Category: Short Stories


One last time.

fosters_home_for_imaginary_friends___mac_n_bloo_by_xglider-d6j7oj1“This is the last time huh?” I ask, sitting on the corner of the bed, swinging my feet a couple of inches off the floor, as she roots through her closet of old clothes.

“Scratch-” she says my name limply, like she’s embarrassed or ashamed by it now. We had grown apart, it’s true, and we barely talk anymore and we play even less. I couldn’t help but feel like I was already being forgotten.

She turns and looks up at me with those sad eyes, ringed in messy eyeliner and a fresh coating of lip-gloss over her mouth.  I think about her a lifetime ago, back when she first discovered make-up in in her mom’s purse and how we laughed as I smeared her eye shadow across her eye lids, and I threw the compact power across the room, making it snow. I tried confessing to the crime and tell them it was me, but they didn’t listen and only you got in trouble.  You cried into your pillow and told me leave you alone, to just go away, but I stayed by your side all night anyway, stroking your hair, and telling you silly stories just to see you smile, to hear you laugh.

“Come on, “ I beg, I’ll play whatever you want, I’ll be the dragon with tiny wings growing out of his back, or be your roommate as we play house, I’ll let you be the princess in a big marble castle and chase you around in the falling leaves,  or we can just sit and talk.”

Her phone rings, and she turns aside to flick the glowing screen sideways. It’s another message from her school friend.

“Is she nice?” I ask, like a jealous boyfriend.

“Yeah, course she’s nice.” She replies defensively.

“What all do you do?”

She shrugs.

“I don’t know. Talk, I guess.”

“You don’t play games? Like the dragon and the princess, do you jump in puddles like we used too, or roll around in piles of dead leaves?”

“No…” She mumbles. “She’s really not into all of that.”

When she’d started going to school I’d sit on her bed, watching out of her window and wait for her school bus to pull up and spill her out. She’d be dragging a bag of books, with her hair all a mess, spilling out stories about her day, her teachers and the friends she made.

I was there when the first boy she ever liked broke her heart and she came and sat next to me crying and I sat with her, telling these kinds of hurts will happen and how it was a good thing. Because it tells her she’s still here, she’s still alive and reminds her that the hurt doesn’t last forever and begin a tickle fight, which I would always win. Some days we’d sit in bed together and play for hours. Sometimes she wouldn’t go to school the next day and I’d have her to myself for a whole twenty-four hours.

“Can’t we just play one more time?” I ask

She sighs and looks at her phone again.

“Please.”

There’s a cold feeling in my bones, like the empty space of the room is eating away at me and the only thing keeping it at bay is her eyes. They’re fixed on me; smudged eyeliner and the chin jutting out like she used to do when she was smaller and wanted to look braver.

“I have to go.”

She stops at the door and looks at me. There’s a look in her eye that says she knows it’s the last time we’re going to see each other.

“I have friends now,” she says. “I don’t need you anymore.”

She leaves and I look at the closed white door and feel the emptiness come rolling in.

“But I do.” There is no one left to listen as I fade away and become forgotten in the waves of times, waiting for the day she has a little girl of her own who’ll dream of me too.

Years past and I’m swimming in nothingness, until one day, I open my eyes and I’m back, it feels like waking from a dream, but nothing feels real. Then I look around and see how everything is so different and unrecognizable, but then I see him, the small blond haired boy, sitting all alone in his bed, staring fearfully at his closet door, calling out softly for his mother who can’t hear him.  I follow his gaze, and see the closet door opening slowly inch by inch. I act without thinking, charging at the door and slamming it shut, I’ll always protect him from the monsters that lurk in the dark.
Then I feel his tiny little hand tugging at my coat and I look down, as he asks,

“What’s your name?”

“Scratch,” I say, smiling warmly ruffling his hair and for perhaps the first time I see the resemblance.

“Scratch? My mom used to tell me stories about you.”

I smile and nod, and I say, “Yes, I knew your mother.” Then I take his hand and guide him back to his bed and begin tucking him in, as he asks me to tell him a story, so I take a breath and begin telling him stories his mother and I used tell each other back when she was just a little girl.

