It was Juan, me and nine other men, dead men. We ran into the woods, panicked and shocked. The glow and shine of this life came off, and we saw, smelled, and tasted our violence and cruelty.
Juan sat there in the dim and flickering light of the campfire. I watched his hands as his right thumbnail dug deep lines, almost to the point of bleeding, into the skin of his left palm.
He looked at me through the smoky darkness, and he said, "It was not supposed to go down that way."
I stared down at the ground. Dead, dried grass was beginning to smolder, twigs catching by my feet. I kicked little stones and dirt with my shoe to push the small flames away. I put my hands on the rocks that formed the small, stone fire-pit, to warm them. My hands were cut, but I could not tell whose blood was dried on my skin.
I shook my head, in disbelief. "It was carnage. Jesus, I can’t believe we made it out of there alive."
"Did we?” Juan Carlos looked at me. “I'm sorry, my friend, but our lives are forever changed. We are into something you can’t back away from."
I sat and looked at the blazing reds, oranges, and yellows dance off the logs. The rising wisps of smoke coiled in the air. I closed my eyes and weighed the words he'd spoken. I inhaled the smoke of the small inferno, pulled it deep into my lungs, and tried to purge my insides from the stench of that scene...
When the embers died, and the sun began to rise, we knew we had survived the night. It wasn’t a nightmare. The blood, the fire, the death, it was real. Juan said to the rising sun, "I don't think anyone else is alive."
That was a few years ago. That night, Juan Carlos and I became one guardian of interwoven secrets, secrets we would carry in silence to the grave.
Juan joined me on the frozen stoop. He brought with him four more beers. He handed me one, and we sat in
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