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Dancer, singer, actress
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~joined 8/10/20~

Message to Readers

I got some great critiques from one of WtW's amazing editors and plan to thoroughly incorporate them into the story in the future. Unfortunately, due to my abruptly overwhelming schedule, I have yet to find time to edit, and will therefore have to submit this original version instead. Hopefully it's still enjoyable!

The Unending Battle

September 15, 2020

    "You've heard what they've said about Vietnam-" she sobbed. He cut her off with a kiss, wiping away her tears with his thumb.
   "I'll be back."
Thomas lurched awake from the memory, gasping and clutching his shoulder. Grimacing, he rose from bed, making his way to the washroom.
   Peeling off his sweaty nightshirt, he hissed, unwrapping the large bandage around his chest.
   "Let me help." Katherine appeared behind him suddenly, pulling at the bandages. Thomas' breath caught, pain shooting through his shoulder.
The bullet tore through his chest, knocking him down in blinding agony. His consciousness wavered as shouts flew overhead.
   Suddenly, something crashed beside him. The boy on the ground was a young man from his division. The ever-present smile he wore was replaced by a twisted look of horror; his mouth agape, his eyes wide but vacant of life.
He growled, swatting Katherine's hand from his wound. She drew back, shock in her eyes. Thomas dropped his hand. 
   "I-I'm sorry, Kath" he stuttered.
   "N-no, it's fine. In fact, it's my fault. I should be less pushy. I’m...going to go wake James.” But she stayed, chewing on her lip until eventually her look turned to one of resolve.
   “Actually, love, we need to talk.”
"I know you've been struggling this week since arriving home," she said as they sat together. "I've woken to you screaming at night, soaked in sweat."
   "Kath, I'm sorry. I'll try to be more quiet,” Thomas interrupted.
   "That's not the point," she exclaimed. "I'm worried. I can see how badly these phases pain you. I want to help, love! But I can't if you won't talk. I'm afraid you'll get hurt."
   He wanted to open up to her, to share his struggles. But there were things he couldn't tell her now, things he could never tell her. So he lied.
   "Of course, Kath."
   She rose to her feet, filled with relief, drawing Thomas up into an embrace.
   "Good," she murmured. "I love you, Thomas."
   "I love you more, Katherine."
That night, as Katherine prepared dinner, Thomas approached his four-year-old son at the table.
   "So..." Thomas plastered on a grin, pulling out a chair beside James. "Got any hobbies? Play any sports?"
   "Mama says I not 'lowed talk to strangers." James replied, struggling to put the words together formally. 
   This simple sentence uttered by a small child was a punch to the gut. Of course he saw him as a stranger. Thomas had been gone James' entire life.
   James tapped his arm. "Are you sad?"
   Thomas bit his cheek, holding his smile.
   "Nope. Whaddya say we play some ball after dinner?"
   James shrugged, distracted in testing how far he could slide his plate across the table before pulling it back.
   Thomas attempted to stop the plate, receiving a glare. He gave up, not wanting to warp their relationship any further. That was a mistake. The plate flew off the table with a crash.
The sounds echoed inside the trench: screams, grenades, gunshots. His memories of that day melded together.
   It was loud, and his feet were numb. His best friend George was there with him.
   Until he wasn't.
   George had fallen behind, winged by a stray bullet. Thomas watched in horror as his friend limped toward them.
   "Thomas! Please, Thomas-" George was cut off as another bullet whizzed overhead, lodging into his throat.
   The rest was a blur; screaming and running for his friend, being stopped and forced to keep shooting. He shot like a mad man, taking out whoever he could, emotions carrying him as George’s final pleas echoed back.
   "Please! Thomas..."
"Thomas, please," Katherine cried, hugging James to her chest, eyes wide.
   Looking down, he saw a gun in his right hand. Taking in his surroundings, he saw their small chandelier was now nothing but shattered glass. The ceiling and walls surrounding it were riddled with bullet holes.
   He must've taken the gun from his jacket behind him.
   "I-I'm-I'm sorry!" he gasped, dropping the gun with a clatter. "I'm so sorry."
   He took a step toward Katherine, but her shoulders tensed, her back to the wall.
   "Thomas," she whimpered. "You know I love you and always will, but we can't live like this." Thomas made to interrupt but Katherine stopped him.
   "I want to help get you through this, but James is my priority now," she continued. "And yours, too. That's why," She looked away. "That's why we're leaving. James and I. Just us."
   Thomas's eyes widened in disbelief, but Katherine continued quickly.
   "We'll stay with my brother. That way, James is safe and we can also pay for the help you need while you stay here."
   Setting James down, Katherine took a tentative step forward then placed a cautious hand on Thomas's shoulder.
   "Our bags are packed," she whispered. A look of betrayal crossed his eyes as Thomas realized she'd been expecting this.
   "Don't be mad," pleaded Katherine. "I just want what's best for you. Once this has passed, we can live as a happy family again." 
   Only, it wouldn't pass. It wasn't a phase or a mood. This was him now.
   As Katherine leaned up for a kiss, Thomas pushed her away, anger and devastation boiling inside him.
   "Just go," he muttered, holding back his tears.
   "GO! Leave! Get out!" he snarled. "You wanna get away from me so do it. You know, I might slip back into one of my 'phases' if you stay too long. Why linger and torture me?"
   Thomas stormed up the stairs. He waited for when the door slammed and the crying stopped. His own tears ceased at some point, replaced with numbness, only his thoughts as company.
   His wife was scared of him. His son thought he was a stranger. His best friend was dead. And it was all his fault.
   He lay there in silence for a few minutes, or maybe a few hours, basking in that familiar, blessed numbness. 
   Then, the tears came again, unyielding, until they finally lulled him to sleep.
I think it's good to spread awareness of the many struggles faced by returning veterans. I tried capturing one or two in this, but there's really an infinite variety of devastation that different soldiers face in coming home. Thanks for reading :)


See History
  • September 15, 2020 - 7:32am (Now Viewing)

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  • Anlee

    oh my goodness. this piece is so poignant and impactful. you've really shed light on the conflicts veterans face. love <33

    3 months ago
  • Tayyaba

    This was amazing. If a writer could bring tears in ones eyes through a piece of writing then u achieved what u want, really appreciate it.

    4 months ago