//Trigger Warnings for: War, Death, Mental Illness//
“You’re scared of that, aren’t you?” Thomas can hear his fiance's voice over a blurred world around him. The most audible sound is his heart beating out of his chest. His breathing hastens as he can feel the air slowly draining from his surroundings. In his mind, there is a clash of falling glass and what sounds like gunshots. Everything further disappears as he feels his esophagus almost close like a hole in the earth. It is the fading voice of his fiance and the repeated banging of bullets in the air that are the last sounds that fade before unconsciousness.
The bullets continue to clatter in a repetitive line of sound as Thomas runs across the battlefield. His heart is erratic as he runs to hide behind the ruins of a building. At that point, the night has swallowed the village, and he is separated from his comrades. For the first time in his life, he is truly alone. His family is countries away. His friends from home are comfortable while he is in this dark forsaken place. His comrades? Very well may be dead.
Another shot distorts the burning silence around him. He continues to run in a singular direction even though he has no clue where he is heading. Away from the fight? Toward the fight? He just knows if he doesn’t move, if he is stagnant, he will only cause his own peril.
It is sudden when he falls over. Only opening his eyes to see a darker reality than he could have imagined.
Consciousness awakens him. There are sounds of beeps and chatters around. A sterile white light shines upon him as he lays next to an open window looking upon a skyline of the city. The houses are dispersed among a large church. Orthodox, maybe Catholic? Thomas can’t be sure, Alison or her parents might, but he stayed away from architecture and academics. Still, the church bells from it were inevitably distracting from the horrors of his mind.
He was still dazed, but he feared that falling asleep may awaken flashbacks that he was trying to suppress. While his soon-to-be-wife knew of the memories he carried, he avoided being descriptive with them, she was his best friend. He did not want her to know how oddly adjacent he felt towards death and the movement of the soul from the physical body. He was not desensitized but tried so desperately to be. To treat it as a part of his job, an occupational hazard, a reality that could not be avoided for someone like him. It’s been several years since that fateful night in the heat of battle, but he was so tortured by what was in his mind. Drink. Desensitize. Forget. How else could he avoid these episodes or the darker reality of the things he had done and witnessed.
Thomas looks down. The glassy and lifeless eyes of a young girl look up at him. He jumps back at the realization of there being flesh and organs in front of him. A body that had blood flowing, a heart beating, and consciousness moving in it only hours ago.
Thomas felt the oncoming feeling of nausea, not because of any physical stench, but because of the thought of a young girl suffering. They were told death was part of their job, he was never prepared to come face to face with it. He was a young boy who had been sheltered, he had no clue of the open crevice of evil he would gaze into. As he stepped further in the dark he saw movement in the corner. A man stood up with a gun pointed at him. The language of the country which he did not understand was now being screamed at him. As a shot was fired at him, he made the only choice he could and ran away.
“Allie, quit it, I’m fine.”
“No, you’re not. What can I do to help?” Alison said this pushing a pillow behind Thomas. Forcing him to sit up in hopes that he would stop being stubborn enough to eat something. Her forcefulness wasn’t out of character, in fact, he knew by now it came as the product of caring for him. She was in medical school, of course, she was going to act like this when he reacted the way he did at hearing fireworks. She was concerned.
“Sweetheart, I’m fine. I’m okay.” Thomas tried to subdue her over attentiveness to his condition. His agitation, his fears- he didn’t want her involved in this. This would be hard to explain to her in detail. She wasn’t frail to death by any means. Still, she had not exhumed the face of death and ruin in the form he had seen it. The face of a young girl, looking at him, letting him know you were too late. He remembers the man from his deployment who tried to shoot him in the darkness that night. A man who potentially abused that girl he was supposed to save. The people with who he had once charged into a warzone with had died in his arms during dark cold nights and blisteringly hot days. That burning pain of guilt came once again, it was not sharp but numbing, disconnecting even in his comfortable world.
“Tom, you good buddy?” Thomas looks out upon the field as daylight hits. Human forms lay lifeless across the ground like scattered dolls. Thomas could feel his chest burn. He never moved past the idea of the human soul having to exist in spite of its absence in the body. Thomas could logically accept all the atrocities in the world, but his emotions would always get the better of him at the sight of an innocent person at his feet being dead. The essence of a person was so much more than that, but to him and his limited understanding was so deeply symbolized by the physicality of what was in front of him. His lack of words, and longing for things to not be this way, bring tears to his eyes that he is forced to suppress. He had to be strong, the world was difficult, he could not cry at a sight he had volunteered and signed up to see.
“Yeah, yeah. I’m good.” As Thomas said this to his comrade, he felt like everything in him was as silent as the lifeless civilians around him. It was rotting him at that moment, decaying him, showing him his humanity while reminding him of other people’s. It was a terrifying feeling.
“It’s rough isn’t it?” His friend interrupts the haze he is in. The sound of another human voice is comforting and cuts through the heavy silence the way a knife does in warm bread. Thomas is crying a little at this point. His sobs are withheld so the other soldiers can’t hear him. At this moment, he doesn’t feel strong, or smart, and even masculine is questionable.
“...” As he stares his friend dead in the eyes at the sight of this. The two of them are sharing a bond, a knowing sadness, that both of them feel like scared children who want to run into the arms of their father. Just when they thought it was over, something was thrown in front of them. Thomas watches as his friend runs for it and jumps onto the small, oblong, grenade.
“Allie?” Thomas is hoarse, he feels distant letting things sit.
“Yeah? What’s up?” Her sharp voice is quiet, and calm with him. Something that duels with her passionate and vivacious nature.
“It’s been eight years since....” He stops, trying to prevent the memories of Warren from coming back. If he hadn’t jumped, if he had just looked at it and run, Thomas knew he would not be lying in a hospital bed right now looking at familiar faces and feeling the winter sun on his face through the window.
“Hmmm?” The now quiet woman coos as she steps over to sit on the end of the bed. His eyes are now wide as he feels ready to tell her what had happened.
“Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.”- John 15:13
You must sign up or log in to submit a comment.
I love this story! Is is part of a larger series? If not, I would recommend not including scene breaks so often.
Thank you! As of right now, I wrote it as a background for one of my characters. The scene breaks were a creative choice to show cognitive disruption for him. Still, I will definitely keep that criticism in mind. Thank you so much.