RETROSPECT


Hello? 

Is this thing working? 

I hope it’s recording right now. 

Alright, the name’s Pradja, Pradja Adhi Suryanto. You probably already knew me by now since it’s not that hard to find the only anthropomorphic fox working among the humans here. 

In this recording, I’ll try to recount a short story from a recording I have from my life before I serve aboard this vessel. I made this recording at the last minute before having to submit it for the crew bonding event. So, yeah, don’t expect a bombastic tale of some sort out of this. If you’re looking for one, you better check out stories from the other crew members.

With that out of the way, I’ll recount the last dinner date I had before I boarded this vessel. The vessel with a mission to turn the tide of the war, a hail Mary of some sort. Well, I think you all know how that mission went by now. 

Okay, I had dinner on the night before I got shipped off for this mission with my girlfriend, the loveliest fox I’ve ever met, Arunika. It was in the same cafe where we first met each other a few years ago. We were in a long-distance relationship for more than a year before that. 

I asked Arunika to bring the PDA that looks like what I’m using now and asked her to record our conversation just in case it’s the last one we’ll ever have. Yeah, unfortunately for both of us, that was indeed the last conversation we ever had. He gave me a copy of the recording, and I still have it here in my PDA. I’ll play the recording and maybe try to give my commentary on it just like those old videos we had back then. I can’t believe we don’t have the internet anymore; I took it for granted back then. 

Okay, let’s do it. 

[PLAY] 

Pradja: “Is it recording yet?” 

Arunika: “It is; we can continue our conversation now,” 

Pradja: “Sorry for the inconvenience; I feel like we might want to do this, in case, you know, the worse does happen to me later, well hopefully not,” 

Arunika: “Look, do you want to do this? Can you stay here with me? I feel like you’re lying to yourself by forcing yourself to do this,” 

[PAUSE] 

Yeah, I think it’s fair for her to point out that I might’ve lied to myself back then about wanting to fight for my country. I don’t know what was on my thought when I signed the recruitment paper; maybe it’s just a random impulse decision from me. I might’ve bitten more than I can chew in retrospect. 

Impulse or not, I’m stuck with that contract even until now. Whether I’m happy with it or not, well, it’s still up for me to decide that. I still wonder what would have happened if I didn’t take the offer that time. Will I even survive the catastrophe that happened after the core implosion? Did Arunika survive it? I honestly don’t know, and I don’t want to think about it right now, so let’s just continue this recording and get this over with.

[PLAY] 

Pradja: “I think I have to,” 

Arunika: “Why would you want to fight for the country that oppresses your people? Our people,” 

Pradja: “Are we going to have this discussion again? I thought that we had been over this before. We come here to have a dinner together, not to bicker over this,” 

Arunika: “I’m trying to help you. Pradja, please. 

Pradja: “Arunika…” 

Arunika: “Look, I’m not trying to be rude, but I feel like you’re being too naive right now. You’re no different from those young people back in the early 1900s who signed up for war thinking that it’s a romantic thing to do, only to die off in the muddy trenches of world war one.” 

Pradja: “Arunika, I am well aware of that. War is not a nice place, I know, it’s war god damn it. There is no need to remind me of it all the time. But what if it’s for the greater good?” 

Arunika: “For whom? For whom exactly is this greater good for exactly? Not for us. Let’s not lie to ourselves about that fact. They never care for us. They don’t even want to acknowledge our existence. They saw us as a mere pest.” 

Pradja: “Look, let’s just enjoy our food first before I lose my appetite and keep this discussion for later, alright?” 

[PAUSE] 

Yeah, the conversation got too hot for me to handle. We ate our dinner in silence after that. We tried our best to avoid eye contact for the entire duration of it. It was so awkward for us to do that. It was supposed to be this romantic dinner night, like any other we had before. I think I botched it by trying to avoid answering his question. Maybe she was right from the start; I should’ve stayed with her there than be in this damned mission. 

We had our ups and downs from time to time. It’s just sad to me that on the last day where we ever saw each other ever again, it had to be like that, a date filled with bitter arguments. I wish that it doesn’t have to be like that, but, oh well. Like they say, c’est la vie, I guess.

It already happened, and I can’t do anything about it other than dwell on it for the rest of my life. The life I’ll be spending inside this damned vessel that can’t even do her job right even if the world is depending on it, just like me perhaps. 

Anyways yeah, awkward dinner with my girlfriend, how fun of a story it is. I already warned you, if you want a more exhilarating story, just check out the stories from the other crew members. Let’s just skip to the part when we’re talking to each other again. Unless you’re one of those weird ASMR or mukbang folks, no offense, but you folks kinda creep me out, but, yeah, you will not find the sound of two foxes eating their meal with a backdrop of a busy downtown cafe amusing at all. 

[SKIP] 

[PLAY] 

Pradja: “You remember the first time we met here? What a night,” 

Arunika: “Yeah, I also teach you how to kiss after that,” 

Pradja: “Yeah, t, that, was indeed an unforgettable night. The fact that we managed to do it secretly in the hotel room while my family was away still managed to amaze me to this day,” 

Arunika: “Is your family still in the dark about you dating me?” 

