If the doctor had his way, he would not have spent the last three years in a wartime infirmary, caring for victims of the war. Of course, there would never have been a war at all, if he'd had any voice on the matter. He would have been free to spend his days with the woman he loved - and married.
Marion was an accomplished pianist, and was partial to Beethoven's Moonlight Sonata. Being the romantic creature that she was, she often played this particular tune on her piano late at night, before the two of them went to bed. The room where the piano stood allowed only a single ray of moonlight into the emptiness, and the white carpet brightened the setting even when there was no light. The doctor would usually sit at a dinner table in the adjacent room, but often stood nearby and watched how she moved her hands across the keys.
He remembers the routine quite vividly, though years have passed since he was last at home. The night that the telegram arrived, calling the doctor away, there was a change in Marion's movements.
That night, he heard the sorrow that clung to the bottom of her heart. Her fingers sank with every note. Today, the memory that once served as a comforting sanctuary is now a disservice to what little peace of mind he manages to muster. Months have passed since he last received a letter from Marion, and the last one was an utter void. The life they knew together has been irrevocably changed by the war, though the war was never destined to be its end. The doctor's developing illness has led his service to be dismissed ahead of time, and today, the patient he is caring for will be his very last.
Lamps flicker inside the infirmary as nightfall descends, and steals away the natural light. The day is almost over, and the doctor could not be more grateful that he will, at last, be free to sleep soundly. No more near-death incidents, no more grotesque images of victims being brought in the middle of the night. Above all, no more pain in the eyes of soldiers and loved ones witnessing the suffering caused by the wars of higher men.
The doctor glances at the clock and turns back to the patient before him,
"There, now. You're all finished," He smiles at the man whose bandages he has finished changing. The man grins and nods his head in gratitude.
The doctor proceeds to his office quickly and begins ridding the space of all traces of his work, creating room for his replacement. As soon as the last folder and patient file is put away, he takes a deep breath of relief.
Like clockwork, however, his peace is abruptly ended by rapid footsteps bursting through the doors. Voices cry out for attention, and a nurse runs to his door and swings it open without knocking,
"Come quickly, they've just brought in a child!"
The doctor, tired and weary, follows the nurse out of his office and back into the great hall. He approaches the child, observing her carefully - her dark hair, her oval face, and almond shaped eyes. In a moment of shock, the world suddenly stops spinning. The doctor's heart suddenly drops.
"Whose child is this?" He asks.
"She's mine," The doctor looks up and matches the fragile voice to an unfamiliar face. The man approaches in tears, without shifting his gaze away from the child. Nurses scurry around them, but the doctor stands still.
The child's resemblance to Marion is striking.
Thoughts begin to reel in the doctor's mind, and his mind begins to reject all other matters. Unsure of whether to feel despair or confusion, he turns sharply away from the table, from the sight of the child, and accidentally knocks over a stand with tools on it. He looks again, his gaze traveling back and forth between the child and the man. The similarity is unbelievable, almost as though he is peering at a younger vision of his wife on the table. Marion's face flashes across his mind again and again, and for a moment, he can hardly stand to look at the girl. The same thought dashes through his mind in circles. Could it be her child? No, of course not. But, could it?
A humble, nameless angel stands on the other side of the bed and watches the doctor cover his mouth with his hand, whilst glancing at the child in between the turns of his head. His thoughts pass through the angel's mind as well, and it leans forward to whisper in his ear,
This child holds the lives of many in her hands,
The angel extends a slender hand to calm the doctor's thoughts, but is interrupted by a hissing voice from a dark corner of the room.
It is in the predator's nature to take life when it seeks peace. It is not in a human's nature to grant life, if their peace is to be taken in return.
The angel looks back toward the dark voice, the voice of a devil, echoing quietly from the corner. It travels through the room and resonates in the doctor's heart, as his head spins with anger and confusion.
What can be your salvation in this darkness, if not love and faith? The angel whispers softly toward the doctor.
Revenge. The voice responds sharply.
The doctor's pulse rises from the stress, and he turns away from the child.
Love is his salvation. It whispers.
There is no love. The devil in the corner whispers. The child will die, and she too, will find salvation from her pain in the void.
The child must live. The angel whispers.
"Please do something!" The man gasps, sobbing for his child.
His voice pierces the doctor unexpectedly, pulling him back to the scene. The man's fearfulness pulls back the memory of the sorrowful love in Marion's eyes when she learned of his deployment. He turns slowly, and lifts the table he'd knocked over - in time for a nurse to bring clean tools.
Explosives detonate in the distance and create thundering booms, but the doctor's fear and confusion have transformed into resolve. He assesses the child's injury for the first time, acknowledging its frightening appearance, and begins his work. After an hour has passed, the doctor steps back, sweating profusely.
"She's alive," He announces, "She'll be alright."
"Thank you..." The man whispers.
The doctor smiles warmly and turns to head back to his office. Hardly a moment later, his chest begins to tighten violently. The doctor tumbles to the ground, in time for one of the nurses to catch him. He watches with distant eyes as they scurry around him in a panic.
One limb relaxes after another as his grip loosens and vision blurs, and his breathing slows to a stop. All anguish leaves him, as does his peace. The nameless angel kneels beside him as life, too, leaves his body. His eyes remain open, filling with moonlight, void of happiness, void of suffering.