Mid Confronting the Goddess of Death

Robert Matheson 38.5” x 25” • Acrylic, Graphite, Charcoal, and Crayon on Canvas with a lighter

Robert Matheson
38.5” x 25” • Acrylic, Graphite, Charcoal, and Crayon on Canvas with a lighter

Mid losing his best friend Randy is a powerful example of the sacrifice our service members and their family and friends endure every day. I was tempted to try and illustrate a cliche image of triumph over evil, but in my mind there is no sugar coating this experience. This is the reality of living in an era of war, especially for those thrust into the middle of it. Mid writes “This is my account of real life and it is all true. So use it as you will. Then try to find peace inside. Something I will never know and could care less.” I did not find peace with Mid’s story, but I do care deeply about it. I’ve done my best to honor Randy through the interpretation of these events. As Mid hovers in defiance of The Goddess of Death, she swirls, using his own words to entice him to join Randy. But Mid is the light. In as much, I’ve included a cigarette lighter with this painting and will not be offended if it burns in honor of Mid’s lost friend and patriot. So use it as you will.

Inspired by the experiences of Joshua Middleton

For My Brother Randy: Semper Fi
by Joshua Middleton

Asia, 2014
“Where are they at?! I’m going to kill them all.”

I had looked for my weapon and I counted the rounds of death. I wanted to taste blood and embrace my fate. I was looking for violence and revenge. I paced in a frenzy and I was looking for the shadows. I Looked at the sky and I saw only darkness as I smiled…
The air was hot. Muggy. Filled with air pollution. I looked down at my hands, both filled with shitty, local beer. I gazed around in a drunken haze after I came back to my senses. I was walking alone down the crowded French quarter streets of Hanoi Vietnam. I was drunk as hell and hungry. I had not eaten for a couple days because of food poisoning. But I had become sick inside my own mind. All the while I thought to myself in my moment of mental stability.
“What the fuck am I doing here?” I slurred, stumbling along.
Days before the food poisoning had did a number. I did not leave my hotel room for a couple days. In truth, I thought my life was over. I could barely pop the pills and drink the beer to make the sickness go away. I started to have visions of spirits and they called my name. I thought I was going out to the next place. That the whole game of my life was over. Yet I felt him looking at me and I heard him speak.

“Mid! Get up, you pussy! ” A male, yet feminine voice whispered.

I saw him the corner in the dark. Like I saw him years ago. Covered in tattoos, built like a tank, with a venomous grin. Yet he was fading in and out like a glimmering reflection. His olive eyes glared at me and I smiled. I coughed up vomit and I spit it in his direction. He just laughed and pointed at me with a smirk. I had started to feel anger as I screamed.

“What do you want?! Let me die!” and I hurled a beer can in his direction.

The shade of my dead brother started to shimmer with more intensity. He just smiled as he shook his head.Then his image dissolved in multi faceted light and disappeared. My stomach turned and wreathed in agony. I tossed and rocked to the other side of the bed. Then I uttered out loud in the darkness of my hotel room, the words soaking through my teeth.

“Am I going insane?”

The room began to spin like a whirlpool and I sat up covered in sweat. I only had my boxers on and I needed something to drink. I could barely stand, I felt so weak. Yet I stumbled across the beer-can-scattered floor. I made my way to the bathroom and held myself up with the sink. I winced in shock as I gazed upon my own reflection. I did not know who I was looking at. There was a stick figure looking back at me covered in tattoos. And he was going bald.

I had lost time. I had wondered how many days I’d been held up in this room. What day was it? When was there last time I had actual food to eat? My body had transformed from solid muscle to an emaciated zombie, weak and vulnerable to even the sunlight. By the gods I was sick. Sick in my body. I was sick in my mind… Yet a thought came to my mind from the past. The dark day that made me see the emptiness. The darkness that lies patiently inside each of us. The goddess of nothing.

“What the fuck am I doing here?”

After standing around on post like a bored tiger glaring out of its zoo cage, I needed some physical exercise to take the edge off. The gym on the ship was my temple, a place of worship to the Gods. It was my shangri-la of machismo and adrenaline. Hell, It was my hole and I threw heavy shit around, instead of throwing people around, which at the time was easy for me to do. I was 20 and in the infantry of the United States MarineCorps. So arrogant, brash, cocky and no one messed with me. I worshipped alcohol, women and smashing people in the ground. They called me Mid and that’s still me to this day.

