James twisted the fork in his hand, the noodles in his bowl wrapping themselves around the prongs. He then dipped it into the small cup of butter at the middle of the table. Chatter from his comrades buzzed around him, like a thousand bees pointlessly swarming a honey-comb.
Since Gary had died, everything seemed pointless and irrelevant to the big picture of life.
Why did humans go to the Movie Theater, when thousands of people are dying everyday? Why did soldiers have to wear uniforms, when all they do is shoot down another man with a life and a family waiting anxiously at home? Why did people have to buy name brand clothes, when people all across the world sat naked and starving, homeless and dirty?
How was Gary to know he would die that afternoon? Everyday, Gary woke up before the sun. He ate a bowl of cereal, and kissed him family goodbye as they slept soundly in their beds. Everyday, he boarded his helicopter number 92 and flew soldiers to various locations. How was he to know that after lifting off of the HeliPad that afternoon, that he would never see his family again?
How did James know that he would not die in the next few minutes, just like Gary was there and suddenly gone? What if he 'spontaneously had an annuarism' before he could even take his next bite? How could he be so confident in the fulfillment of his life that he was sure he could fight as a Ghost and not die, leaving behind his girlfriend and his new found friends like Gary had left behind a wife and six kids? How could anyone on Earth even leave their houses without the fear of death gripping them like an iron fist?
Subconsciously, he continued twisting the fork, the noodles gripping the fork as the pending death of every living thing gripped his mind. The inevitable death that clung to the future of his friends Kayden, Sierra, Howard, and Lindsay, his mom and dad, his girlfriend Jackie, and even his dog Sparky seemed to be following them everywhere, waiting to strike them just as it had struck Gary.
Life itself even seemed pointless to James, now.
As he sat there twirling his fork, dipping it in flavorful butter, and eating it mechanically, Howard studied his face. He frowned at the look of deep depression on his friend's face. "Kayden," he whispered. "Do you think James-" "I possessed by the demon of depression? Yeah." Howard's frown deepened as his comrade continued. "All joke's aside, I'm worried about him. I think it's about Gary, too. Often, soon after the first death occurs in a squad, you will go through depression, anger, denial..." Kayden nodded. "It happened to me after my first fight, when Joey Wong died," he replied in a hushed tone. "We all did after our first fight. It's hard, being in war. He'll have to learn to deal with it, like we did."
Howard's frown lingered on his face. "Losing Gary was hard for all of us, but I'm especially worried about James." Lindsay leaned in and joined the conversation. "It's called Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. Depression is just one of the symptoms." Howard's frown lines deepened. "This does not bode well, friends."
James timidly lay down on his bed. The loud and hesitant CREAK the bed made reminded James of the squeek of the Helicopter's propellers slowing to a stop as he climbed into the Cockpit, groping out for Gary...
The Flashback suddenly ended, his face sweaty. He reached up and wiped the sweat from his forehead. Sweat felt like...
Blood. Blood spurting from Gary's stomach, where the metal was protruding. Blood poured out like a waterfall, covering everywhere in the Cock pit in mortal red. Blood dripping from the corner of his mouth after James removed his helmet...
The flashback ended, James' hands sticky with sweat. He put a hand on his racing heart, hoping it would slow down.
After a little while, he fell asleep. But only for a moment, as nightmares consumed his thoughts.
"James," a voice whispered out of the smoke in front of his eyes. "Jaaaames," it whispered softer. "Where are you?" "James," the voice said a little louder. He looked up from the smoke to see flames enveloping Gary's impaled body. "I wasn't dead when you left me, James." James' hands grew sweaty. "Yes you were, yes you were, yes you were!" "No I wasn't! I burned slowly to death, the flames eating my flesh..." As he spoke, the flames crawled up his skin, eating at his neck and chest. "I burned slowly to an ash, alive through it all. I felt my lungs burning, burnt holes letting air escape. I couldn't breath, my lungs didn't hold what I inhaled... The smoke burned as it went down my throat, out my lungs, and into my chest. My bones were breaking from the heat, like play dough in the oven..." James' heart raced, the images flashing before him. "Watch me die, James Richardson." As the flames licked at Gary's eyes, James' let out a blood curdling scream.
Howard burst through the locked door, James a sweaty mess on his bed, the scream lingered in the air.
"James!" He shouted, startling the man from his sleep. He emitted another scream at the sight of another man in his room. "Howard! Don't scare me like that!" Howard frowned. "I didn't mean to. I just wanted to wake you up." James reached out and grabbed the edge of the blanket, wiping the sweat from his face onto the blanket. "Are you ok?" he asked. James glared up at him. "I'm fine." Howard looked at him oddly. "Are you sure? You kind of screamed at me-" "I SAID I'M FINE!" He punched the lamp beside his bed, the glass shattering as it crashed against the wall.
Howard grimaced. "Oh... ok. We are all going to target practice. Would you like to go? You loved it yesterday." James looekd away, not interesting. "What gave you that idea? Go target practice; you need it. You sucked at it yesterday." Howard's frown deepened once more, sad for his friend. "Are you sure?" James stood and threw the broken lamp at him. "Go away!" "If you need anything, I'll be in the Shooting Range." James nodded, sitting back down on his bed.
