It’s breathtaking, sure. It’s also like reading a fucking menu. I select my prey with ease, swimming up and snatching a sizable bass with my rough, thick fingers. I rip it right out of its path. It struggles hard, but my grip is tighter. What a fucking beauty this is going to be. I can already feel my stomach grumbling in anticipation. My body is still so hot as I swim back up to the surface, the water practically boils where it meets my skin. I follow that light shining up overhead, though it’s dimmed a bit by now. Winter days turn to long winter nights pretty quick out here in the mountains. It’ll be dark soon, and I’ll be glad to be back in my hand-built cabin, dinner in my belly and not a fucking worry in the world for the rest of the night. I hold the bass between my teeth as I hoist myself up back out onto the thick sheet of ice covering the surface of the lake, kicking my feet to raise my legs behind me. Fuckers as big as me and as heavy with muscle as I am are in danger of cracking even the thickest layers of ice if we don’t come up out of it properly. Not that there are many fuckers as big as me. When the cold air hits my body, the beads of water tangled in the thick, dark hair of my arms and chest turn to steam against my skin. I toss the fish off to the edge of the lake adding to the pile of what I already caught with my homemade fishing rod. It usually does the job, but some fish are just better caught with your own two hands. WHIP! WHIP! WHIP! My hair cuts the still air as I shake my head, getting out any extra wetness. I ring out my beard and towel off my skin with my flannel. Nothing like a brisk fucking day to put a little more hair on your chest—not that I need any.
My bare feet sink down into the snow as I make my way over to my tree-stump seat. Part of me just isn’t fucking ready to call it a day and trudge home yet. Days like this, it’s easy to remember why I came out here in the first place. On the other hand, I have my days where I can’t help but be haunted by the memory of my fallen brothers. They trained for shit like this too, same as me—shit like this, and shit far fucking worse. And after all that training…it just blew up their goddamn faces. Literally. I relive those tortuous fucking moments every fucking day. The nightmares might not happen with every sleep anymore, but they still won’t leave me alone. I can still see their lifeless faces as clear as day. I did nothing to save them. Couldn’t have done anything, even if I’d tried. I just ran. We all fucking did. That’s all we could do to save our lives from certain death. It was instinct kicking in. Unfortunately, the only one still alive by the time my breath tore through my chest and my legs gave out was me. I lived. But the guilt still fucking kills me. Moving back home after my so-called “honorable discharge” was too much pain to bear. I saw their faces in the newspaper, on TV. Worst of all, I saw their families. Every fucking one of them wanted to chit-chat with me after their funerals. Lay their hands on my big, broad shoulders and tell me that they were glad I survived. I can’t even say that for myself. Their loved ones died, while I walked away unpunished. Pieces of shit like me don’t deserve the privilege of living in the comfort of society surrounded by the people who love them. I’m a fucking failure. A disgrace to my uniform. And when the night terrors come… I’m not safe for anyone to be around, period.