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Hidden Soldier

Author's note: This piece has been inspired not only by my love of history but also my love of...  Show full author's note »
Author's note:

This piece has been inspired not only by my love of history but also my love of literature and writing. 

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Chapters:   1 2 3 4 5 6 ... 8 Next »

Chapter 1

I peel my shaking hand away from his pale forehead. His sickly pale complexion makes me feel sick to my stomach. I slowly wring out the washcloth into the bucket I have drug up to the side of the bed. The sound of the water hitting the bottom of the empty bucket makes me sigh. In total I had gone through two bucket. “Father,” I croak out quietly as to not disturb him. He doesn’t respond, but instead he coughs violently in his not so peaceful slumber. I press the washcloth to his forehead once more and breathe a sigh of relief as his figure noticeably relaxes. I stand up from my crouched position and turn to walk away. The house is all quiet now.
Floorboards creak under my weight as I step onto them. I run my hand along the peeling wallpaper collecting dust and bits of mold. My hem of my skirt snags on a sliver of wood jutting out from the side of the floor. I stumble for a moment before regaining my feet and continuing on down the seemingly endless hallway. Of course, nothing is endless. All good things come to an end. They last for so long you feel as if you can hold on forever, and just as you understand the importance of what you have, it slips out from your fingertips as smooth as silk. You attempt to grasp for something to hold on to, but it is as useless as trying to grab hold of water.
The hallway slowly comes to a stop, ending in a spiral staircase that neither looks nor sounds safe as you descend it. I grip the railing tightly as I slowly make my way down the rickety steps. The discolored wood of the steps gives in an ominous look. The majority of it looks as if it was struck by lightning. A rusty red hue randomly mixes with the brown and black of the remaining wood. I silently curse myself for not grabbing a candle. Being well past midnight, the house appeared pitch black. It reminds me of many things, most of them not pleasant. One predominately relating to my father, the darkness is what enveloped you in death.
Once I reach the bottom landing, I wave my arms around as if I was a blind person. Loose floorboards tug at my skirt, and table cloths brush against my waist as I walk by. A turned up edge in the carpet catches my foot and sends me stumbling forward. I throw out my arms to catch my fall. The wood scrapes up against my skin, embedding itself in my palm. I feel a sharp stinging sensation and a trickle of a fluid down my arm. Pulling myself up, I fix my sleeves which had been pulled up and try to ignore the slow flow of blood down my arm.
I make my way into the kitchen. I fumble for a moment with the match in my hand before striking it to light a candle. I tear a small piece of bread off of the loaf in the cupboard, and I take out a small cup. I proceed to make myself some tea. My stomach rumbles as I hurriedly eat the bread. With my father constantly needing care, the intervals at which I eat could be anywhere from hours to days. I sit quietly sipping my tea. I’m alone with my thoughts. The threat of  the ongoing war keeps me on edge, not to mention my father’s increasingly diminishing health.
The sound of arguing fills the streets most of the time: patriots fighting loyalists, fathers fighting sons, neighbors fighting neighbors. The war divided the colonies into sides. If we don’t stand together, we’ll accomplish nothing. Revolution had always been something I longed for. With the British taxing us constantly, we could barely afford to live. My father is in no shape to work; and, despite my looking, no one is willing to hire a woman. The longer I stay in this house the more I feel an itch to leave. Keeping a watchful eye on my father day and night is taxing. My face is now lined with worry lines. The dark bags under my eyes never leave.
I hear a loud thump come from upstairs. The candle slips right out of my hands and falls to the floor. I race toward the staircase and quickly fly up it. I don’t trip this time. Determination set on my face, I maneuver around in the dark. Once I reach my father’s door, I open it slowly. I expect to see my father on the floor in pain or something of that manner. What I actually see, however, is a book. My father’s hand is draped across the nightstand. I breathe a sigh of relief that I didn’t know I was holding in. I pick up the book that had fallen open, and I begin the trek to the bottom landing once more.
I see my fallen candle still burning somehow. It’s holding on. It burns despite the wind sweeping in through the window. It burns despite the rush as I dropped it.  It burns with a small flame. The color, however, has gone away. The once bright flame has been reduced to a flicker. It’s the same candle it was before, but now it has no spark. It’s not bright like it was before. It’s not giving off warmth and a feeling of protection any more. It has left me to fend for myself on this chilly dark midnight.
I grasp the metal of the platter on which the candle sits on. Slowly I raise it up towards my face and blow on it. The air makes a single dying spark flare up with light again. Using the barely flickering candle, I make my way upstairs once more. Bread crumbs lay forgotten on the floor. Reaching the door to my room, I walk in. I instantly begin coughing as dust from the room enters my lungs. I haven’t been in there in days due to going multiple nights without sleep. I set the candle on the dust filled nightstand and climb into the bed.
The door remains wide open. I pull the sheets up to my chest, and I bury my face into the pillow. For a moment I just breathe. I let the weight of life’s problems come off of me for just a second. For once I feel okay. Any thoughts of taxes, war, and my father go away. I no longer think of life. I no longer consider death. For just a moment, everything is gone. Sleep is a strange thing. You need it to survive; yet in doing so, you entirely forget yourself for hours.
Whenever someone dies, you say that they are at rest. Yet, we rest every night. Do we die every night? Do we leave this world behind for a couple of hours in hope to return to a better day? Sleep is supposed to be refreshing. It is how we stay healthy and conserve our energy. Yet all it seems to do for me is make me slower. Actions became increasingly stalled, and once I come out of this period of time, I long to go back. Is that what sleep really is? Does it make us better or worse?
