The Ghost of You
Adrian panted as he rested his back against a small, makeshift wall of sand, gun shots firing all around him. To his right he saw a single man being held back from running to someone, screaming out some one's name. Following his gaze, Adrian saw a man crying out in pain while the medic fought to keep a bullet wound in the man's chest from bleeding too much. He inhaled deeply, shutting his eyes to try to keep the carnage out of his mind. The man who was screaming fell silent and Adrian opened his eyes again. He saw the medic crossing himself and knew the other man was dead. He shivered, feeling the gun in his arm quake with nerves. He heard others cry out as the bullets pierced through their skin and burrowed themselves into their flesh. Why had he chosen to join the army he couldn't remember, it all seemed so stupid now, so pointless. The man who was screaming just lay against the wall while those around him fell and shot back at the opposing force. His eyes were blank, desolate, as if the soul that had filled the body had died along with the first man.
From what he had heard from others, the two were brothers, which would be why the first was screaming and afraid. Adrian shut his eyes again and made a silent prayer that he hoped would keep him and others safe, before opening his eyes and turning around to shoot at the other army. He watched as a speeding bullet from his gun dug its way into a different man, his features shadowed by a helmet. As he fell back his face became more pronounced. He looked no older than sixteen and with a sinking feeling; Adrian realized what he had just done. Why had he chosen this life? He still couldn't remember. He inhaled deeply and vaguely realized he hadn't been breathing, before going back behind the cover of the wall. The image of the young boys face haunted him, no matter if his eyes were closed or not. The look of shock, of pain on his face as his lift slowly began to slip away. Tears were brought to his eyes as he realized that he had snuffed out the flame of a life without letting it live to its fullest extent.
He felt queasy and leaned over, the smell of the sea, salt and spilt blood becoming nauseatingly pronounced as he fought to take in deep lung filled breaths, trying to keep himself from vomiting whatever contents were in his stomach. As he stayed there for awhile, images of the night before came back to him in a whirl of emotion.
A large crowd had arrived, almost all women, some with children, and some alone or with friends. They were all waiting for the moment the troops would come home for the night, to see their families, before being ripped apart again and being sent back into war. A large amount of commotion overcame the crowd as a small band walked onto a propped up stage, all the members dressed up in their army uniforms. They started playing in the background while the rest of the troops walked in, eyes searching for familiar faces. Adrian was among them, looking for someone. Wherever he passed he saw crying women and children who didn't even know what to think as the person missing for most of their life finally came home for awhile. He saw a flash of blonde hair and his heart skipped a beat, she must be here, he was sure that they would have sent her a letter telling her that he was coming home. He continued walking, looking around for her. Finally, he caught a glimpse of her. She too, was staring out into the crowd but stopped as she caught sight of him. Cobalt eyes filled with tears as he gave her a small smile and half ran half walked up to her. In her arms was a small girl, only about two years old.
His wife embraced him tightly, crying with joy while the little girl just stared at him, transfixed and frightened by this father figure that had been missing for her whole life. He gave her a small smile and her name came rushing back to him. Jessica, how could he have forgotten, if only for a moment, the name of his beloved, his wife. She gave him a watery smile, tears coursing down her cheeks as she bounced their child in her arms slightly.
"Honey, do you know who this is?" She asked the little girl. She shook her head, her eyes never leaving Adrian. "That's daddy," Jessica said softly in the girls ear, "He's gonna be with us for tonight, can you give him a hug and say hi, sweetie?" The little girl looked terrified at the prospect of hugging this strange figure and buried her head in her mothers shoulder. Adrian felt his heart tear at the sight of this. His own daughter couldn't even look at him. He had been an MIA for her whole life and it made him guilty to think of her life without a father. His heart was heavy with sorrow and unshed tears for this little girl, his little girl. He broke into a smile though and opened his arms to hold her. Jessica gently handed her over and he felt the little girl shake in his arms.
A loud bang brought Adrian back to reality as a military tank was brought in, shooting at the buildings and the enemies, mostly hitting their targets. He saw that the man was gone now, but not very far. He had knelt down besides his fallen friend and Adrian saw that a single tear had fallen down his cheek. He looked around and saw that the enemies had been beaten back, though not without several casualties on the USA's side. This time, he did vomit up the contents in his stomach, the putrid smell rising into his nostrils and making him want to retch more than before.
He stood up slowly; looking around to make sure that there was no one around besides the mourning man and himself. He started following where the other men had gone, gun at the ready to defend himself. He stepped over the fallen bodies without disturbing them as best as he could, and felt his heartstrings being pulled every time he saw someone he recognized. Some of the very few good friends he had made were lying in the sand, dead and shot up. He turned his eyes away from the carnage and trained them to not look down, hoping that he wouldn't step on someone. He finally came across where the rest of the troops were, taking his place besides another man with a gun and shooting at a small group that were firing back.
He winced as he saw a body fall to the ground with a thunk. It didn't matter which side it was on anymore, a life was a life no matter what. He felt as if he was stuck in a horrible dream and couldn't wake up, no matter how hard he tried. How many he had killed he didn't know, but he knew he would pay for it eventually. If not now, it would be soon, no man could get away with killing this many and not pay the price. With a sickening feeling, he felt a bullet find its way into his shoulder, making him stumble back and fall down. He cried out in pain and the medic rushed to his attention, forcing a thick wad of fabric onto the wound and pressing hard to try and stop the bleeding. Once again, he remembered what had happened the previous day.
He still smiled and she gave him a small, hesitant smile back, seeing that he was no threat to her. He felt guilty though, holding something so innocent as his daughter. He, surely, wasn't worthy of this, not when he had experienced as much death and carnage as he had. He hoped with all his might that his baby girl would never have to see it.
He gasped slightly as he remembered, air filling his lungs as they fought to remain working and provide oxygen for his blood. That was why he had joined the army, so that his daughter, his wife, his family, would never have to suffer at the hands of the cruel. It all came back to him, the tears Jessica had spilled when she found out that he had enrolled himself in the army, the fear as he was drove away on a bus to go to boot camp. And all for one reason, to protect those he loved. That was why he was fighting, and why he would remain fighting. He felt his eyelids begin to get heavy, black spots splattering his vision.
'NO!' he screamed inside his head, fighting to remain conscious, 'I will not go like this! I have too much to live for, I can't go this soon! I can't leave Jessica behind, alone to raise our child! It can't end this way!' He fought to keep his eyes open but stopped, feeling the energy he had melt away as he kept fighting to keep awake. He opened his mouth to call out to Jessica, but was silenced by Death. For the last time, Adrian looked at the sky, before all sight disappeared and his world turned black.