It was a long, hot afternoonwhen I started to shed myskin of innocence I had comfortable donned for a majority of my life. Like everyone else, this soldier had taken the oath. It was easy, instinctive, like waking up. We all rose our right hands and swore that we would serve and obey. Nothingbut words, yet for me such a recitation wasas intangible as love or hate. However, as it turned out, they could have an equally consequential impact.Lingering in the suffocating heat, on the ramparts at English Harbour, the pungent, metallic scent of mutiny filtered through the air.
Well, it had not been as far as mutiny, only words muttered under breaths, but it was still a failure of service. I had not yetknown the power simple words could have. Tendrils of sweat beaded upon my forehead. The lieutenant who had led the mutineers was to be hanged. In the bright light of the afternoon sun he was led to a podium in front of a crowd of soldiers.
Suddenly the whispers amongst the crowd hushed and all eyes had turned to the lieutenant before us. My own eyes, too, were stuck to the man before me, as if they were magnetized, unable to pull away. He opened his mouth to speak as a bag was roughly pulled down over his head, blinding him, silencing him. The crowd was silent; the only noise the distant crashing of Thinkswap Document slight waves on the sandy shoreline. If I strained my ears enough, I could hear thepalpations of the rushing heartbeats of the fellows surrounding me.
A shout rang out, the floor beneath the lieutenant fell away, and he hung jerking at the end of the rope tight around his throat. The silence stilled, yet the quiet groans of the suffering lieutenant gripped me, purple and blue blossoming across his neck and face. Nothing before had shaken me like this -like death. At the hands of the privateer above the dying man, more than a life was lost; my innocence had died along with it.
Despite the luminescence of the English sun, my mind was entranced by the shadows that danced along the harbour like ghosts in its glow. They laughed at me in their joy, the shadows, mocking my innocence. It was only now that I could notice the darkness they had thrown over the crowd, and along with it, the grip they had tightened on my moral naivety. The heavy stench of the lieutenant shitting himself wafted uncomfortablythrough the crowd, rustling them and sparking conversation once more. Yet still, the convulsive jerking had not stopped. Oh, how I wish it had been over sooner. I wanted to look away, but I couldn’t. Some irrational beingdeep within me told me that if I looked away, he’d go on jerking forever, and I would not be able to live with myself.So I watched, and slowly, the man was reduced to a hanging bag of meat, rotting under a tainted sun.
The rest of the crowd took a deep breath as he stilled, and I tried to do the same, but a shudder ran through me and a groan escaped my mouth. The other two mutineers, also lieutenants, had simply followed and not led, so were spared the noose. Rather, they were spared of their badges of rank, and cut loose were their regimental brass buttons, one by one. It was an agonizingly slow process, the Harbourstill encapsulated with the rotting stink of shit and death. The men were sent on their way, sullen and despondent. They had not been killed, not suffocated by the pressure of that noose, but they may as well have been. No one would want to deal with someone like them; a mutineer, ejected in dishonour. My eyes began to sting in the heat, the burning sun that was begging me to ask questions I did not want the answer to. Thinkswap Document
Underlining my chaotic thoughts was the understanding of the spectacle I had just witnessed. Watching that man jerk and die, it was not an option. It was the whole point. For no one who had endured the sweat and intoxicating stench of death would ever forget the consequences of a soldier who did not serve and obey. I would not forget the realization I had come to; that lurking beneath the benign surface of His Majesty’s Service was a darkness that could grip you whenever it pleased. It had gripped my very own innocence that day. With my cloak of innocence lost in the abyss of oblivion where the poor lieutenant hadmet death, my vision had improved. Now I could see what really stood before me, and I understood. There were more thanmen beside me that day on the harbour. No longer would the uniforms hide the monsters that wore them.