THE WOODS – Notifying them through brief, quiet phone messages, Solid Snake informed classified contacts today that he was going camping alone this weekend, that he would be out of reach, and that he would be home after Veterans Day.

The battle-hardened soldier loaded the empty seat of his worn, black, two-seat pick-up truck with few provisions: water, beef, bread, scotch, and cigarettes. He hadn’t made up his mind yet about how many days he wanted to spend out there – probably just a few though. Part of the answer depended on how quickly he ran out of smokes.

The camping trip had become an annual tradition of sorts for the aging FOXHOUND operative, starting sometime after Costa Rica, he thought. He never went to the same location twice. But he had a place in mind for this year, an area he had passed through before, that was suitable and next to a good stream. It was around here somewhere.

The part of the trip that Snake always looked forward to most was being by himself – no one else around. It bothered him often how many people there were everywhere he went. Everywhere, always people. He would look at them, and they would look at him.

Why are we looking at each other?

With no one to look at, and no one to look at him, Solid Snake parked his truck in a secure location, unloaded his backpack, and prepared for the 19-mile hike to his preferred camping spot by taking a short pull from his metal flask and finishing a cigarette.

It was late morning and unseasonably gentle weather for late autumn. It was still cool but getting warmer, and the sky was blue. Snake took a deep breath and almost smiled.

He was so used to only having time to react, but now Snake had time to think. How many people had he killed? he thought. It was impossible to count. He decided not to try.

In a break from the thoughts that came naturally, Snake made a conscious effort to remember the good things that he had accomplished, as he stepped under and around mature oak trees. Iraq. South Africa. All over Eastern Europe and Central Asia. He had prevented so much death and destruction. He did it using stealth over force whenever he could too. Plus, he spoke half a dozen languages now, most of them with only a trace American accent.

There were people he had killed, bad people, that Snake was glad were dead. Revolver Ocelot’s death was a welcome relief. His twin brother, Liquid, was finally gone now too, though sometimes Snake still saw his dead brother, in his own features, if he looked too long at his own reflection.

And, of course, there was Big Boss – his “father” – a complex subject to which his mind often drifted and settled for long, frustrating amounts of time, as it had begun to when he finally reached the crest of the hill and saw, down in the valley below, the riparian woods where he would make his camp.

As Snake arrived, the sun was close to setting. The same way he had learned to do as a Green Beret, he set to efficiently constructing a shelter, building a fire, and digging a latrine. When he finished, Snake quickly washed his face and hands in the clear stream, and seated himself next to the fire to rest and dry as night began to fall.

For a while, Snake alternated between bites of bread and swallows from his flask, only interrupting the cycle to drag on a cigarette. When he had eaten enough, he contented himself to just drink and look into the sky.

It was a clear night and a new moon. With the heat against his face, Snake began to feel drunk, and he found himself recalling various women from his life as he gazed into the flames.

He remembered Holly, the journalist, and how they had barely made it onto that helicopter in Zanzibar. Holly had short, blonde hair and wore that green headband. Snake felt embarrassed when he recalled how he had stood her up for Christmas dinner.

He then thought about Meryl. It hurt him to think about her though. They had both been tortured by Revolver Ocelot on Shadow Moses Island and, still every once in a while, he had nightmares about the pain and woke up sweating and afraid.

They could have started over, the two of them together, he thought. Normal lives, or something like normal. She was just a girl compared to him, but she had loved him.

She loved him.

How could he be with a person like that?

Snake poked at the fire with a stick. The coals shifted and the wood crackled. It was quiet. Only the stream made any other sound in the world.

And, in the quiet of the night and glow of the campfire, Snake heard his father's voice. The son listened again to the dead man’s final regrets, spoken at the grave of the woman that he had loved, the woman that he had killed so long ago, and he heard again his father’s honest plea to him to find peace and not waste the rest of his life fighting, always fighting, like he had.

David. My name is… David, he had told Meryl.

But he was not David. He never had been, and deep down he knew that. He was Solid Snake – the Old Snake now. That was the only person he knew how to be.

And he was alone, the way it was always meant to be, from the very beginning.