Literature Short Stories Short Story

The Hero We Need

From the reddit writing prompt: [WP] You are a leader of a very unsuccessuful rebellion. After another lost battle in a row you finally snap and leave. After being asked who should lead them now, you point at the random person in the crowd. A few months later the rebellion won.

Do I have regrets? Of course I do. I mean, who doesn’t? And especially in my position, who wouldn’t? I was in a position to change the world, to right the wrongs that our government has plagued us with for the last decade. And what did I do? I walked away.

A lot of people try to tell the story differently. Some, the people who still support me, make me out to be a martyr. Some make me out to be a sellout to the government. All of them are wrong, though. It was far less glamourous and far more stupid.

Look, here’s what really happened…

Jerome looked around the room slowly, trying to take it all in. The sadness and fear of the people around him. The wails of the men and women who’d lost a loved one were still echoing through the halls like broken air raid sirens, a continuous sound that dug into his brain and blocked out his ability to think of anything else.

His head general (what a joke to call him that) walked in the room finally, closing the door behind him and shutting out the sobbing voices. He took his seat at the opposite end of the room and a cold silence fell across the table. All ten of them looked at their hands, or the ceiling, or the wall behind them. Anywhere but at each other.

“What happened?” Jerome finally asked, his eyes finally finding the courage to settle on the general. He listened at first as the report was given, but quickly tuned it out. It was the same story. Always the same story. Not enough soldiers or supplies. The government had too many heavy weapons. Excuses after excuses. All because they refused to listen. They refused to adopt Jerome’s plans and just attack. Stop playing games and attack head-on and strike fear into the enemy.

“…we have to stop this,” one of the advisors to his left said. “We’re losing too many people. We’re not doing anything but killing our own people and achieving nothing.”

Jerome nodded but said nothing.

“I… uh… I think I agree,” another person on his right said. “We need a new strategy.”

Another nod.

The general spoke again. “Everybody in favor of switching to hit-and-run tactics raise your hand.” A few hands shot up instantly. The others looked around at their peers, then slowly raised theirs as well. After a few seconds, only Jerome had his hand down.

“Okay,” Jerome said. “That settles it.” He scanned the room, looking each person in the eye, before slowly rising to his feet. He gave the group a nod, sighed, and said “I wish you luck,” before heading towards the door. He’d been thinking about stepping down for a while, and now was as perfect a time as he’d ever get. The room filled with noise as everybody else began to stand up themselves, all of them talking and asking questions at the same time. A hand tried to grab Jacob’s shoulder but he shrugged it off and kept walking. He opened the door and the sobs and sounds of life crashed around him, solidifying his decisions. He was done. He couldn’t do this anymore. There was no point. They were going to lose this little rebellion and the best thing he could do was leave now.

Voices were following close behind him like a well-trained dog, but he ignored them all. For the first time in months, he felt good. He felt like he finally had something to look forward to. If he could just make it out of the country he could start over. Start a real life…

A hand grabbed him, firm this time, and refusing to let go. Strong arms spun him around and he was staring into the face of his so-called general. “Jerome, you can’t just leave like this you fucking coward. Who’s going to lead the rebellion?”

Jerome shrugged and, much to his own surprise, laughed in his general’s face. “I don’t know. I really don’t care, either. How about that guy?” He pointed to a random soldier leaning against the wall. He was a small guy, both in height and overall presence. The kind of guy that most people probably never even noticed in a room. “He looks perfect. Hey! Kid! Come here!”

The soldier jerked his head up and stared at the leaders of the rebellion, all of them standing in the hallway and looking at him. Jacob could tell that this kid wasn’t used to having much attention. But, like a good soldier, he came to attention and quickly hustled over.

“What’s your name?” Jerome asked.

“Smith, sir. Johnny Smith.”

Jerome laughed. Of course that was his name. “Great. Well, congratulations, Johnny Smith. You just became the leader of the rebellion. I hope you can make it work. Here are your advisors and general,” he waved a hand at the stunned group behind him. “I grant you all my powers and responsibilities. Long live the Rebellion!” With that, Jerome turned and walked away, laughing as he went. Nobody tried to stop him this time.

You see? Nothing glamourous. Nothing special. Just a coward who talked a big game at first, who got the rebellion started, then couldn’t back up his claims. I convinced tens of thousands of people to join our cause and then I just walked away because I was scared and tired. But, as we all now know, it turned out to be the best decision I could’ve made.

Turns out, Johnny Smith is a fucking genius.

Word is that he used to play a bunch of strategy games growing up. Hearts of Iron and EU4 and shit like that. He’d studied history for fun. He really was that nerd who had no real friends. He just sat at home and played games and learned how wars were won while I was out chasing girls. I had the charisma to get the ball rolling on the whole rebellion. He had the brains to win it.

They slowly took the government forces apart. And that surprise raid on the presidential palace? Who would’ve even thought it possible? Johnny-fucking-Smith did, that’s who. They won. My country is free, and I’m not welcomed back.

That’s, uh… That’s hard to cope with, ya know? If I’d just listened. If, for once in my life, I’d listened to the people around me…

Probably better this way, though. Which is also hard to swallow. That Johnny Smith, the little soldier in the crowd, will lead my people better than I ever could’ve…

Look, I think I’m done, now. Sorry guys. I just can’t talk about it anymore. I guess I’m still a coward after all.

Thank you so much for taking the time to read this little story. I personally don’t find myself regretting many things in life, but I think it would be foolish to say that anybody out there can be completely without regret. We all have those decisions we made in the heat of the moment that we wish we could take back. But, how often do the things we do that hurt us turn out to be good for others? And how hard is it to accept that? That was my central idea while writing this. The pain of knowing that our suffering is sometimes good for others. It’s a hard pill to swallow, but one that good people throughout time have understood.

I’d love any feedback or comments. Thanks again, and I hope you are staying safe and healthy!

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