Death of Men

November 5, 2009

He had a picture of his mother and father in a pocket in his uniform. When the shell hit, bits of shrapnel sliced into him, one bit cutting through the photo.

He lay on the ground, staring up at the darkened sky, gasping for breath as fluid filled his lungs. In all his time he’d been at war, he had imagined what dying would
be like; He’d expected to die instantly…well, not necessarily expected, but he had hoped to die instantly. At any rate, whether dying slowly or dying
fast, the result was the same.

He could hear explosions and gunfire, and screaming from other men that had fallen. He wanted to cry out but couldn’t. He wanted to crawl to find shelter,
as he knew he was in danger here, but after months of fighting without so much as a scratch, he figured that somehow the odds were against him getting hit
to begin with, and that being mortally wounded was something that hadn’t been meant to happen. He felt the rush of death, could almost sense it as he
grew cold.

A German came down next to him, crashing into the mud at the bottom of the trench, landing on his feet, but collapsing. Blood poured down this man’s leg.
He would die slowly as well.

The enemy soldier collapsed and ripped his belt off, desperate to stop his life’s blood from draining from him. He wrapped the belt about his leg, above the
wound. Tommy (is my name tommy? he thought) watched this German deftly tie off the wound. A medic, Tommy thought, or maybe just very determined………..
Tommy coughed. The enemy spun about, now noticing him lying upon the ground, filthy with mud all over him. The German looked him over, probably wondering if he
was worth the time it would take to kill him. Tommy coughed some more, blood coming out of his mouth. His eyes didn’t even get wide as the German raised his
rifle and approached him. The American didn’t even bother to reach for a weapon. He was done with any fighting he’d been destined for, and this was the end.
He thought briefly about how cold he was, and then raised his hand to the German soldier as if in a “I give. Do as you like.” The man wouldn’t have understood
anything Tommy said anyway, even if he’d been able to talk. The German came closer to him, cautiously still, and bent down beside Tommy. The man
looked around behind him. Smoke, screaming, he seemed to take it all in. He opened Tommy’s shirt and looked at his wound and a grim look came over his face
as he realized what Tommy already knew, there would be no saving him.

The German soldier took hold of Tommy’s hand, gripping it tightly as if to comfort the boy, just barely 19. Tommy managed a smile, to let him know
that he understood the gesture. There was suddenly shooting nearby, and the sound of men running. The German looked around him, looked back at Tommy, who
was nearly gone now. Men dove into the trench next to the accidental friends and began pulling on their gas masks. Americans, these, like Tommy. They for
the moment took no notice of the kraut. The German, realizing what was happening, looked frantically for his gas mask. It was in the mud, with a hole in it.
He looked over at Tommy, who was looking back and forth between the newcomers and the he. Tommy used his last bit of strength to pull his gas mask out of
it’s bag, and handed it him. The kraut nodded and took it from him, placing it over his face.

Tommy gasped repeatedly as his lungs quit working, and to the German looked like a ridiculous parody of a fish in its death throes. He had been trying to
get behind enemy lines in the hope of surrendering, and quitting this madness, and now he was surrounded by Americans who would more than likely kill him
once they saw their dead comrade laying there in the mud, a Kraut bastard wearing his gas mask. He prayed to himself. He gingerly caressed Tommy’s face
as the life went completely out of the boy.

The mustard gas came.

Knowing the effects of mustard gas first hand, and knowing of its tendency to cling to the ground, the German forgot completely about his rifle
and shouted at the three american soldiers huddled at the bottom of the trench. He could only imagine the looks on their faces as he grabbed two of them by the
arm and began dragging them to one of the walls of the trench. The trench was no place to be, was no longer safe. He cried out in German at them. Then
the American boys remembered their training. They began scrambling out of the trench. The German soldier boosted one up, then another, with the first
soldier helping. They must have been horribly close to where the canister had found its mark, as the cloud seemed especially thick. The third US
soldier was finally up. The three doughboys paused and stared at the enemy soldier, unsure of what to do with him. He had helped them, but he was a kraut.
One of them finally screamed “Help him up!” and the other two moved frantically to assist.

Tommy watched all of this with a degree of fascination and awe. He looked over at his body, which now seemed more like…an empty box…to him. He took no
notice of the mustard gas, but watched his countrymen and the German. The four men seemed to be in a state of detente, Americans and German trying to decide
what to do next. Tommy walked over (could he still call it walking?) and stood with them. He felt like he was guarding them from something, but wasn’t sure
from what he was guarding them.

A whistling sound came singing through the air.

In an instant, Tommy found himself standing in a shell hole, blood and bone and gore scattered about on the ground. None of the four men were left.
The crater looked like God had punched the Earth in anger, not paying attention to who he struck down.

The ghost stood looking about him, but strangely, was not agrieved at the deaths of those men that had been standing here not a few moments ago. He
wondered if they too were ghosts, and if they would find their way back to the spot where they died. And then, as an afterthought, he wondered
if their deaths had been a better way to go than his, and then decided that to die slowly was better. he would have to ask them if he saw them again.

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5 minute fiction-Z

November 1, 2009

The older boy put his back into the lifting of the groceries, trying to keep pace with his mother. She looked once or twice as she moved hurriedly, almost dragging the younger child along as he, too, tried to keep pace. “Hurry the fuck UP.” She said to the boy. His brother looked up at the woman as she squeezed his tiny hand. He knew better than to complain about how tightly she was holding it.