Falling Like Snow

Before I begin, this story was something I wrote in hour and a half as part of a writing exercises given to me by my writer’s group. We were each given three lines which we had to work into the story. The lines I was given were  “We started dying before the snow and like the snow, we continued to fall,” Sitting in the kitchen sink, “And “The sky was static.” For me, the story came alive instantaneously and I wrote like a man possessed to get it all down before time ran out. Here is the result, I hope you enjoy. Falling Like Snow Falling like snow… after_the_smoke_clears_by_busterbrownbb-d67nizy We started dying before the snow and like the snow, we continued to fall. The sky had grown dark and our blood turned the soil beneath our feet into mud. Alive and cut off from the rest of my unit, my thoughts turn back to my father and how I use to write to him every night from the kitchen sink, imagining I was with him hunkered down in that fox hole, he was a soldier then fighting overseas. He had gone missing when I was just thirteen, like my grandfather before him, who had fought bravely in the Vietnam War and his father back in the second great World War.

I still remember how my mother clung to me as she cried and how I was unable to take my eyes off the casket being lowered deep down in the cold, dark ground. I didn’t cry then, the tears wouldn’t come for another few years, because I knew he wasn’t inside that box they buried so deep, nothing but a uniform, a photograph and old memories, I knew it wasn’t him they buried, just a box filled with memories and dust.

For months I imagined him coming home, stealing into my room to tell me everything was alright and how he would muss with my hair, before kissing me goodnight. But that day never came and I swore I’d never go to war and that I wouldn’t fall in line with the family tradition of never coming home from War. Patriotism seems to be in our blood, even when we’re left with little to no choice, for at twenty eight my country was at war yet again and one night after work, I found the draft letter addressed to me in the mail. Fear washed me as I read and reread those words, ordering me into the armed forces and the date I was to report to the military base for training. I must have stood outside for an hour before my wife came to join me, I couldn’t speak, the dread had turned my tongue to lead and all I could do was hand her the letter with trembling hands and her tears began falling like rain as she crumbled the letter in her fist and drew me close, promising to never let go. We cried and held each other for what felt like the last time, even as the rain began to fall, drenching us both as we repeated our vows there in the driving rain, kissing away each other’s tears, she wants me to run, I tell her I won’t, I explain that I can’t, I assure her that we’ll be alright, I promise her I’ll return home, I tell her lies. Then there I am, on that bus, leaving my civilian life behind, kissing goodbye my wife and seeing my eight year boy watching me from kitchen sink with his face pressed up against the windowpane and it was then my heart began to break, for he looked so much like me the day I watched my father go away. The days seem to pass in a blur, they cut off my hair,  and we marched till we sang, we all became friends as we learned how to fight. By graduation day I was stepping up onto that plane, feeling only half-alive, just going through the motions, believing that this was it for me, that I was already gone, for I had come from a family of patriots and none of them had ever returned home from the wars they fought, the line I feared would go on unbroken, as heroes of war.

Artillery exploded in the air around our craft, causing even greater turbulence, and my brothers  disguised and hid their fear, with cheers and jeers, while I close my eyes letting my thoughts turn to that of my wife and child, I imagined him as I might, playing soldier with his friends, imagining that he was fighting alongside me, helping me keep this country free and safe, this land that I loved. His face was all I could see, etched forever into my mind, along with the look he gave me as I marched up onto that bus. Realizing I would never go back, I would never return home, the thought made me feel both empty and hollow, making me numb, a shell of the man I once was, who before this had never so much as fired a gun, or thought about taking a another life, but here I was, a soldier of war, a pacifist turned trained killer. But every night had been the same, I’d fall asleep thinking of my son, knowing I wasn’t much older than him when this happened to me and now I could feel the ghosts of my father and his, our entire family line standing all around, haunting me. Then there I was boarding the plane that would take me to some foreign land that threatened the very freedoms of the land that I’ve always known and loved. But that was then and now I’m here, trudging through snow drifts two feet deep, bleeding and fatigued with the snow pulling at my legs with every step.  My toes and fingers had long since gone numb from the cold, so I stop to stare up at the sky and it reminds me of static seen on old TVs, with the falling snow soothing the singed flesh of my face. Snow_Texture_by_funnybunny_stockI close my eyes and it’s all I see, blood and flames.

