Hero of War (Part 20)

I turn away, rejecting the eyes that do not belong to my brother. The woman beside me  adjusts something on the machines. She has flat dandelion-colored hair and lackluster blue eyes. Her skin is sickeningly devoid of color.

She looks at me and smiled a hesitant smile with chapped lips. “The doctor’ll be checking on you shortly.” Then she leaves.

As I stare at the bed a few feet away from me, occupied by Private Sampson who had taken a shard of metal to the back of the thigh, I come to realize that Sophie isn’t here. She still  lies on the battlefield, abandoned beside Private Figueroa. Her iridescent eyes will never gaze into mine, reassuring me that everything is okay.

Because everything isn’t okay and never will be again.

With this thought most prominent in my mind, I fall into a deep, troubled sleep.

In it, I see the insatiable hunger in the eyes of a crimson monster. It appears in my peripheral vision as I turn towards Sergeant Major Peters to report my finds during the most recent reconnaissance of the area.

It grows as I open my mouth to say “Coast clear.” It’s massive body writhes as it expands  exponentially to my right, consuming the air with the stench of gunpowder.

I turn towards it to see Sophie gazing in wonder at the mass. Her eyes glow in the light, easily distinguishable despite the distance separating us.

I call out to her and she turns towards me. The air between my body and hers suffocated my voice but I know she’d heard me anyways.

The demonic mass has stopped moving beside her.

Time halts around us, bending to the force of our desperation. She reaches her hand out to me and I take it. The sensation of her soft, warm fingers wrapping around mine sends waves of nostalgia crashing over my numb body.

Her eyes gaze straight into mine. The fire glows beside us, flames paused mid-crackle.

A silence descends, killing the scream I hadn’t realized emanated from within my aching lungs. My ears ring in its sudden absence.

A stain spreads across her chest as the front of her uniform tears apart. I stare at it for a second then back at her. She just smiles, squeezing my hands the way she used to before the war, when our parents described the inevitable separation upon reaching Canadian territory.

I try to pull away to get something to stop the bleeding but she holds tight. Instead my head turns to look around but everyone’s faces are gone, replaced by blank blobs. Only Private Figueroa is recognizable but his skin is being seared off. He won’t be able to help.

I open my mouth to call out to one of the blobs but their names have also vanished. It feels as though someone or something had reached into my brain and erased them, leaving no trace behind to help me.

I look back at Sophie. Her face is calm, as though we were back on my couch, when we were younger, watching cartoons on a Sunday morning. Her gaze immobilizes me.

“Adam,” she says, her voice steady and saturated with love. “You have to keep going. You have to move on and keep living your life–our life– without me. For me. You have to survive.”

As her lips form the last syllable, her skin grows dull and pale. The sparkle in her eyes recedes and finally disappears and her hands turn to ice. Suddenly she is on the ground and I am beside her and her hand is not longer gripped in mine and there is a persistent sting in upper left arm.

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