by Ann Bracken
Based “Dreams in Infrared” by Nicola Abé
posted at Spiegel Online International, December 14, 2012.
He works in a windowless, air-conditioned container somewhere in New Mexico.
The pilot and his co-workers sit in front of fourteen computer monitors
and four keyboards.
Drone pilots at work.
The container is the cockpit where no one flies. They sit at controls
watching the Predator drone circle in figure eights
high above Afghanistan,
6,250 miles away.
The pilot sees a house made of mud
and a shed used to house goats comes into focus in the crosshairs.
He receives an order to fire and presses the button with his left hand.
Then he marks the roof with a laser.
The pilot next to him
pulls the trigger.
Releases a hellfire missile.
Sixteen seconds to impact.
The moments freeze, ticking by in slow motion.
The pilot can still divert the missile.
No one is on the ground. Three seconds to impact.
A child walks around the corner of the goat shed.
Second zero. The pilot’s digital world collides with the village
between Baghan and Mazar-e-Sharif.
The pilot sees a flash on the screen.
the building collapses
the child disappears.
The pilot’s stomach plunges.
Did we just kill a kid? he asks the pilot next to him.
Yes, I guess it was a kid.
“Was it a kid?” they write in a computer chat window.
Someone they don’t know answers.
Someone sitting in a military command center.
Someone far away who observed the attack.
“No, that was a dog.”
Ann Bracken is a writer, poet, educator, and expressive arts consultant whose poetry, essays, and interviews have appeared in Women Write Resistance: Poets Resist Gender Violence, Little Patuxent Review, Life in Me Like Grass on Fire:Love Poems, Praxilla, The Museletter, The Gunpowder Review and Reckless Writing Anthology: Emerging Poets of the 21st Century. Her company, The Possibility Project, offers expressive arts programs for women of all ages. Ann is a lecturer in the Professional Writing Program at the University of Maryland.