Our transport exploded moments after our boots touched the ground. The explosion was deafening, throwing me to the dirt, saved only by the man behind me, whose body shielded me from blunt of the explosion, making him one of the first who wouldn’t be making it home. Burned and bloody I crawled out from beneath the bodies of my comrades to the sounds of gunfire erupting all around me, but still I rose, disoriented and lost, just as the first snow flake landed and melted against my cheek. Ears ringing, I turned towards the enemy line and charged headlong into their ranks, their screams filled my ears, long after they were gone and it was then I realized the screams had been my own and I couldn’t stop, not until long after my rifle clicked empty and I was covered in the blood of both my fallen brothers and my own. We were twenty strong before and now we were but five. snow_by_theloneredsheep-d3lb6br With our faces streaked with dirt, blood and mud, we turned as one and charged into hell, amidst the rain of bullets, the guns and the sound of the drums beating in our ears and blood stinging our eyes. We’ve broke the enemy lines time and again. It hadn’t been a day, but I’ve already had my fill of war, even though this was just the beginning and like the snow we starting to fall. Exhausted, wounded and fatigued, I soon myself standing alone in a field of white looking up at the sky and thinking of home, when I heard the crack of the rifle and saw the snow before me turning to crimson as I fell to my knees, praying, please God…. As the ground rushed up to greet me and I expected the world to end.

 

I felt the rough hands gripping me, wrenching me up out of the snow and with my heart hammering in my chest, not knowing if I’d be tortured or killed, I raised my head defiantly to stare  at up at the weather worn face of the man I believed to be my executioner. But there was something oddly familiar about him that I couldn’t quite place and he begins shouting something and it takes a moment for me to realize he’s American like me, and he’s asking if I was hit. Nodding, I clumsily paw at my shoulder. He looks at me, examining the wound and pulls me towards him to examine the entry wound at my back, after he lowering his head to the exit wound just below my left shoulder, he tells me I’m lucky for it passed cleaned through, but I don’t feel lucky. Then to my surprise, he begins scooping up snow and packing it into the wound. I bite my tongue so hard I taste blood, and would have  collapsed if he hadn’t been holding me up. Through the tears that filled my eyes, I see his uniform for perhaps the first time, but it was all wrong. It was beige instead of camouflage and looked to be out of time and out of place, surely I imagined it couldn’t be warm enough to keep out the cold that was cutting through me despite by winter fatigues and thermal wear. Patting his pockets, he sighs, shaking his head, and begins tearing at the hem of his uniform, using it as a makeshift bandage, cinching it tight over the wound, before hauling me back to my feet.

“C’mon son, on your feet, don’t make me write another letter of condolences, I’m tired of losing good men,” He shouts into my ear.

“Sir…” I breathed, between gasps of breath, and through agonizing pain lancing up through my shoulder, “Sniper….”

he nods, looking down at my rifle, asking if it’s loaded and I tell him yes, but with only two rounds. Which was all I had left, he says one is all he’ll need and snatches it up from the snow and pulls me stumbling behind him. I stop, to turn back to see him taking a kneeling position as he peered down the sights of my rifle.

