Author: TheDarkArtist PM
When you are thousands of miles away from the love of your life, the very reason you left to serve to begin with, and she's taken from you...how do you deal with that? And what's your next move? This is a lengthy story, but I couldn't make it shorter. This is the length it seemed necessary to be and I welcome critique and offer a huge thanks to anyone who takes the time to read it.Rated: Fiction K+ - English - Chapters: 5 - Words: 17,651 - Reviews: 6 - Published: 10-06-12 - Status: Complete - id: 3063697
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A shudder ran through my body as my world returned to silence. I felt like I'd lost Julie all over again.
I had to move, quickly, somewhere-get moving towards the end of this thing while there was still a shred of hope for her. In the raking tumult of the post-blast headache I closed my eyes as I gathered my energy into a usable focus. In that brief moment I went to that familiar place where Julie sits and smiles at me. The last time I was there she was faded in shadows and unsmiling. Now the place was void of light and I felt like I was being drawn into a black hole. If she was there and that's where I had to go to save her then that's what I'd do. If I have to pass through the seven levels of hell, so be it.
The moment I stepped forward I nearly tripped over something and I knelt beside the object. It was my M4. My hand gripped the butt stock with a dark satisfaction. I threw the sling over my shoulder and went to the nearest cement wall. There was only one place to go now. A part of me always knew this showdown would take place in the very same building Brightman had longed to die in last summer. I knew with the stunt at the Civic that I'd announced my presence. If he was here, then he was ready and waiting for me. Checking my watch I figured Adrian would be close to the Subaru within a few minutes and dialing her father. What was more likely was that she'd already called him the second she crested the hill in her escape. Either way, I had very little time to cross the city and find her before the police intervened. The hardest part of it all was wondering if I was going to be the one to mess up this rescue or them.
About seven buildings separated me from the west side of the mock city, to that crumble of a building where the training accident had occurred. I stayed within the moon-cast shadows that knifed off the dilapidated buildings and into the earth. Instead of making a full-on beeline to that destination, I circled wide to the right and finally I made it to the wood line. There, I had more cover and concealment and the shadows proved to be aged with nature's edge.
The vision in my right eye was still a Gaussian blur and I wish I'd still had my night ops. No doubt wherever they lay the lens was burned out from the blast.
I was nearing the place when my left foot caught a large unearthed root and my body charged forward into the dark ground. I cried out briefly when my forehead snapped into the side of the M4. Biting my lip I lay there listening, cursing my undisciplined charge of this mission. I was better than this! But I heard nothing and there were no sirens or beats of helicopters in the distance, and that got me up and moving again.
Reaching the part of the woods that opened up to face the particular building I was looking for, I risked a glance around a large oak and…nothing. There was nothing there where the building used to be. After the accident, they must have bulldozed the entire thing away. In the moonlight I could see four wooden stakes with pink ribbons stapled to the ends marking what had to be the new layout for a new building to come.
I gripped the bark of the tree with my left hand as my eyes darted everywhere. I didn't know what to do next-where to look. I was certain this would be the spot! The fact that Adrian had been brought here and held captive proved that my search had paid off. Julie had to be here! I thought maybe I should go back and search the buildings all around the Civic, go inside each one carefully.
That's when I noticed that the natural lay of the ground in between me and the vanquished building wasn't so natural. There were rocks all over the place, but many of them seemed to be placed there. I looked closer and saw that they made a perfect line from there and they led right to the spot in which I stood. I stepped out a little more into the dim light and my nerve endings in my hands and feet came alive. There were several large rocks on either side of the line closest to me, set at an angle.
It was an arrow.
Spinning back to the base of the tree-that's what the arrow was pointing at, after all-I looked down at the rock that made the tip of the pointer with dread. I was afraid I'd see freshly disturbed dirt and my wife's final resting place. But that ground proved to be just as the rest. I stepped all the way around the tree and when the light hit the carved letters just right, the words Save Her were right in front of me at eye level. And one side of the H was made into an arrow…pointing up.
I jumped back and stared up into the heights of the large oak, sure I'd still see nothing. But there was something. From within the shadow of a larger branch I could make out part of a leg and a foot. I knew it wasn't much to make a positive identification, but I knew this time I'd found her. She was here, right here, about twenty feet above me in this tree somehow. It took my entire will not to scream out to her. For one, I didn't know if she'd be startled and fall out of the tree. She could, and more likely, be tied to the tree. I didn't want to consider the other possibility-I'd never consider it. I'd just find a way to get up to her and get her down.
Then I saw the spikes that jutted out of the trunk and snaked up into the wooded prison. They were painted black and were non-reflective. That's why I hadn't noticed them first. Throwing the M4 across my back I mounted the first spike and looked back over my shoulder to make sure the open zone behind me was still clear. It was, and I made the vertical climb quickly, my eyes on her unceasingly. In the sixty seconds or so it took me to make it to the branch where she was, she never made a move. It was so incredibly dark and the moon seemed to dim against me, but I leaned in on the branch and looked into the face of Julie Sullivan.
Her head was down and there was a gag in her mouth. I was terrified to touch her, to feel the coldness of death on her skin. But my ears picked up the sound of heaven right then. She was breathing. She was alive!
Nearly slipping off the branch, I reached out to her and with both hands I cupped her face. She didn't jerk to life as I expected, she only groaned and slowly came to.