She said things like that to her kids a lot. The boy sniffed as he hefted the bags once more. He strained to carry the bags. He was thin, and just about 8 years old. The other boy was maybe three. She dragged him with her left hand.  She ran the fingers of her right hand through her natty, dirty blonde hair.

The oldest one caught up with her at the apartment door. He was too young to be thankful for the fact that they lived on the first floor, meaning he didn’t have to carry the bags up a flight of stairs. He continued to hold them as she turned the key. She looked straight ahead and said nothing more to him, and opened the door.

“Hello.” The thing said to her. She stared, focusing on it. It looked solidly at her, fixing her with its stare.

“I’d like to talk to you.”

Yes, I know the walls look funky. I was rushing it. Now hush.

It hung in the air, looking right back at her as she stared at it, wide eyed with terror.

It floated in mid-air. It had a round head, practically a perfect sphere, but also not, like it had been worn down in places. It had large black spots for eyes, and…yes, she thought…a flower sticking out of the top of the head. And a sheet for a body, she thought, though she was not cognitive of the fact that she couldn’t move. She stood there stiff, staring at it. Her face was caught in the expression she had when she first laid eyes on it. This was not due to anything done by the creature. She was terrified.

“Your children won’t hear us. I’ve removed us from time.”

Her bottom lip shook just slightly, her eyes wide.

“You hurt your children. You have no idea how how much you hurt them. Why?”

It paused a few moments and said, “Try not to scream.”

“I-I…” She paused. She looked into the dark eyes of the creature. She heaved, covering her face with her hands as she sobbed brokenly. “I don’t know.” She finally answered. It seemed to nod and then, it said, in its almost feminine voice, “Let me show you something.”

She saw herself sitting on the sofa. Her youngest son was curled up by her on the sofa. She was holding some kind of book. Her older son was sitting up on the floor. He was holding up a big piece of paper. He said “Mom! I drew a picture from the story you’re reading us.” And she was smiling.

“He asked you to buy him paper at the store, and you said ‘no, it’s too expensive.’ But I know you just can’t wait to try on the earrings you bought, or to put that dye in your hair.” It suddenly had an edge in its voice.

The thing seemed to be glaring at her now. “Change. Don’t make me make you change. You wouldn’t like it.”

The door shut behind her. “Mom? Mom?” her oldest son said. Her younger son was going “Mommy? Mommy?”.

“Mom? Are you okay?”

She stood there in the apartment, her children staring up at her. Her face was wet from the tears she hadn’t even realized she’d been crying.

“Babies, help mommy put the groceries away. Then we’ll sit down and I’ll read a book to you or something, okay?” The boys looked up at their mother, smiling at the idea of being read a story. The younger child hugged his mom’s leg as he watched his brother carry the groceries into the kitchen.

“Now, what do you want me to read?” She said lightly, looking down at the four year old.

I had a boyfriend back when I was about 25 or 26. He was always really neurotic about things. I’d come out into the living room in my bra and panties and he’d look away as if I was his sister or something.

It was fucking awful. Looking back now, I’m not real sure why we started dating, but I think it had something to do with me drinking heavily. Anyway, we were sitting on the sofa one day. We were watching some crappy thing on sci fi channel…one of those cgi mutant monster movies. I looked around at him. He was watching it like he was a goddamned sheep. I reached over and grabbed his shirt, threw him down on the floor and got on top of him. I ripped my shirt off and pinned him down.

He started screaming. I slapped him. “WHAT THE HELL IS YOUR PROBLEM?” I screamed back at him.

Later on, when I had put another shirt on and wasn’t quite so insane anymore, I sat down next to him and held his hand. “Look.” I said, “I love you…kind of anyway…And… we’ve got to do something. You’re boring. Haven’t you ever wanted to just…I don’t know…cut loose?” He looked like I’d just kicked his favorite puppy. “Come on.” I said. “Haven’t you? Isn’t there…something kinky you’ve always wanted to try?”

He sat there, looking kind of unsure of what to say. Finally, he said, “Bondage.”

BONDAGE! There we go, I thought. So, we went down to a sex shop that a friend of mine worked at. We got handcuffs, some oils, incense…I even got a whip, just for the hell of it. It was all going to be very romantic.

Let me tell you something. Bondage is not romantic. I handed the whip and handcuffs to him, and laid out on the bed. He looked horrified. “What?” he asked. I could have strangled him. “You want me…to…handcuff YOU?” He didn’t know what to do with himself. “Yeah.” I said. He shook his head with an emphatic no no no no no no look on his face.I grabbed him and threw him down on the bed and cuffed him to the headboard. I ripped his shirt off and licked his nipples. Then I pulled his pants off.

He whimpered. I looked up at him as I was yanking his trousers over his shoes. “That hurts…the handcuffs are too tight.” he cried out.

I think I lost my mind temporarily. Because the next thing I did, I grabbed the whip out of the bag of goodies we’d gotten, pulled my arm back really fucking far, and….I beat the fucking SHIT out of him.  For about an hour. The entire time, I was screaming at him about what a useless shithead couch potato asshole he was.  I finally stopped when the whip broke. It was cheap, what can I say?

He was bawling his eyes out. Apparently, I’d been screaming another guy’s name while I was flogging him. We broke up not too long after that.