“Better get going so if you want to see that family of yours again.” Then without another word, I hear a second gunshot and this time I feel the bullet grazing the left side of my head. “Go,” He says, squeezing off a round, “Looks like there’s more coming,”
Lonesome_Soldier_by_xDestitutex I’m in no shape argue, but before I can, I feel a hand gripping me roughly by the shoulder, pulling me forward and almost off my feet. I turn to see another solider, pulling me along through the snow; he was wearing a uniform of forest green, with a M2 Carbine tucked under one arm, which he was using to fire into the field behind me. “C’mon, we’re pulling back,” he says shouting and before I can say a word, he moves to pull my arm around his shoulders and proceeds to help me run, and I’m too out of breath to ask who he was, or what was going on. But I could hear the tanks and gun fire erupting everywhere behind me as if hell itself was chasing on our heels. The marine, forces us to stop every couple of steps to turn and fire back into the field behind us, but through the falling snow I see nothing but shadowed shapes and what I can only guess are the enemy lines moving in to flank us, accompanied by flashes of light as the enemy returns fire. The marine’s carbine clicks dry and he turns to me, and through the driving snow he shouts for me to keep moving and turns his back to me,  as he begins reloading. I open my mouth to ask him what he’s doing, when the grenade goes off from where we was standing, with force of the explosion driving me into the ever thickening snow. I fall into the hard packed snow with my right side feeling like it was on fire. blood_in_the_snow_by_scout2freak-d5nvw1f I try to rise, but the pain lances up through my side, making me feel as if my ribs were being torn apart, and I can’t help the scream that escapes my lips as I fall back into the snow, fumbling for my side and feeling the warmth washing over my fingers, knowing that it was my life rushing out of me and turning the snow around me into fresh crimson. Gritting my teeth I try to rise again, when I hear a voice overhead, and I feel gentle hands turning me over onto my back. “He’s alive,” The person shouts to someone behind him, I can tell my his accent that he too is an American, from Boston I think,  his uniform was an olive drab, with his sleeves rolled up past his elbows, with a sheen of sweat covering his exposed flesh and despite the blistering cold winds or the falling snow his touch was warm.

“Okay buddy, looks like you took some shrapnel to the ribs, just hold on and I’ll get you patched up and ready for the LZ, I think I can remove it,” he says and I feel him rolling me over onto my uninjured side and fresh pain lances up through my ribs as he pokes and prods at the wound that feels like agony and fresh tears well up in my eyes. I scream into the snow, digging my fingers and hands into the drifts around me, I want to grab his arm and make him stop, but my arms and legs feel as if they’ve been tied down. Inch my agonizing inch, I feel him pulling at the shrapnel embedded deep in my side and it feels two feet long and half as thick, but once freed I find myself able to breathe easier and he’s packing the wound with fresh snow, before doing his best to bandage me up, then he’s dragging me back up to my feet. I’m so tired I can barely stand, so I lean against him as he helps me walk. Behind me I can feel the heat from explosions and the rain of snow and earth falling down around us, followed by burst of gun fire from all around us, and a mixture of shouts and screams. Whose I’m not sure. My knees buckle and I fall to my knees, reliving my first drop where I lost half my brothers, but the medic is quick to haul me back to my feet, and grunting from the exertion he tells me to keep going and not too look back, to never look back, ordering me not give up, to never give up. I don’t. I just keep walking, focusing on placing one foot after another and I’m trying not to think of home, because it would be more than I could take. With every step I expected to feel a bullet piercing my back or slamming into the back of my skull ending what little life I still had in me and I could scarcely believe that I was even still alive as it were. Then I felt the medic’s body go limp as a bullet struck him in the back, causing his body to pitch forward and me to fall in a tangle of arms and legs on top of him. He was dead by the time I untangled myself and pushed myself up onto my hands and knees. The back of his head had become a mass of dark blood and I found myself fumbling to free his sidearm from his person, when another hand closed tightly around my wrist, hauling me up to my feet before I could free his pistol, and it was then I noticed for perhaps the first time how the snow was kicking up all around me, followed by the whoop, whoop of helicopter blades cutting through the icy air. “Forget it, he’s dead, we need to get you out of here!” Shouted a voice over my head and I looked up to stare into the face of my father moments before I lost consciousness. The next thing I remember is waking up in a military hospital. No one quite knows how I survived, or why, no one saw the pilot, or even the Black-hawk helicopter that dropped me off before flying away, disappearing from sight and radar just as quickly as it had appeared. A story I tell no one but my wife, for I have no other explanation, other than I was saved by the ghosts of patriots.  winter_freakin___wonderland_by_knightofammo-d3aqwjd