I look into the mirror to see my golden brown eyes twinkling blankly in my direction. My skin tone is a bronze coat that covers the obvious muscles hidden beneath my clothes. I look at the medals on my chest for my time in the war and continue to wonder why I was rewarded for taking the lives of others that I didn’t know. My posture stiffens as I remember the oath I swore to the country I love, so I give a salute to the soldiers that I called my friends. They may not be at this ceremony with me, but at least I feel them within my soul. My mouth continues to hide the joyous smile that I once owned, because joy is not something that I know quite like when I was a child. I relax my salute and continue to stare at the man that I never knew would be me.
My wife walks into the room with warmth guiding her eager arms to surround my body. She remains silent with me in her grasp to enjoy feeling my shell. It’s obvious she isn’t ready for me to become a spirit just yet. She says, “Welcome back… my soldier.”
I reply, “I love you too dear.”
“Are you ready to receive your Medal of Honor?”
“Sabrina, you are the only reward that I want to cherish. It’s why I made sure I came back alive.”
“Well, you also made sure that you brought friends back with you. I’m sure they’re very thankful you did that.”
My eyes lose life as I say, “But I didn’t save them all.”
Sabrina guides my empty face to her face of love and replies, “But you did your best to help them. Right?”
I sigh as I say, “Right.”
“Then enjoy the fact that you still saved more lives than anyone else could have. There’s nothing that you could do to change what happened because everything has happened as it should have. I don’t know exactly how hard it is to deal with, but I know it’s going to be hard for you Jimmy. Just know that I’m always here for you, and no one else. Okay?”
“Okay.” We kiss and then hug one another to feel life.
We remain silent to enjoy the embrace, until my General walks in. I look at him blankly, and he nods at me as he says, “It’s time for you to receive the admiration you deserve, Colonel.” I release my wife and salute him.
I reply, “Yes sir, General.” He salutes me back and then turns to guide me into the main hall. He says, “As you were.”
I walk with my wife grasping my arm to the celebration. After the red carpet and the symmetrically placed pictures on the wall lead me to the celebration, I hear the applause of a full room clapping for my arrival. I keep my eyes on the stage that I am going towards, but then I feel the whole room shake violently. My vision begins to fade in and out as another vicious shake wakes me from my sleep. I dart my eyes to the nearest person to hear, “Colonel! We have to move! They’re-” but his words were torn from his neck as his body falls limp to the ground.
My hands grab the nearest weapon as my feet continue to propel me into the chaos. My eyes witness as my comrades are consumed by explosions; and the final hug that I receive from them is their crimson defeat. I wipe my face and continue to scan for survivors. Bullets continue to scream by my ears as I charge towards the friendly fire that’s fighting for our existence. I join them and fire with precision between the tents and the stone buildings at the enemy that I don’t know. Terrorists is what they’re called; but all they are to me, is a group of people that are killing my brothers and my children.
I yell to the soldier to my right, “What’s going on?!”
He yells, “It’s red on red sir! We were just caught in the middle of it!”
“No one saw this coming!”
“No sir! They entered as civilians and started fighting with each other! Before we could warn the platoon, we found they had explosives strapped to their chests!”
“Sir! We have to move or else-” His life explodes from the back of his head with his finger still firing his weapon wildly into the air.
I run over to his position and point the automatic weapon at the enemy as I yell, “Leave this position and surround the area!”
Everyone in the bunker scatters; except private Smith. I quickly look over and then back at the enemy with my mind shocked by his disobedience. I yell, “Private! Why the fuck are you still here?!”
“I’m not gonna abandon you sir!”
“I order you to surround the area so we can contain this fucking situation God Dammit! Now move!”
“Move God Dammit!”
Private Smith hesitates before he leaves the bunker, but then he enters the world of fire to try and position himself. I see the mind-numbing smoke of a rocket for a split second as I feel the explosion throw me into the wall and leave me stunned for a moment. The blurred image of hell shows me the silhouette of Private Smith in pain as his legs squirt in search for his knees. My heart rushes over to grab him, but the enemy’s desire for carnage takes away another one of my children. As I take a step back, I hear a click between my ears.
A blaze of rage consumes my body as I grab my pistols and charge wildly into the enemy. I show them one by one how much their existence means nothing to me. My feet continue to charge me at the speed of hatred as I maneuver around the enemy’s poorly trained attempts to end my life. I infiltrate the heart of their hideout and give the walls and sand a taste of my artwork. Eventually, my weapons tell me that they need more ammo, so I throw them at the enemy to my right and then grab my knives to shove them into his throat.
As he curdles to the ground, I grab his weapon and blast through the child and the woman that were to firing at me. After they fall to the ground, I scan rapidly for my next victim. I hear the sound of hatred to my left, so I charge as a bloody tyrant and snap the neck of the unsuspecting soul. His comrades turn to take away my life, but I shield my body with the memory of their friend. As his former body spits defeat on me, I raise the weapon in his hand and fire at them until they know I was the true warrior in the group. I continue to fire at the distant attackers and then radio to my squad, “Move in!”
I hear the warmth of “Hoo-rah!” after my command, so I continue to eliminate the enemy. After the weapon of my body-bag is empty, I quickly load my reserve pistol and charge towards the enemy. The cowards begin to retreat, so I force my legs to catch them and violently slaughter their desires for life. As I continue to fire with rage propelling my roar, I clinch my eyes and remember the stories that my brothers told me before they were forced into the afterlife. I drop to my knees once I notice the only firing that remains is my own, so I let my eyes sweat from this brutal exercise of pain.
As I remain on my knees and scanning the hell that emerged during my dreams, I ask myself, “Why the fuck did I come back here?” I reach into my pocket and pull out the picture of my wife and stare at her to keep my grasp of life. I sigh as I look at her beautiful wavy hair and her piercing blue eyes as I whisper, “How I wish I was touching that creamy skin of yours again.” And as I was feeling love for her again, I felt the clicking pain between my ears begin to fade.