He lay on his back and stared at the ceiling. His mind was blank, not a single thought filling it. He felt nothing, not sleepy, not sad, not guilty, not angry, not happy...
Hours seemed to pass, days, maybe merely minutes, before Kayden peeked into the room. "James?" "What." Not a question, a statement. "Are you okay?" James did not reply. "I thought maybe you would want to come out of the tunnel to eat dinner." Have I really been laying here that long? James asked himself emotionless. "Be right down," he said calmly. Kayden scurried off, the click of the door making James flinch.
A few minutes later, James stood and walked slowly down to dinner, touching the cold walls. When he climbed the stairs and clambered through the trap door, the heat of Cuban air hit him with reality. He immediately grew sweaty as he sat down at the large table to eat. The table was quiet except for whispers that buzzed in the small room.
He poked at the chicken on his plate. He had lost his appetite somehow. Howard gave him a friendly grin and attempted to start a conversation. "You should have been at Target practice, James! Jimmy shot a target 450 feet away with a pistol! It was so amazing." James nodded. "Fun." Howard gushed some more, hoping to get James interested and talking, trying to stop his depression before it took control. "We are leaving for Gary's make shift funeral in a few minutes. Are you coming?" Maybe that wasn't the best conversation starter.
"He's dead, you guys," he said with no emotion on his face. "He wouldn't care if we buried his helmet or not." Kayden jumped in. "But we want to be able to remember him somehow. We were thinking of making a gravestone, and burying his helmet by the Helicopter, but his body is probably already ate by buzzards." The image of the Helicopter flashed in James' mind, then the image of Gary's helmet flashed, and then the blood dripping from the side of his mouth. His hands grew sweatier then they were, his heart racing. "He's dead, and I don't think we should go by the helicopter, his body is still there, but decayed and gross, and he's dead so why bury him? It doesn't matter to him he's dead..." Lindsay replied, "But we do not want to forget his noble act. He sacrificed himself for us." James stood and grabbed the edge of the table. Out of anger and flipped the table over, the food flying everyone.
"Gary is dead, not coming back, he can't think, or breathe, or- or even CARE if we bury his freaking helmet!" He kicked the table, laying on it's side. He stormed off to his rooms, his sweat leaving condensation on his chair. Howard rubbed his temples as James stormed from his room.
Lorence stood from his chair; "He is suffering from PTSD, isn't he?" Howard replied softly, "I think so." Jimmy frowned, leaning forward. "Same here. He wouldn't talk to anyone, and he gets randomly angry, and he was shaking. And Howard said James had a nightmare?" Howard nodded. "And threw a lamp he had punched at me." Kayden jumped in and said, "He also wouldn't come down to Target Practice, and when I asked him to come to dinner he said, 'Just a minute', and it took him a half hour to get down here.
Brian smirked. "These aren't losses, my friends. It's entertaining and amusing." Sierra glared at him. "That's my friend, Brian. And you don't even care that he is going through freaking DEPRESSION." Jimmy mimicked his smirk. "And if I remember clearly, you went through depression, too." Brian's face fell. "In fact, you cried when you your nightmares." Everyone at the table laughed as Brian stood up and left, mumbling something about the bathroom.
"All jokes aside," Lorence said, "PTSD is a very serious condition. People can grow suicidal, become prone to violent outburst, or become active in illegal matters. They often lose interest in things they used to enjoy, feeling hopeless or detached or indecisive, or even jumpy. People suffering from PTSD often have flash backs or dreams that have physical reactions; a racing heart, sweaty palms, etc. Tired, but can't sleep, upset stomach and can't eat, and lots of other things like headaches. They can become nervous, helpless, numb, or even just shocked. They usually try to avoid anything that reminds them of the 'accident', so some good therapy would be getting him used to those types of things again-"
Kayden interrupted, "So, for, like, serious, you think James is suffering from PSTD?"
"Yes." He replied before continuing. "Easily upset, guilt, feeling lonely despite the fact that everyone is with you, and many other things are also common symptoms." He stopped as Howard said, "James fits most all of those." Jimmy frowned. "Well, what do we do now? We can't just send him off to fight like this!" Lorence grinned. "That is where I come into play. I studied Psychotherapy for three years in college before I joined the Ghosts." Jimmy stood and smacked his hands together, a loud clap resounding. "Then you have to help him."
Lorence chuckled. "I can't." Jimmy groaned. "You just said you could!" "I never said that. I said that was where I came into play, not that I could help him." Lindsay sighed. "Then how are we going to help him?" "I'm going to help you help him." Howard looked at him, puzzled. "James does not trust me enough to talk to me. But he trusts you all."
Howard grinned. "I'm listening."
Author's Note: PSTD is a very serious condition, and is not some made-up disease for this story. It is a disorder caused by very traumatic events.
Just for next time, James is suffering from PSTD. He is becoming depressed after losing Gary. He has never been through anything like this before, and has practically gone into shock. BTW, if you are looking at this story for the fights, they're coming later. ;)