Weeks passed with the same routine. Our unit was attached to the Mount Whitney as a security detachment due to the elevated terrorism threat levels. The 3rd Battalion, 6th Marines, were filled with the anti heroes and bastards of the USMC. They were my brothers and we would destroy villages to protect each other. After our stint in Afghanistan after 9-11, with our combat action ribbons, we were like demigods that bowed to no one except each other. Hell, I sure as hell didn’t and everyone knew it. This lead me to infamy and trouble always found me as they tried to break me down shotgun style. Always taking away my money or restricting my movement. Yet I just smiled and usually started with venom.
“Go fuck yourself.” And I’d laugh and walk away.

Yet the Gods have a way to put you back in your place. Only fate can break you down. Not men and their words or threats. Everyone bleeds blood and can be killed. They can be bashed, smashed, and crashed and obliterated. Yet the things outside your control are the destroyer of a man’s spirit, the unforeseen consequences of the life you choose and the outcome of those decisions. This is what destroys a heart and forges you into a being made of iron. Even though you were smashed into a thousand pieces like a beer bottle. Then the day came. The day that changed me forever. The day I saw the abyss and felt sheer dread and emptiness from then on.

I had stayed up the night before. I was sneaking around like everyone else on the ship, finding some hidden place to bang my girlfriend, then do all the other things people do at 0300 in the morning. I slept most the next day and no one cared. I was on my own program back then. Being a part of the designated marksmen team for the boat has its perks. Hanging out on the bridge of the boat during drills with the Captain gave me a free pass. To be a senior Lcpl. with no cares in the world and no fucks given. I took advantage of the privilege.

I had just got back from the gym, showered up, and walked back into our berthing area. I heard the news commentators and I looked up at the TV. CNN was on and they were covering the initial invasion of Iraq. Weeks previous to this, my girlfriend had told me the news.

“Mid I got to tell you something but you can’t tell anyone.” she stated with wonder.

“Yea, what?” I stated as I looked down at the beautiful woman.

“They’re going into Iraq”.

I thought to myself, “Damn, I’m going to miss it. That’s going to be a hell of an adventure. That will be spoken about for ages.”
But my fate was my fate and I just stared at the TV screen as the mouth pieces for CNN spoke their propaganda. I soon started to lose my interest when a picture popped up on the screen.
Everything went black.

Camp Lejeune, A Few Months Before

I stood outside my barracks room. I was on restriction for the millionth time. I could care less. I was sipping on a Coors Light. Heavy metal music was blasting from my stereo and I was bored as hell. Then I heard the squealing of tires as I looked down towards the New River. I saw the outline of the car and headlights. I thought “There’s no way I recognize that car” and then the crazy bastard drove up the walkway. The place were we would hold formations in front of the battalion office. I just shook my head and smiled as the Corvette roared and skidded right in front of my door.

“You crazy bastard, what Fu….BOOOOOOM!

I never got to finish the sentence as a beer bottle smashed into the door. It smashed right next to my head. Then I heard it as I heard it so many times before. The laughter. Randall Rosacker, Randy for short, and his psychopathic hyena cackle of chaos. I just shook my head and busted up laughing in my own way.

“Hey Mid, you wanna go for a ride?” He yelled over the music from my room and the music blasting from his car.

“Hell yea!”

I looked around and ran to the other side of his car. Then I jumped in spilling beer all the way.

After this, the blurred, drunken debauchery. I dimly remember throwing beer bottles at the company office, smashing them into the brick walls. I vaguely remember pissing off the second deck of 1st Battalion, 2nd Marines barracks. After that, I had a philosophical argument with the corporal on duty. Then finally I do remember what Randy said when the night was over. The thing spoken to me that I will never forget.

“Hey Mid, come see me before we go on deployment you bastard.”

I was spinning, and laughed after I got out of his car. I tried to look at him and stated.

“Yea, Yea, yea I will. Go fuck yourself” I slurred with a big grin.

He just smiled his smile and then laughed. He put the pedal to metal down in his white corvette and peeled out, hauling his ass back to where he came from. I stood there for a while and watched him disappear down the road. I had a blurred thought that it was good to see him.

