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Who believes in their own death? I've seen people die, people you've talked to, people you've shared tobacco with, fall off their feet, freeze in pools of blood, and never get up again. Now I have my own shiny scars and my head is full of stories that our goat-men will not believe in a lifetime. Now, I can say for sure: even if everyone dies around you, you can still remain unharmed. At the last moment, some soldier's boss takes you out of the fire, while flying machines from the air pour fire on the enemy, halting the chatter of their guns, and - at last, at last! - the enemy fire is choking, dying down, though nothing on earth could've stopped it. I always thought I'd get lucky, and I did. And those who returned home in the form of stories from other people's throats? They fell and perished before me and beside me, and I could die like them at any moment, or be maimed worse than dead. I built up my resolve before every fight, deliberately trying to get angry, but still in my heart I kept calm, that's how it is. And not in vain: for here I am, safe and sound, nothing threatens me, I am rich, powerful and about to become a king.
I got addicted to now-popular new fairy tales. How new, the old ones are being re-written in very different style, and got alike sound. This story above is my favourite among those I've already read. It's new version of Anderson's "Tinder Box", reflecting the soldier's thoughts in very cruel and rough manner, but such is war - as author Magro Lanagan says.
I have the king by the collar. I shove the barrel of the gun down his throat. He chokes, coughs. He doesn't know how to fight. Doesn't have a fight clue. And the aroma of him is pleasant, rich. I jerk the king around, pull the trigger, and the back of his head explodes in a fountain of blood. It was like the whole world had collapsed.
I stood in the middle of a cold, swampy wasteland. The old woman layed dead - my shot had blown her off the stump on which she was sitting. And the gun that had fired the bullet that had turned her face into a bloody mess was in my fingers. My gun — bosses gave out to fight, and I stole it home. My wrist buzzed and fingertips tingled.
I stuck the gun in the holster. What had she done, that old hen, to make me so angry? She had no weapon, and there was nothing she could do to threaten me. Well, disgusting, yes - so all old women are disgusting. Dirt - so on war all're dirty. Only her face was clean: clean red meat, clean white shards of bones... I was a little angry with myself: if I had let the old woman live - she could have told me what it was all about. I look into the faceless death mask: well, yes, she has no mouth, but maybe at least the dope in her head will make her talk? No, it wasn't there: laying there, motionless, staring blindly at the sky.
"She lied to you..." memory whispered in my ear.
Oh, that's right. That's why I shot her.
I like the language with how it's written. It's harsh, many scenes are definetely not for children, especially with princess later part. Tinder box was among my favourite fairy tales of my childhood and reading this modern version I have very stranged and mixed feel. I like it, definetely - I like it.
- I don't understand something about you, old woman, - I said. "Here I stand," I said, " knee-deep in Yankee dollars. And here you are, sitting right over a cellar full of treasures, enough to live in a Palace for the rest of your days, dressing and eating like your Queen. And all you wanted down there was this old lighter BIC that factories make the millions of, and half empty?
- Yes, but for me this lighter is special, - replies the old woman (and lies directly in eyes). "My son gave it to me. He went to war, just like you, and died for his country. That's why I care about it. Although for anyone else not worth a penny.
But judging by the way she picked herself up and licked her lips, the thing was clearly worth a lot. I threw back my coat:
"Don't lie, old woman. See this gun? A magic one. Once I take it - anyone would tell me the whole truth. Used it lots of times. What's in that lighter? Tell me or I'll blow your head off."
- Why do you care?" Give it to me! You've had enough money!
If the old woman had pleaded, if she had wept, I might have given it, but her anger woke mine. That was her mistake.
This book is more about how money influence life of people, not that old meaning that original book had. Greed is good. Or not?
Down there, in cave with those three nightmare dogs, stuffing my bag full of dollars, I couldn't imagine what I could spend so much money on. But then a completely new life began for me, more like a long colorful dream. The laughter of friends, the devilish women in devilish clothes, the wonderful dope, the unprecedented new things - they all appeared as if by magic, only pay money for it, and I enjoyed it all to the fullest. Money takes you to the sky, and you fly - soaring over bad weather, over famine and war, over dirt, over the need to move your brain and make plans... When there was a problem - throw a little money at it, and the problem fades away as if never occured, and everyone smiles, bows, thanks for the generosity.
I flicked the lighter once, twice, three times.
So it all began again: a magical dream, the feeling of flying, and powder, and first-class dope, and a lot of friends. And all of them laughed again at my stories of what I had been and what I had become. Yes, for a time the stories of my family and our goats had somehow lost their charm, but now all these well-mannered gentlemen again listened to them as if fascinated - just as I listened to the stories of passing-by people at my home mountains with eyes wide opened.