Welcome HomeWhen the plane landed, I expected to, as usual, act the detached, distant, (a)pathetic person I was, leaving my buddies in uniform and avoiding all human contact. After all, it'd never failed me before, both in pace and war.
But as I stepped off the causeway, I saw a face I'd only held in Polaroid for much of the past five years. There were three of them, but I could only see her, smiling with perfect white teeth as she caught sight of me.
I broke from the tired line of my fellow passengers and embraced her shorter form. Some of the other servicemen gave calls of encouragement as all the strength that'd held me up as an example to my comrades through the worst times imaginable left me. All that kept me up was a young woman from the shadows of my memory, whom I showered in joyful tears.
A newspaper clipping"23 years ago on this day, my father was wounded during a battle near St. Petersburg. His unit was cut off by the enemy assault and the commander ordered that their field hospital would be the only evacuees. He was in a coma as the convoy left the doomed Marines in an effort to beat EU forces closing in on both sides, but the unmarked trucks were mistaken as combatants and bombed. The survivors were forced to leave behind the dead in an effort to save those remaining, accidentally leaving my father and another wounded Marine. That Marine found my father in the wreckage and used a length of rope to make a harness about my father's chest, which he tied to his waist. He proceeded to drag his brain-dead comrade over seventeen kilometers, with a leg full of shrapnel, in the freezing northern European winter until Russian forces finally caught up with the pair. The Marine refused to be untied from my father, who they'd written off as KIA, and both were taken prisoner to join the other Marine
Scumbag Dad"We had this dog. Best damn dog I've ever seen. He would learn quick and mind you real close. Wouldn't stray when off the leash, and the friendliest darn thing you could imagine. Shepherd-beagle mix, about as high as your thigh with a shepherd build but floppy ears and brown fur except on his back and the same side of his neck. Even had a spotted tongue like a Dalmatian.
"Well my eldest, my son, was closest with that thing. He saw me as the alpha authority, so my kid was his equal. Boy he loved that thing. It's like they were best friends. He'd be going around doing his thing, and then stop to give that mutt some attention just for the hell of it.
"Eventually he got old and then sick. I had him looked at and the vet said there was nothing we could do. He was a goner. So I took my oldest out back where the poor thing was lying in pain, and handed him my pistol. I told him to put the dog out of his misery. And he did. I know it hurt him to do so, but he did it anyway.
"It wasn't because
Chessmaster"My job is to maintain peace and order in this city." the officer said forcefully, the shadowy lines on his face angling down and out below his dark eyes. "I don't make the rules, I enforce them. I don't care what they are, as long as they are followed." His last words were slow and deliberate. Then his tone softened, though his expression remained the same.
"How do you think I've retained this position? Hm? How do you think I've held off the countless bloodthirsty, backstabbing, corrupt, sadistic, conniving bastards loyal to our leader's every whim? Because I do what I'm told. Nothing more, nothing less." It was clear this soldier was no willfully ignorant pawn. But he was also no knight.
LighthouseAll my life, you have been my beacon in the dark of night.
Your perfect beauty shining on the horizon, across the turbulent waves I battle.
You grace me in my dreams, secret moments I cherish as I sleep below deck.
Yours, always a port of safety to which I may return.
And though we are near when I finally dock, your glimmer is oh so far away.
For your greatness shall forever stand high above the dark ocean,
and I, who lives to brave its stormy waves and lonely depths,
shall never be your keeper.
The Poor Bloody Infantry"Soldier." His mistrust of infantrymen well known to the other patrons of the restaurant, the Admiral's words heralded tense silence. "How'd you get that scar on your face?" The man looked up at the superior officer and spoke.
"The Battle of the River Delta." Some people seemed impressed by this, but others reacted mournfully to the simple phrase. He went on. "104th Infantry Regiment. At first we were stationed to the south along with the 19th to protect against an enemy flanking attempt, but when it was clear there was no turn maneuver in the works, command sent us to aid the forces in the city; the 223rd Infantry, the 84th Airborne, the 22nd Mechanized, and the 7th Infantry. They'd reached the bridges of the city and both sides were fighting to take them back, not wanting to make the stalemate permanent by blowing up the only means of advance. The guys with the 7th and the 84th in the north were being torn up like fresh fish.
"So we got up close on the outskirts of town and the final
ParanoiaThe screen beside the one where two blue-tinted soldiers stood talking in relaxed Russian started to move. A woman in white ran across the steel and concrete room, peering into the glass wall to the right side of the camera's field of view before quickly stepping back.
She watched the lights flicker in the dark security room, eye wide with fear as two strange figures appeared from the lower part of the screen, walking jerkily towards the woman now pounding on the steel door. Her screams and the banging of metal sounded from below the video feed, mixed with a small burst of laughter from smoky lungs.
Suddenly the screen went a blue-tinted black just as the strange figures converged on the crying woman. Dim lights came back on after a few moments to reveal a mess of blood trailing away from the spot they'd just been, shooting to the left and right in its long path back under the camera's view.
The small girl watched. The two men in the other screen were still talking in friendly tones ov
IllIt was hard to understand. Your body being cozy and warm inside a stuffy blanket or coat, probably a little stiff from lack of movement, but your head was exploding with heat, seemingly radiating from your nose in a haze only you can feel. Maybe there was even a breeze to come and wipe your skin in a nippy caress, but just below those seven layers of tender cells fumed an oven. Such was the plight and comfort of being sick in the fall.
SmugglersThe morning before the sun rises. It's like a secret; cool to the touch but warm to the mind. Comforting, familiar, simple and yet infinite. It's everything at once, melding together in a dark blanket around the landscape. Almost like the color of soft-tasting chocolate. Everything else seems to melt into insignificance as the universe sits before you in all its endless harmony.
At least, that's how I feel. Everyone else at this time only has the fear. Pedestrians with the fear of soldiers. Soldiers with the fear of officers. Officers with the fear of politicians. Politicians with the fear of people. People with the fear of the future, or at least the next five minutes of driving on this dark, all but abandoned road at 5:00 as the moon lights up the sky, casting dark shadows that scream danger to our instinctive senses. Everyone wants to choose flight, but there's nowhere to go but six-feet down.
I wasn't driving. Guards don't drive. That's why they call it "riding shotgun." Back in th