“Crazy bastard.”

Back to Off the Coast of Africa

Blackness shrouded over me. I could not fathom or understand what I was seeing. The TV screen had Randy’s picture in his dress uniform on it.

“Why is Randy’s picture on CNN?”

I just stood there. I could not hear or see the TV. I asked again, louder this time.

“Why is Randy’s Picture on CNN?!”

The news anchor stated something about the first killed in action of Iraq. Something about a bomb being dropped.

Somehow I ended up on the bow of the ship. I just sat down and looked at the sky in a lost fashion. Then I saw it and felt it and it covered me in seduction. It was dark and black and there was a hollowness to it. She was the color of scarlet and in her nakedness she beckoned to me, beautiful, sweet, and mysterious, like lost dreams, swaying as she swirled around in the void. And in the darkness she smiled upon me and I heard her voice, full of poison. The voice was a mix of masculine and feminine, with the pregnant ting of restrained violence. I stood in the presence of the Goddess of Death. She flew up to me and we stood face to face. Her eyes vibrated multi-colors and she smelled like smoke and incense.
“Mid, Mid, Mid. Randy’s dead and you will be dead too. Come with me. I will take you to him. He needs you. He’s in the dark and he is alone.”

A tantalizing smile passed her lips as her breasts pressed into my chest.

I looked into her eyes and I saw him just beyond. He stood there screaming for me. He was scared. And I felt sorrow of the magnitude of-

“Wait a minute,” I thought. Something began to burn in me. The flame. The flame of unbridled hatred as I gazed into her eyes. Something in me rose up and I saw the Goddess for what she really was. Then I roared in her face as I embraced hate.


Then BOOM, like someone had thrown a bottle at my head. I awoke sitting on the front of the ship. Covered in sweat as the sun blared down from the sky. I rubbed the tears my eyes and I stood up and looked around. I had a thought come to my mind that I whispered out loud.

“What the fuck am I doing here?”

Back in Asia, 2014

I stood at the sink of the hotel room. I could barely hold myself up as I looked at myself in the mirror. I had become delusional again and the sickness was still in me. Yet I saw my face and I looked into my eyes and I saw something. It was no longer my face but Randy’s face smiling at me. Then pure rage lit me on fire and I smashed a beer bottle into the wall. Then the venom came vomiting from my lips. for no one to hear.

“Why did you leave me? Who said you could be killed? Now look at me, I’m dying alone in a hotel. You bastard. I hope you rot in hell.”

My head dropped and I felt tears down my cheek. Then I heard his voice, faint, but I could hear it.

“Mid, this is only the beginning, you will have a great future and to some, you will never die. Your adventures have only begun. Put your head up and look at me brother.”

I obeyed his command and I looked in the mirror and I saw myself. Not in my sickened state but strong, arrogant, and belligerent. I was full of muscle and I bowed to no one. My hair was yellow from the sun and there was a big smile on my face. I spoke out loud.
“Get up pussy! You are Mid. Act like It”.

The image faded and I stood up straight. I looked at myself and thought that no matter what happened in this life, I was going to fight it, smash it in the ground, and bash it till it bleeds. No one was going to stop me and I bow to no one, always. I would never die and I would make Randy proud of me. No one would break me because I’ve been broken. No one would beat me because I’ve been beaten. Then some day the Gods will notice me. I spit in the sink with disgust.

In truth, I will never accept that Rosacker was murdered and gone. Not for one day on Earth will I accept his fate. Yet no matter what or where I travel in this life, my old friend is with me. In my heart, spirit, and in my own darkness. Till Valhalla and forever.

Later on, during that phase of my life, my body and mind became once again strong. Years passed and I roamed around the planet, alone. Then, somehow, I found my way to Randy’s grave in Alamosa Colorado. Then the adventure continued. A veteran’s life. Yet this is a story for another time. It is not for today. Today is for today and a day you will never get back.

Besides, we all got a story. This is my account of my real life and it is all true. So use it as you will. Then try to find peace inside. Something I will never know and I couldn’t care less about.
My name is Mid. And I am the lightning in the darkness. I’m just a man. I’m your brother. I’m a United States Marine. I’m lost. I’m found. And I’m always going to be free. I will see him again. Just not today. Yet I always see his smile as he glares at me… always.