Days of Darkness

Days of Darkness

A Story by Fabian G. Franklin
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Flash Fiction.

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Days of Darkness

“Changes and war are ever with me…. I go to the place from which I shall not return; to the land of darkness and the shadow of death”

Book of Job

 

 

He sits on a hill watching the city two miles away. Lights in gray mist; eyes of amber dragons, fiery red demon worms. In the asphalt jungle; in the belly of the beast, w****s and junkies, cops and cabbies hustle their living from the inner-city brickyard.

 A wino hugs his bottle beneath newspaper blankets. An unhappily married couple fight another round with drunken accusations in an apartment with peeling wallpaper. Cars scurry like roaches when the lights are flipped on. Impatient horns and urgent sirens wail. The city wipes its greasy mouth and slicks its hair for another night of momentary madness.

Darkness creeps along the western sky, stealing rays from cinder colored clouds.

The air seems so brittle here, like the sound of a voice might shatter the evening. In the other jungle there was never this settling in of things; no neon shadows there, only the sudden hush of night. Night did not creep there. It pounced only. This sordid romance, however sick and shabby, did not exist in that distant land.

In that jungle there was no direction but a compass beneath a canopy of  brush and no light to separate darkness into shades. There were no shadows except in a firefight and those shadows lit strobe lights of death in his mind even now.

This was the place he came to think or to subdue the process which once substituted the function; chewed over memories, half-digested truths and broken dreams. There really just wasn’t much left anymore.

At one time he might have felt sick with guilt or depravity as a deprecation of simply being alive. Anguish would have washed over him and left him feeling dirty still. But he had not come here to contemplate higher powers of good and evil today. He had only come to watch the city glow and calm the pounding in his chest. There was a familiar stiffness in his shoulder. He could smell cordite and taste blood in his mouth.      

Was he was biting his lip? He trembled. He could feel the recoil, see the green pattern through the scope. He felt a fragment smash into his leg, turning bone to splinters, widening dimensions on new horizons of pain. Sticky warmth staining his ripped fatigues. So much blood and ringing in his head.

Can they see the reality of war in their sheltered lives? The little ants trundling around in old Honda Civics and Chevrolets? How could they know? But it was for them every sacrifice was made. There's no glory in a memorial, just a due recognition of war and death, a headstone to mark the grave of a generation. War is horror beyond comprehension that makes dying look simple and life seem cheap.  And after, just breathing God's good air can get revolting.

It wasn’t dying he worried about. We all have to die, right?  It was the thought of being torn in half with his guts scattered across half an acre. No corpse to send home to mom and dad. Some guys came home with legs blown off or just pieces in a box like a Humpty-Dumpty jigsaw puzzle. “All the kings’ horses... all the kings’ men…”

He remembered the look on the faces of his brother warriors. It made him cold this morning, when he shaved in the mirror, that look. So he ate a few doughnuts and scrambled eggs, washed it down with black coffee, and came to this hill. Now, evening had wrapped him in starlight.

He had visited relatives here, his grandfather, father, and lastly, his brother. All on this hill, high above the city lights. He could read words engraved in granite, Beloved Husband, Father, and Son. Silver Star Recipient. It didn’t say beloved brother. It didn't say he always served above and beyond . It didn’t mention the medal was awarded posthumously.

 When a man's dead all the medals in the world can't bring him home for Christmas dinner. He never again gets to read bedtime stories to his kids or make love to his wife. The taste of tears isn’t always salty. Sometimes it’s bitter and sometimes it’s sweet.

 When the taste is bitter, even whiskey can’t get it out of your mouth so you’re stuck with it; like pictures burned in the mind or letters in stone or a stare rising up from the depths of a broken man. Now it was time to head home but he’d be back, to bring flowers and flags, to pull weeds and think. Someday his warrior brothers would carry him here to stay. They would bugle “taps” and fire their rifles in a last farewell. Then they will bury him along with all his sleepless nights, along with all his days of darkness.

          

© 2020 Fabian G. Franklin


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Added on May 24, 2020
Last Updated on May 24, 2020
Tags: War, Vietnam, Soldier

Author

Fabian G. Franklin
Fabian G. Franklin

Boone, NC



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