Between The Birches by BloodySpaghetti

Oh sometimes I'm so thankful for the internet; I can get some really painful information here without really
exposing my personal self. Posting this here is part of my way of coming to terms with the devil that resides within me. I have a case of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. I served in the Russian armed forces at the worst time possible. Seeing people you care about die drives you crazy, but so does killing your supposed enemies. I've tried therapy, I've tried medicines, I've tried many things but nothing really seals the mental wounds completely. One thing that does help me ease the pain a little is to speak of the things I've done and been through. What you are about to read is probably the worst thing one could do to another human being, but as they say, everything is fair in love and war. I don't regret most of it, some parts I do, however, I'm not completely devoid of humanity. In my defense, I think that if you were in my shoes, you would most likely do something very similar. So, please bear with me here.

I served back in the nineties unfortunately, my term started just six months before the First Chechen War broke out. Out of training, I found myself on a plane to Grozny, the capital of Chechnya about to face a mob of pissed off former Soviet soldiers who called the city their home. Needless to say, being an infantryman during the Battle of Grozny was hell, we've barely clawed our way to victory. I personally lost many friends, mostly because my platoon found itself in the territory of a particularly pesky sniper that kept on picking out our guys left and right for a while. The skillfulness of people like this sniper earned the Chechen guerrilla fighters the nickname "Specters" because they just came, launched a surprise attack and were gone by the time we've managed to figure out what was going on. By the time we've managed to figure him out all the remaining guys in my platoon were so pissed at him, the matter was personal to us at this point. Once we had him our sights, we broke all protocol. Instead of gunning him down like we should have done, I and some other guys made it our mission to get our hands on the guy and make him suffer as much as possible.

Thus, one night we stormed his home, it was a typical Soviet multistory apartment complex. Once inside the building, we made as much ruckus as possible, shooting anyone in sight pretty much until we got to the sniper's apartment on the top floor. The whole apartment appeared to be redesigned as some sort of military base. I never got to ask, nor did I care at the time but I guess he was either a warlord or someone close to one in the region. Anyway, I digress. After breaking through the front door guns blazing and causing some old man in the apartment to clutch at his chest and fall dead on us we proceeded to beat the living snot out of the people present in the apartment before taking the man himself hostage.

Imagine seeing your kids get the absolute shit beaten out of them by a group of six soldiers in peak physical condition until they are almost dead for no reason; we did that. Imagine yourself seeing your wife get killed for no reason; we did that. We killed his wife in what I called self-defense after she swung a kitchen knife at David. I believed that Kostya shot her in an attempt to defend our friend from a terrorist. She wasn't one, however; she was just a civilian caught in something that shouldn’t have even happened. 

This is one thing I regret doing during this war. All of us knew, even back then, that we could just break an arm or two to avoid any casualties caused by his wife. We all knew we did not have to kill her. Also, the kids didn't do anything, they were just kids back then. We could've brushed them aside and that's it. In all honesty, now, if one of those kids decides to attempt a revenge killing on me or one of the boys, I'd gladly die for that kid. I've committed a crime against people who shouldn't have suffered and I'm ready to pay for it. 

Anyway, after seeing the brain matter of his wife get smeared all over the wall the specter snapped, he was swinging at us like a man possessed. Hell, he even managed to cut me across the face, just nearly missing my neck. No matter how many times we hit him he just kept coming back for more. At first, we planned to knock him out and then take him out in the vehicle but his seemingly superhuman outburst we resorted to shooting both of his legs to subdue him. Even after getting shot in both legs he wouldn't shut up, so Vitalik put him to sleep, and we dragged his unconscious body to his car.

We used his car to leave the city proper and drive into a forested area to carry on with our plan for the specter. Getting passed the separatist outposts was rather easy, considering the fact that among us was Artur, a Dagestani who looked just like the locals and could speak Chechen. Once we found a secluded area far enough from human eyes, we unloaded the Chechen and tied his torso to a Birch tree with one rope and his legs to the car's hitch with another.

After looking around to make sure that we were truly alone, I took a piss on the Chechen to wake him up. He squirmed around in my piss while cursing at me in his tongue while I took care of my business. Once fully aware of his situation, the Chechen began screaming at us and struggling against his bonds. Artur told him in Chechen that he shouldn't resist and the Specter retorted by calling him a traitor, I suppose as I remember Artur telling him he is Dagestani.

I crouched next to the Chechen and told him I know he understands Russian, then I asked him if he knows who Prince Igor was. In response to my question, he spat in my face. The boys wanted to beat the shit out of him for that but I stopped them, instead; I opted to tell him about Prince Igor's demise.

I looked the Chechen in the eyes and told him that every year during his reign Igor of Kiev made his way to the capital of the Drevlians; Iskorosten, to collect tribute. I told him this process went fine until one year after already collecting his annual tribute Igor had a change of heart and decided to try to drain some more money out of the Drevlians. He had sent most of his force back home and left for the tribe's capital with a small force of few dozen men. The locals found out about this and relayed the message to their prince, Mal, a man of short stature and high ambition. In response, Mal raised an army and confronted Igor's envoy. He slaughtered Igor's men and captured the prince.

