Dear Jo,

I was wounded by a shrapnel from a stray missile. There’s no pain, due to the anesthetic contained in the express bandage, but I can’t feel my right leg. I can barely walk – fortunately we are still hiding, so I spend my time on the watch mostly.

Almost two months passed since the assault on Moscow, but neither side has yet gathered enough strength and courage to mount another offensive. It feels funny – to take all the heat of the battlefield and survive without a scratch and then take a hit from thin air, because it was just your time to take a hit. But no matter, I was lucky – almost half a million people died at Moscow and around. When it was over, I felt a small victory, my own victory – being alive.

Yesterday, after almost a month of complete quiet, a patrol came along the river bank, on the old highway, littered with debris and abandoned vehicles. They stopped to eat, on the grass – so, I called Bashar, the Kurd, whom I had been training some sniper technique for a few weeks. There where three of them: a blond, tall guy, sergeant major and two dark, small frame Hispanics, private first class. They where quite joyous and relaxed. They sat down and ate from some cans, then they talked for almost a half hour. They showed pictures to each other. I screwed the silencer at the tip of the muzzle and I ordered Bashar to do the same. I indicated one of the privates to him and I told him to wait for my first shot. I hit the sergeant first, then the other private. Clean shots – it was all over in three seconds. Bashar did good. I noticed he was already aiming at the second private after he took his shot. We went to get their dogtags. I got the pictures from one of them too. I didn’t hesitate to kill them, it is my job – I think there was even a trace of delight, beyond the procedure, a drop of art in it. I thought – way to go down, Mr. Martin F. Anderson from Maryland: on a picnic with the friends, free as a scout patrol (or a bird), looking at the picture of your loved one. Beats dying of old age in your bed.

The radio has gone dead since the first two nukes dropped on the outskirts of Moscow. I cannot wire letters to you, the only way is by „dogmail” as we call it – drops of paper attached to the spy bots that crawl in the gutters, reaching most of the command stations and outposts.

I thought – what if at the end of this war I have nothing? What if I find myself without the purpose and energy that this war gave me and you decide to walk away, to leave me? I fight for your freedom, for our freedom, that’s certain. But what will that be without you?

No. Disregard this last part. Thinking „what if” is bad. I love you – just know that.

You see… Life – is like a long walk through an unknown land. It can be straight, joyous, dangerous, boring, tiring, warm, fast – all depending on who you share it with and who you let be your guide.

I love you, dearly and endlessly.

Ivan Luluben

April 17th
To Joconde Abraham