of her. I think how she looked as though holding back tears as she embraced the other child, caging her in her own being. She had to appear strong, unaffected, for the other girl. That might have been her sister. Her friend. I think how she changed me. I think how I was blind. How she made me see.
The button clicks softly as I push it through.
Your sons and daughter are dying at war as you read this.
I was one of you.
I cannot do any more.
If you are reading this,
if you have witnessed what I have done,
if you watch death every day and cannot feel its searing pain any longer
then stand together.
Fight the war machine.
I love the girl in purple.