The Chechen just cursed at me up to this point probably not even paying attention to what I was saying until I said, "The Drevlians took Igor to a sacred grove of theirs where blood adorned the trees. It was the blood of men whom they sacrificed to their gods."

The Chechen's eyes turned to me, slightly widened, and I told him, "Legends say Igor had those same eyes you have right now when he saw the two bent Birch trees in front of him as he was being led to his final resting place."

He looked to his left to see a Birch tree standing in front of him and he shot a glance back to me, his eyes were a clear indicator of what was on his mind, he was scared. The Chechen sniper who took, so many lives was afraid of dying. That’s when Sasha, who was seated in the driver's seat pressed on the gas pedal a little, causing the robes to tighten around the Specter's body. The realization that he could be pulled apart then and there sent the man into a panic. He started begging for me to shoot him in a heavily accented Russian.

In response to his begging, I shot back at my fellow soldiers and asked, "Do you guys know what the Drevlians shouted at Igor when he was begging for his life after they tied him between the two bent Birch trees in a Kievan accent?"

The boys behind me began screaming out like wild animals, "Foreigner! Foreigner! Foreigner!"

I grabbed the man by the back of his neck and leaned against him telling him, "They called him a foreigner. They berated him for not being a native of their lands and just before releasing the two Birches to tear Igor's body apart, Prince Mal told him about how he is going to fuck the shit out of his wife and take over his realm."

I let go of the man and looked at the car behind me, Sasha was smiling like a madman pressing ever so slightly on the gas pedal. I found that moment to be funny and so I laughed, telling the Chechen, "After they let the Birches tear Igor in half, Mal had his men collect whatever remains of the Kievan's body and send it to his wife, Olga; to teach her who was in charge of these lands. Maybe we should send your mother your remains just to show her who is in charge here, huh Specter?"

On a second thought, maybe involving his mother wasn't the best idea, granted, none of us really planned to do anything with her.

The man's pleadings had gotten louder and sloppier, I could hear him sob. The quivering in his voice sounded amusing to me, back then. I turned to face him again and asked quietly, "Hey guys, should we send his guts to his mother?"

The boys behind me erupted in cheers, and I simply stared at the man whose life lay in my mercy. Not batting an eye, I roared, "Sanya, tear him in half!"

The sounds of a car engine running at full force filled my ears as all I could see was the slow exposure of the Chechen's viscera. I could see him scream the whole time as his clothes and skin slowly expanded to the breaking point. A second after I saw blood, I could see a mountain of red and moist gut matter peeping through the gapes in his torso. A second later, his lower half was torn out of place as Sasha flew a few meters forward with the car. The ground between the Chechen who somehow did not die immediately after losing half of his body and the car were covered in blood, guts and some other internal organs; like his liver that just fell out of him.

I looked at the somehow still barely breathing Chechen and mockingly said in a forced Caucasian accent, "Now you are a real specter."

The boys laughed at my remark, and we just left the scene.

We got back to our posts just before dawn. No one came to question us about disappearing for a few hours during the night, no one seemed to be bothered even though it was pretty evident that even the officers knew. I think this was the whole part of the whole ordeal; that no one seemed to bat an eye. 

Crimes against humanity occurred left, right and center, and nobody gave a rat's ass. It's just so stupid just how far one group of people to obtain a political goal. That's probably the worst part about this whole conflict. I could just shoot the bloody sniper, he would be dead either way, thus I would get my revenge. 

Would my friends come back from the dead? No, of course not, and yet I still put so much effort into hurting the man and killing him in the ugliest manner I could think of.  
Now here's the thing that sets me off the most; people who think doing war is a good idea, no it's not. It's never a good idea. If you think it is, you've probably never had the cursed chance of being in charge of a person's life. You never knew just how freaking terrible it feels to be able to kill somebody. Its the worst feeling in the world. Yeah, sure, once you're out there full of adrenaline with your nerves stressed passed any sort of physical limitations on the battlefield you might not notice just how bad it is. All of that changes when the war ends and you come back to your family; you start to realize just what kind of a terrible person you are, you start regretting everything you've done out there. And for what? For no good reason! Because you were given orders or because you've lost it over grief or due to the immense stress! That's when the guilt turns into additional stress that drives you into an overdrive that makes you break down and become hurt, and depressed and violent and drives you to the edge all at the same time. 

Let's not even talk about the nightmares and the flashbacks! Oh, boy gotta love these!

Seriously, anyone who says, "we should go to war with America", "We should bomb Iran", "We should nuke North Korea", I just want to crack these people right in their soft lower jaws and scream at them "Does this hurt? Well, war hurts a billion times more, every last second of it! Do you still want that?" 

I really hope my sons pick up higher education and don't get drafted into the military, I'd hate to see them have to undergo what I went through.