Pradja: “What kind of a question is that? Of course, they still are. There is no way they’re going to accept you.” 

Arunika: “Fair enough. Well, yeah, so do I; to be frank with you.” 

[PAUSE] 

The two of us managed to keep each of our own families in the dark about our forbidden relationship. Even to this day, I’m thankful that they never found out about it; and by looking at the state world right now, they probably never will. 

I always wish that they’ll be able to accept me as who I am. Sadly, it’ll never happen, and in the end, it never does. Sometimes, I wonder to myself what’s going to happen if I had come out to my family back then. I mean, they are probably going to hate me for it; hell, my parents might even disown me for it. It’s not that hard to see why and the chance of it actually going down like that is pretty much high. 

If I remember correctly, the next part will be a rollercoaster of emotion. I’ll just play the rest of the recording from now on and give my commentary later after it stopped. Anyways, yeah. Let us continue.

[PLAY] 

Pradja: “I really wish that it doesn’t have to be this way, I really want people to know our love for each other.” 

Arunika: “I swear to God I feel the same way as you do, but what can we say? For the moment it’s the only way to keep ourselves accepted within the society while keeping our relationship intact. I wish I can get out from here, together with you, but God decided to screw us up by fucking presenting us as an aggressive megalomaniac country But it doesn’t mean you’re also the one person that has to sign up for this war.” 

Pradja: “Why do people in our country still follow these stupid rules anyway. I just don’t really see the point and our society clearly passes the point where we need it.” 

Arunika: “Not simply just fucking rules, it’s already deep in the root of our socio-cultural norm.” 

Pradja: “Anyways, yeah, I don’t really know how to answer your question, to be honest, I feel like this is my calling, to make myself useful for once.” 

Arunika: “A fucking calling of what? For the people that hate us?” 

Pradja: “What if it’s for the best? What if this is actually the right thing for us to do?” 

Arunika: “I understand, although it sounds propaganda-ish one, about “GREATER GOOD”, but you have to look for yourself first, of ourselves, even the needs and safety of our family, not just by pure naiveness.” 

Pradja: “I do it so you guys can be safe. I don’t want to see you all be ruled under the dictator’s iron fist. I want to make sure this country stays free.” 

Arunika: ‘If you’re conscripted then I can’t say much, it’s forced upon authority, but straight-up volunteering without deep consideration and thought? It is just straight-up idiotic just to be blunt with you, the dumbfounded foundation of idealism without knowing the consequences.” 

Pradja: “What do you think I’m fighting for here. I’m fighting for you all god damn it.” 

Arunika: “Not if it is not yet NECESSARY. We’re fucking minority, sure we all have equal chance to be in the military, but do you even realize yet the GODDAMN pressure both internally like discrimination and racism within the military and both the fatigue of war?” 

Pradja: “Don’t you feel some kind of duty to do the same? I don’t know, have you ever thought of that? Don’t you feel any guilt, at all?”

Arunika: “Not until I have to, and while ideally, I should, but I can foresee the consequences just by looking back through history.” 

Pradja: “This is our hail Mary, you must understand that we could turn the tide of this war forever. Tell me then, what consequences are that to be exact?” 

Arunika: “‘Forever’, huh, so you’re implying the war will be a perpetual one. I rather fucking escape and find a safe haven than be in this continuous crisis.” 

Arunika: “YOUR OWN FUCKING SELF OF COURSE. That’s the main concern that’ll impact other critical things in your life. You’re not even in the military since we graduate from higher education. How can you suppose to have the same mentality as the one that’s already trained and experienced it.” 

Pradja: “The entire world is in a crisis mode god damn it if that god-forsaken country doesn’t stop what they’re doing right now, the entire world as we know it is at risk. I have a skill that I can lend to this war effort, my skill is required.” 

Arunika: “Ah, so you’re the superhero. The one that can turn the tide of war because of your sheer will and determination for your country and its ideals.” 

Pradja: “No, look, god damn it, I won’t be the reason we’ll win this war, i is just straight-up impossible, I think you’re well aware of it by now. I won’t be the sole reason, I’m just a part of it.” 

Arunika: “Skills. Fair enough. But your skills can be much more invested than something than FUCKING GOING TO THE BATTLEFIELD AND THINKING IT’S VIETNAM CARNAGE WITH YOUR SO-CALLED SUPERWEAPON. You realize it’s straight-up impossible, yet you’re thinking you’re responsible to stop them. If we really do have the responsibility for that, then why can’t we just help through other means but war?” 

Pradja: “Shhh, don’t say it out loud, that is supposed to be a piece of top-secret information, Arunika, You know that I should have not even told you about my mission, let alone the fact that we have a superweapon.” 

Arunika: “No one fucking cares, holy shit, everyone knows it, it’s on the news right now, that “secret” it’s already LEAKED GOD DAMN IT! So much for this country hail Mary, huh?” 

