Number 18937. That's the number that was given to me upon my birth. A birth made possible through science and inhumanity. They promised me one day I'd receive a name, one I could be proud of. As I lay in the mud it all seemed like a wasted effort, wasted desire. I couldn't move anymore. The sky overhead was cluttered with dark clouds. The torrent of rain was cold and drown out the sounds of everything but my own thoughts. It felt like the very sky itself was crying for all the sacrifices of my brothers. I scanned around, catching a glimpse of another fallen.
His face was slack and eerily familiar. Familiar because it was a face I saw each day. My own face. He, like every one else on the battlefield, was my brother, no, in essence they were me. And I was them. I was dying again, more than one hundred thousand time I had fell on this battlefield. And I would continue to fall long after my death. Maybe I would fall a hundred thousand more times. Maybe I would lay in this very spot again staring at my own dead body across the gore covered ground.
As I focused on my dead self again, I saw the wounds which had robbed him of his life. A jagged slash ran across his stomach, letting the guts pour out onto the earth. Blood was pooled around him, but his body was remarkably free of it, due to the rain. His eyes stared blankly passed me, no expression lay within, no regrets, no desires, no existence. Had he ever truly lived? He'd never had a name, just like me, just like all of us.
No, in the beginning, my previous selves were given names, treated properly, valued, but soon we all became just a machine of war, like a tank or jet. No, less than those. If we get broken on the battlefield we are left. We are allowed to waste away, to suffer. Because we are not human, with lives, with rights. We are simply machines of war. Even if we breathe and feel and die, we are less than animals. The waves of enemies are never ending, relentless and efficient. Our only strategy is to beat them down with superior numbers. Numbers produced through ingenuity.
We are fighting a war which has no end. We walk to our deaths by the thousands everyday, with no reward or end in sight. Only the promise of a name, of being recognized and acknowledged. We serve because we were created for the sole purpose of serving, and only in surviving can we had any other purpose.
The pain in my leg was excruciating, almost to the point where I couldn't breathe. I was afraid to look down at it. I had seen the horrible wounds that could be inflicted on a body. Without looking I felt for my leg, with more and more panic I felt for it. Finally, I looked down, and knew it was the end for me. My leg was gone. Sheared off above the knee. Even if I could recover from such an injury, there was no medical treatment in store for me. If I couldn't crawl back to the base I'd be left here to rot. And even if I could make it back, I couldn't fight anymore. I was useless. Broken. Worthless. Junk. The moment I became unable to fight was the moment my country no longer wanted the responsibility of tending to me.
I didn't want to die. I had never seen anything except battlefields. I wanted to see green grass, lively cities, vibrant people. I wanted a beautiful woman to call my name happily. I wanted a life, a true life, which I had been affording so many others. But my hope left me, took flight and left my body sagging. Empty. I looked again at my fallen brother with the ripped guts. His face was my face, and soon I'd have the same glossy eyed stare. Soon I'd be a non-living thing, something with no name, which wouldn't be remembered.
I waited for my inevitable fate as the rain slowed to a patter and eventually stopped altogether. Slowly the clouds move away and a clean, never-ending sky was revealed. The sight was breathtaking, but I couldn't help but wonder how many of my brothers were staring up at the same sky waiting for their own demises. Now that the rain wasn't muffling the sounds I could hear the battle being waged around me. The screams of my brothers, from fear, from bravery, from desperation. The same screams I would emit if in the same situations. All around me the shadows of my brothers, of myself, danced out of my reach. Just like everyone else, my brothers didn't stop to help me, their own terror propelling them onward. I could remember being in their shoes, running from an enemy or more likely towards a certain death and never looking back at all the bodies strewn behind me. My own bodies. I had been strangely disconnected from the others while I was able to feel hope for a continuing existence, and now I felt such pity for all of us, all the versions of me flitting around the field. All of us were dying, slowly but surely. We'll die until there is nothing left of me.
I had the sudden urge to see what was going on, to watch my brothers living on when I had no chance for such a thing. I struggled to right myself, my leg sent pain shooting through my body and it took me several minutes to pull myself vertical. The battlefield was heaped with bodies. Heads, legs, fingers. A sinking feeling overcame my stomach but I couldn't look away. I could see myself, laying all about the field, in various states.
From nowhere a huge beetle jumped onto me, straddling me easily. Its pincers were longer than my whole torso and its wings were a shockingly beautiful metallic blue. I gazed up at it, my body shaking with adrenaline and the urge to run, to hide, to survive, was overwhelming. I had killed many of this beetle's kind, all of them exactly alike, fighting for their queen. They didn't think, feel, hurt. Or that's what the government said. How was I any different than this monster on top of me? We were both replicas living with only the purpose of fighting and dying.
I didn't want to die. The beetle drew back one of its long blade-like legs and pierced my body. Straight through my chest. Blood immediately ran from my mouth as my lungs struggled to take in air. The beetle stood over me, for a moment it seemed almost as if it was taking pity on me. Seeing itself reflected in me. The beetle had a halo of warm light around it, from the sun behind its back. Its hard skin, which bullets could barely pierce, was scratched and torn but still shiny and clean.
For all our similarities, I knew one difference between the beetle and I.
I was dead.