When we sleep, is it making us healthier or is it making us crave for that time? It makes us fully ready and even wanting a time where all we do is sleep. All we do is float around the unknown, and we never have to face the hard cruelties of this world. Despite everything, sleep still takes us. It always gets us in the end. Some of us give in willingly. However, some of us put up a fight. Is that what it really means to die fighting? To try and fight that eternal sleep for as long as possible?  The thing is, I don’t give in willingly. I fight. Yet, it takes me anyway.
To my uttermost surprise I sleep through the night straight into morning. I awake as the sun’s rays flood through the window. The eternal sleep hasn’t taken me. The colors of the world always astound me. Though the sun is so far away, it still burns bright. It gives a feeling that makes us safe. The yellow color floods the world daily making us feel secure. The bed creaks loudly as I shift my weight while rising for the day. I examine the clothes I have on. Most people would be disgusted with my attire; however, it has become somewhat normal.
The bottom of my skirt hangs tiredly. It’s practically shredded with holes. Dirt, burns, and water stains appear in blotches on the rest of my skirt. My blouse is still tucked in but has seen better days. Rips appear in random places along the sleeves, and dirt appears so much that it makes me look as if I have spots. I make my way toward my wardrobe and pick out another skirt and blouse for today. I make my way to my father’s room to check on him. I reach his door and stop dead in my tracks. My father lies on the bed looking too still. I rush over and check for a pulse. I find a very faint beat.
Quickly I take the washcloth which remained in his room and press it to his forehead once more. I make my way downstairs and out the front door. Grabbing my skirt and hiking it up, I run as fast as I can. The cobblestone seems to crunch under my feet as I tear across the streets. People give me strange looks as I run by. Loud voices fly everywhere. The sudden change in the volume of everything throws me off, and I have to stop for a moment to regain my thoughts. I lean up against the side of a house, collecting my breath and trying to concentrate. Suddenly the shutters fly open, and I jump back in surprise. "Watch it," a man growls and quickly shoves me forward once more.
Once I reach the office of the physician, I shout for help. Sunlight streams through the window into the room illuminating it. Compared to the darkness that engulfs the various rooms of my house for the majority of the time, this new brightness hurts my eyes. Soon I hear the pounding of footsteps on the wooden floor. In no time someone comes running out. “My father,” I breathe out while leaning on the counter, “he’s not moving, but he’s breathing.” The physician shoots me a nervous glance that sets me even more on edge than I already am. He reaches for a small black bag that sits on the chair in the corner of the room. “Lead the way,” he says with almost a sigh.
Quickly I reopen the door and head back out onto the streets. I am met with a tidal wave of people heading in multiple directions. The flood of people sweeps me into the current and knocks me down in no time. Sitting on the hard ground, people rush by me, around me, and even over me at times. The struggle to regain my footing is practically useless. No one hears me asking for help in the midst of all the hustle and bustle. Finally, a firm hand grasps mine and pulls me onto my feet. I see the physician, his face red from the effort of finding me and helping me up. He beckons me forward as to lead the way.
Hiking up my skirt once more, I lead the way as best I can through the churning sea of people. I am aided by the thought that someone is coming to help my father. I have to put faith in the thought that this man can fix him. My father means the world to me. Losing him would be like losing an organ. He was there for me in a way no one else was. Before she passed, my mother was a hateful woman. She always tried to teach me the ways of the world. She said a woman’s place was in the home providing for her husband in any ways she could. I never picked up anything quick. I was a slow learner, and my mother hated me for it.
She would beat me occasionally when I would ruin a meal or tear a skirt from the washing. She constantly ranted to my father about how I was a disgrace. However, he always cared. If my mother made me skip a meal for failing, he would bring me food hidden in his pockets. He always told me not to listen to my mother. That a woman has just as much capability to do anything a man could. He told me to follow my dreams and live my life. After my mother passed, he took care of me. He let me sleep in his bed when I was afraid of the storms.
Eventually, we reach my door. I fumble with the handle before pushing it open wide and racing in. The physician follows suit. He looks nervous as he ascends the shoddy staircase. His hand grasps the railing firmly as he slowly makes his way up. He walks slowly down the hallway despite my many attempts to tell him to move even a little faster. I reach the doorway of my father’s room and worry does not fail to make itself shown on my face. The physician bends down slowly next to my father’s bed. He searches for a pulse just as I did, and I catch my breath.
The physician turns back and nods his head slightly at me signaling his findings. I let out the breath with great hesitancy knowing that the chances of him surviving were exceedingly decreasing as the time ticks away. The physician seems to take his time. He moves at a very slow pace, but, sure enough, he does his job well. He turns around once more, his face looking grim. “Your father,” he speaks slowly as if searching for a word. “Your father seems to have fallen into deep sleep. He’s still alive, but the chances of him waking from his fitful slumber are… slim.”
I feel tears begin to well in my eyes. All these years my father has taken care of me. All these years he has provided and put my being above his own. He has managed to do this for all this time yet when my time has come to repay his generous favor, I failed. I failed in keeping him well and happy. I have failed at providing for him. I have failed at being a daughter. Quickly wiping any trace of tears from my eyes, I make up my mind. “Do you have a family?” I ask the physician. He slowly shakes his head in reply. “Would you mind?” I start to ask before second guessing myself.
There is so many different ways this plan can go wrong. There are so many unknowns and so many questions. Is it worth it? Is it the right decision for father? For me? I am about to forget the whole idea when I look at my father. His face is pale and sickly. He lies, though seemingly peacefully, with a look of pain creeping at the edges of his face. His complexion resembles that of dying man, and his hands are clammy, shaking under the covers. “Would you mind staying to watch over my father? I have some unfinished business to attend to.”

Chapters:   1 2 3 4 5 6 ... 8 Next »

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jaime1978 said...
Feb. 28 at 11:57 am
Great Job, Marin! - Ms. Grun

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