"Julie, my love, wake up." I slipped the gag off of her face.
I was entranced with love and at the same time horror at her appearance. Her skin was pallid and filthy and her clothes smelled insatiably bad. It was possible that she'd spent all of these days tied up to this tree.
She blinked in slow-motion and moved her jaw. She didn't look right at me instantly, but then her eyes met mine and her stare was void of expression. Julie was seeing me but she wasn't believing I was really there.
"It's me, Nick. I'm going to take you down out of this tree and get you somewhere safe now." I reached around to each of her wrists and pulled on the knots of the twine that bound them to branches that extended away from the main one. "Do you know what's going on? Do you know where you are?"
"You…you're here for real?" she said, her voice hoarse and barely audible.
"For real," my mind was working quickly. I scanned all around the tree and beyond, ready to raise my carbine at any sign of Brightman. I looked back into her eyes. "Can you hold on to me as I climb down?"
"I think so," she said and my heart dropped deeper within my soul with each word out of her mouth. Everything was so emotionless about her and I feared she was severely traumatized if not physically as well. She was now unbound from the oak and I helped her arms around my neck. As I positioned us carefully off of the branch and onto the first spike, I heard the distant sound of the first siren.
They were coming, and at this point I thought it was probably the best thing that could happen. I had her, had Julie wrapped around me and the only thing that mattered in my universe in that moment was that she was alive. The journey down was tumultuous and one of the hardest things I'd ever done in my life. I almost lost my grip numerous times and made us fall, but I didn't-I couldn't, and we were on the ground finally.
The siren grew into sirens and now I could see strobes of blue and white cresting the apex of the far road. I turned back to my wife. She was leaned against the oak and her eyes were closed and then they were open. She seemed to gain a slight more focus than when I'd first found her, her jaw began to quiver.
"You came for me."
I leaned in and hugged her, not too tightly, but firmly. "From the other side of the world I came for you my love."
There was an explosion in the night and both Julie and I jerked, eyes wide. We stared into each other in confusion. But then her eyes lost focus and she slid sideways. I remember trying to catch her but my left arm wouldn't work and all I could do was watch her fall to the ground. I looked at my left shoulder and saw a growing mass of dark liquid-blood. Then back to Julie. She had a similar massing blood flow but near the center of her chest.
I spun around and faced Sam Brightman. This wasn't a movie and there were no final words or great standoff speeches. I couldn't feel anything, hear anything. I only observed a person whose mind had been fried to the point of psychosis, whose eyes were mirrors of black hatred. Reflexive training guided my right arm, my working arm, to the M4 behind me and I brought it up level to my enemy. His own rifle was already trained on me and if it hadn't jammed in that second I'd be dead right now.
My thumb moved the selector switch all the way over to burst and I pulled the trigger. I found out later that two of those rounds entered into his chest and killed him almost instantly.
But as I pulled that trigger, my world went dark and I went down into oblivion and into hell.
"End with the dream," said the Muse, a whisper in my ear.
I shifted in the bed and thought of that sandman's reverie that had begun this story.
"Julie." And there she was. Very much okay. Just sitting there on the edge of the bed, eyes closed. Then she opened them and looked up at me, and smiled.
"Told you I was a big girl," she laughed. "But- you came up here to rescue me! Didn't you?"
"I love you, Julie. I couldn't sell you out for just one moment in eternity." We embraced and cried with the tears of a love tested and perfected by fire.
"He leaned to kiss me and I hit him!"
"His problem," I said, pulling her up. We walked outside the hotel never seeing Richard Barlow and stopped when we approached the car.
"We have no money and no gas," said Julie.
"Who cares," I laughed. "Let's just walk. Whatever adventure we have we'll be together. And I know for the first time we'll be okay too."
Hand in hand, we did walk, happier than we'd ever been in our lives.
Exactly one year ago today…after a grueling and torturous search for my kidnapped wife…I found her.
After I'd shot Brightman at the TA-20 MOUT Site at Fort Hood, I didn't remember anything for the next twelve hours. Doctors and nurses began to swim into the ocean of my consciousness at some point-I remember the lights were way too bright and one nurse told me later that I'd asked for nothing but jelly beans for some reason.
But when my memory and conscious thoughts became acute, I lurched in my hospital bed and screamed out for Julie.
In our final embrace at the MOUT site, Brightman had shot me in the back, or more accurately, the shoulder. But the bullet had gone right through me and into Julie's chest.
I think of that night a year ago…such hell…I feel for my bag of jelly beans, find them and my hands are shaking now. What was left in the bag scatters over me and run into the covers. Moisture creeps into my eyes as I stare at my trembling hand and I know the shakes are coming and soon my stomach will heave.
But right then, a hand softly closes across my own, the bed shifts and Julie turns over to face me from her side.
"I know that shake, babe," she said, smiling up at me in the dim light. I grasp her hand tight and take in a deep breath and smile back at her, though I allow the tears to come.
"Every force on earth tried to take you away from me a year ago today."
She sat up, leaned over and kissed me on the cheek. "Sometimes love is bigger than death," she whispered. "And I'm so thankful. The doctors were able to control my bleeding, but you were the one that saved me that night."
"Maybe that night," I said, cradling her face against mine. "But every day since is a day you save mine. Happy re-anniversary, Julie Sullivan."
"Happy re-anniversary to you, Nick Sullivan."