Author's Note: I wrote this story when I wasn't in the best of moods, and decided to write something to cheer me up. It worked, I did feel better after writing this and figured that I might as well put it up.
The only person that he'd ever known as a friend was dead. His eyes brimmed with unshed tears, smoke and gunpowder coated his face, the body at his feet. He tried not to look at it, but it didn't help because he still knew that it was there, and every time he fired his rifle and saw a blue coated soldier fall to the ground, he started to wonder if he made someone else feel how he felt.
A few inches more or less to the left or the right, would that have made a difference? Could it have been him that had been killed instead with one slip of a rifle? He shook his head, could hear his friends voice in his mind when he'd known that it was over.
"Tell my wife that I'm sorry, tell her I wanted to come home to her and my boy."
How could anyone carry a message like that to anyone? He knew that he couldn't, that he would never go to see his friend's wife or his couple year old son. It would be better if he just shut the memories from his mind. But he'd promised. Why had he promised if he'd known all along he would never do it?
"I'll tell her Johnny, just hold on, we'll get a medic. It'll be alright."
"No, it's too late, just tell her, promise you'll tell her."
Had he even heard those last words? Maybe he hadn't lived to hear that last promise so maybe he wouldn't have to say that he broke a promise to a dead man. Why'd he have to die anyway, why did everyone who had died in the war have to die? He could hardly remember anymore why he had signed up in the first place, his family certainly hadn't wanted him to, had told him he was too young. Hell, he was 18, old enough to join the army and old enough to make his own decisions. He didn't have to listen or care to what his family said.
"I'll come home, and I'll see you all soon, I promise."
His parting words to his mother. It hadn't been soon, that was clear enough. That had been a year ago, a year wasn't soon. It felt more like a lifetime sometimes. Maybe when he came back they wouldn't even recognize him. Or maybe they would but they'd all hate him because he'd become a killer.
He bit open another package, loaded the rifle and fired into the advancing ranks. Another man dead from a shot he'd fired. How many had that been now?
The troops were charging, charging at each other, met in a whirl of blue and gray. He fired the rifle, watched the man in front of him fall without even seeing his face. The body fell so close to him, face pressed against the ground. He couldn't help it, all the anger of the battle worked up inside of him and he fell to his knees, pulled out his bayonet as he dropped his rifle onto the ground.
He plunged the bayonet into the back of the soldier again and again. It was for his friend, the friend who would never return home to his family. The friend who he couldn't even be bothered to want to keep the promise he'd made that day.
The man before him was dead, but he wanted to see the man's face, see the look that had been in his eyes when he'd died. Rolling the body over and looking at the pale face, he froze. For he knew that face. The blank stare that met him was that of his brother.
He'd killed his own brother, it didn't really sink in at first, he was so frozen in shock. They'd been from a border state, maybe it shouldn't shake him, his brother had always thought differently then he had. The day before he'd left they'd gotten into a fight.
"I hate you!"
The last words he'd ever spoken to his brother before he stormed off down the path to go fight. He hadn't really meant them, but he'd never said he was sorry. He never would have the chance, for he'd been the one to take his brothers life, the one who had insured that their family would never be whole again.
Somewhere in his daze, he felt the bullet enter his chest, almost welcomed the blinding pain that came with it as he fell backwards by his brother's side.
"I'll come home."
Another promise he would never keep, just one more lie to add to all the others.
"I'm sorry." His voice couldn't be heard over the sound of the battle surrounding him, but it didn't matter, he didn't have the strength to ask someone to pass on a message like his friend had. And, how likely was it that person would survive the battle?
The last thing he did before his eyes closed forever was reach out and take his brother's still hand. Neither of them to ever return home.