When the war finally came, we'd spent so much time living in the fear of it that it almost didn't matter. We all had our shelters and our stockpiles. We all knew what we'd do when there was a raid--we'd done so many drills, when the first real attack came half of us didn't even know it. Those that did, didn't care. We knew what to do. It wasn't until we felt the ground shake, deep in our shelter, that it really hit home: this is for real. So we hid for longer than our drills mandated, and when the all clear sounded we went back to our homes, some of which now consisted mostly of rubble and debris.

When I was young, I was always frightened of war. All the violence and destruction and displaced lives--it seemed like the most unimaginable horror, the worst thing that humans had ever invented. I pictured myself huddled in a shelter with my fellow survivors, afraid for my life, trembling, alive, indignant. It was a terrible thing, and we all knew it was terrible, and wished that we had some power over it, to make it all go away.

I never expected to be bored by it. I never expected to hear reports of casualties and damages on a hand-powered radio and just think, "Well, they should have learned the drills better." I never expected to find my stockpiles of canned food and survival supplies as a mildly irritating necessity.

People kept dying throughout the war, but it was never anyone I knew well enough to care. You lose track of neighbors all the time in the real world, don't you? It just happens a little more. Of course, we all knew what really happened to them, but we'd all been through the drills, and functionally speaking nothing really changed, so what good was it to think about it?


Gamer_2k4 said...

Interesting perspective, but very likely to be wrong. I've never been in a war, so I can't speak to that, but I do know that, for me, preparation doesn't have any impact on the emotions and feelings one experiences once the real thing hits.

You can rehearse a speech a thousand times, and you'll still feel terrified when you stand before an audience. You can practice judo techniques for a year and still get that hollow feeling as soon as you step onto the mat in a real tournament. You can wrestle fifty matches and still get that cotton mouth feel when you finally are competing for first place. I know all these from experience.

Death and loss work in the same way. It doesn't matter if you were close friends or if you haven't seen the person in years; if there was ever any connection at all, you're going to feel grief. It may not happen right away, and it may not last, but it's still there. I don't know how and I don't know why, but having a friend die still manages to be distinct from simply never seeing them again.

Rob said...

there is a study that found that preparing for stressful situations actually helps in stressful situations.

but that's not exactly the point here (which is something like a commentary on trivializing things or whatever)

Rob said...

but you're right, opening night of a performance is never the same as all the dress rehearsals. it is just worth noting that these are usually absurdist fiction, which is to say the things that happen are not generally very plausible.

normally I don't like having to qualify but if the cuddlefish are trying to give me a wider exposure I feel I owe my new audience some explanation.