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Another Nightmare of Another War
A shot. A scream. A thud. Fast, frantic footsteps splashing in the mud. I close my eyes for half a second, locking in the fresh wave of salty tears streaming out of my eyes. My heart beats wildly in my chest; I know what I have to do.
I run through a forest covered in thick, tall pine trees and bushes with thorny branches on the ground. I can feel the sharp thorns on the branches breaking the hard, callused skin on the soles of my feet. I don't care, though. I can’t. I must save my brother. Twenty years old and already in the army. Already shot. Already minutes from death. But I can’t let myself believe that.
I can’t. I must have a scrap of hope to hold onto.
Trying to catch hope is like trying to catch smoke.
It circles and twists, its ribbons snaking their way up, up, up past your head until you are grasping for nothing. It has already disappeared.
I keep running. I can feel the reddish brown mud splattering up onto my calves with every step that my bear feet take. The faster I run, the higher the mud climbs.
I look up into the sky and see a black raven, calling to his brother. Calling, talking, same thing. I wish that I was that raven, talking to my brother. Flying, soaring above the world, diving in and out of clouds, feeling the sun reflect of my shiny, black wings.
Instead, I am running until I can save my brother. I know that that flying raven would save his brother’s life too. He has the advantage though, the edge; he can fly. It would be faster to fly, because time is all I have right now. I am holding my brothers life in my my hands, and the slower that I run, the less I can feel it.
I am running so fast. Everything is a blur and the trees are thickening. Their relentless branches with sharp needles cut my face, and I taste blood. I am running blindly, screaming his name.
“Aiden! I’m coming!” Under the branches cracking beneath my feet, I hear a whisper.
“Howard? Is that you?” Hearing his voice shatters my heart. It sounds so frail. Nothing like the strong, fiery voice that I know. Now he is almost gone. I reach him, and he is lying on the dead leaves, encircled in a puddle of blood. I kneel next to him, the tears streaming from my eyes sliding down his cheeks and into the warm, bloody mess.I hold his hand, his rough, solid hand.
Clutching my hand as tight as the little life connected to him will allow.
But then his hand droops in mine
Wilts like a flower.
There is no life left in him.
Then I feel like I am drowning in a huge sea, black as the raven’s wings. It engulfs me, swallows me. I am nothing more than a speck, a tiny piece of life. I struggle. I try to swim, to keep my head up.
“Wake up! Wake up Howard, wake up!”
I am in my room, surrounded by dark blue wallpaper and a blanket covering me with dinosaurs on it. There is no forest. I am holding no one’s hand. No raven is circling above my head.
I sit up in my bed, listening to the footsteps outside of my closed door. Tears. Kisses. Laughter. Dry, heaving sobs. Pats on the back. I swing my legs out from under my flannel covers and creep slowly out of my bed. I open my door and the hinge creaks. I walk out into the hallway. My family sees me, and I am suffocated in a stampede of hugs, kisses and wet, salty tears. I break away from them, and I take a long look at my brother. Not in the Army. Not yet. Almost, so close. I wish I could grab onto him and keep him here. With his family, where he belongs. I walk over to him, slowly, full of caution, not sure of how much emotion I should be showing. I bury myself in his stomach, throwing my caution to the wind. A sea of tears are streaming from my eyes and snot is running from my nose onto his green camouflage uniform that I so hate. Fighting for his country. Everyone said war is for heroes, for the valiant, for the brave. My brother is all of those things, but that does not mean that he has to fight with guns, kill people with one pull of his trigger. War turns everyone savage, but I’m hoping that that plague doesn’t touch my brother. He pulls away from me, his eyes shining. He leans down, towards my ear. “I’ll see you soon, Howard. I promise.”
And with that, he walks out the door and into a bus which takes him off to the battlefield.