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When he saw the flash, a floodgate of thought poured from his mind.
Memories once lost, lessons once learned, emotions once felt.
Learning to walk, playing football with his older brother,
Receiving his first bicycle, the frustration of falling, the elation of success.
Years at school, preparing for the future,
His future.
Learning to drive, hitting a tree.
Partying with friends, learning to drink.
Meeting Sarah.
Her face, the way her hair blew in the wind. Her laugh, how it would flow over him.
And those beautiful eyes. The way they glistened that night.
The rain, its sloppy drops pattering on the grass. The feel of sand between his toes. The sound of the ocean and the wind in his face.
The brilliance of the setting sun, its rays like fire across the sky.
Watching it fade into night.
Hugging her close.

The world expanding. Graduation. Leaving for new experiences, new places.
Travelling across continents, hiking up mountains, sailing seas.
Learning new lessons.
Meeting new people, mastering new languages, grasping new cultures.
Watching the same brilliant sunset,
But now somehow changed.

Night.
Other faces. Worried faces. Scared faces.
A man shouting in a crowd.
Uniforms patrolling streets.
Fear.

Dwindling resources. Broken promises.
Marches, rallies, protests, riots.
Rebellions.

Speeches of hate, cheering crowds.
Scrambling governments.
Finger pointing, more shouting.
The wind dying down.
The sand coarse.
The ocean no longer calm,
Crashing into the rocks.

The war.

More speeches.
Valor.
Justice.
Patriotism.
Duty.

A signature.
The draft.

The tears of parents, children, siblings.
Sarah's tears. The rain now a downpour. Silence.
The wind’s angry wail, the sand’s rough, corrosive grit, the ocean’s startling strength.
Fighting. The yearning for life. The anguish of death.
Constant, ever-present, debilitating.
The valor of men, the cowardice of boys.
Friends lost, their faces burned into his mind.

And then the flash.

As he saw these memories, learned these lessons, and felt these emotions, time slowed. His heartbeat slowed, his surroundings slowed, the men and swaying trees and fighting slowed.
But not the bullet.
As it tore through his helmet, his last thought was of that smiling, beautiful face.
Sarah’s face.





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