Pradja: “Fuck, I should have not even been here, I risk myself going to prison for the rest of my life. I’m looking for a romantic dinner with you and this is what I got? An argument? This was supposed to be our time for god sake.” 

Arunika: “I swear to fucking God can’t you just help the country on the war purpose by other means? Propping up the economy perhaps, providing materials and support, et cetera. Fucking other things that are also critical to keep OUR country, if you want to

say so, or perhaps I should stress it, OURSELVES, alive and intact in midst of this crisis? Have you ever thought of that, Mr. Smartman?” 

Pradja: “I expect a good time tonight yet we’re having an argument in a cafe, really? We’re better than this, and you know that for a fact.” 

Arunika: “Yea, our last time, very much indeed,” 

Pradja: “What? Now you expect me to die later? Come on now, why would you even think of that? You want me to die now?” 

Arunika: “Can you guarantee me that you’ll be back alive then? I never wish you to be killed in action later. I’m just asking for your accountability. Accountability on your decision, your life, even your love life if you even still care at this point. I just don’t want to lose you.” 

Pradja: “Look, Arunika, as much as I want to say that, the fact is, I can’t, I really can’t. I can’t. I just can’t. It is war in the end.” 

Arunika: “Then why go? I still don’t see the point. Be honest with me, please. I’m scared. What if this will indeed be the last time we spoke and met with each other?” 

Pradja: “I’m scared too, believe me, I mean it Come on, it’s a war we’re talking about. We’re talking in a circle at his point. 

Arunika: Scare of what? Dying? Trauma? Then don’t go until you’re even ready. Just, I don’t know, stay here with me.” 

Pradja: “Arunika, I just want you and those who I love dearly to have a chance for a better future. That’s all I want. That’s probably honest to god reason why I signed that volunteer paper.” 

Arunika: “(sigh) Then stay… (eyes sobs) Stay while you can We’re not at the end of the line yet dear… If you have to die, then I have to die alongside you.” 

Pradja: “Please, just let me enjoy this night, Arunika, please just for this once, there’s a reason why I told you to record this conversation. I don’t want you to die, I want you to live for the love of God.” 

Arunika: “Then what would I be without you? I swear I want to see the future to be ours, not just mine and you’re just one of many new names on a grave. I want you to live too.” 

Pradja: “Let’s be real for now, and hopefully for the last time. If it’s really the last time we’re going to meet each other, then please let this be a nice one, that’s all I want this

to be. A feel-good moment with you before I might not be able to feel it again, forever.” 

Arunika: (suddenly kisses Pradja) 

Pradja: “Then let it be (Embrace you) I love you Arunika, I really am. I want to be with you forever, but I don’t want to lose you either to this.” 

Arunika: “If this kiss is the last one, then remember it as our unbreakable pact. I still disagree with all of this, but then again… I wish… I wish it doesn’t have to be like this But I can’t revert this either. Just promise me one thing.” 

Pradja: “What is it, my dear?” 

Arunika: “I just want to see you return, alive and well. Although I know a lot of people can’t keep that promise, I just… I just want you to always remember that in your heart and mind, alright?” 

Pradja: “I will, I will always do that, be it here in this cafe right now where we first met with each other, face-to-face, or on the battlefield, I will remember that.” 

Arunika: “Alright, I-I need to go.” 

Pradja: (hugs Arunika) 

Arunika: “My mother needs me, you know my younger brother can’t take care of her by herself (hugs you back) (really tight) (tears) please dear, take really good care of yourself, mentally and physically.” 

Pradja: “I will, and please, take care of yourself when I’m away, I’ll be seeing you soon, I will.” 

Arunika: (releases hug) “Goodbye and see you again, my love.” 

[STOP] 

Damn. That was indeed one hell of a conversation. I still don’t know how to feel about that even to this day. It’s both infuriating and caring at the same time. She clearly didn’t want me to go on this mission and risk my life for basically nothing. 

Is there even a word to describe the feeling this recording gave off to me? Bittersweet, maybe? Probably. At least it feels like that for me. 

God, I really miss her.

I expect that parting to be the usual “see you again” type, yet, it’s our goodbye, forever. I hope she did survive the whole catastrophe back then and now living off in relative peace somewhere on the surface of this now barren planet. I know it’s rather wishful thinking. But, hey. One can always hope, right? There’s nothing wrong with it. 

I don’t know, it’s been hard for me since then. I don’t know if this is a healthy coping mechanism at all, honestly. 

Fuck. And now I’m starting to regret doing this story. It brings back too many awful memories. I’m literally on my edge right now. I don’t know how many days, weeks, months, or even years I can spend in this vessel anymore at this point before I just snapped. 

Oh well, I guess there’s not much to say anymore. We’re never going to meet each other anymore ever again. Dammit. 

I’m so sorry to have ended it in such awful notes. I really didn’t mean to. Maybe I just need to vent. I don’t know. Just end it. 

And Arunika, wherever you are now, I wish you still held your love for me like I still held my love for you right now. 

Pradja, signing out. 

[Recording Stopped, Saving…]


CHRONICLE

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