Tonight, as he sits at his desk, he closes his journal. That journal is full of daily memories, most good, many of them bad.
John Peterson, Thirty five years old, ex-military officer, is a lucky man. , married to his high school sweetheart, and also the survivor of a terrible crash. He collided head on with a drunk driver, both on their way from different beers (John was out with friends, but had only one beer) This had left him on the shelf for three months, with a broken leg, shattered left wrist, fractured skull, and one crushed vertebra. Very lucky indeed.
If he new anything of what was going to happen soon, he would gladly have stayed in the hospital.
Even thought he won enough in the case to pay his hospital bills and live nicely for a while, he couldn't stay put for long, no matter what the doctor said. He wasn't supposed to work, but he did anyway. He got a job at the local golf course, just last week, and he liked it so far. All he did really was fix golf carts, schedule tee times, and drive around the course in the morning and at night, to make sure nobody was out without permission. Even though he'd have chronic pain for the rest of his life, he was still happy. He was alive, after all.
Mike, the kid who picked up the golf balls on the range, caught his attention as he was running toward him, almost in dead sprint.
"John"! he yelled, "There's somebody on the phone".
Curiously, he went to the boy, who was holding Johns cell phone out to him. Taking the phone in his hand, he answered
"John, pro shop manager, how can I help you?"
"John?" this voice said "This is Officer Thompson"
"Afternoon Sir, what's up?"
There was a pause at the other end, and then,
"We need you to come down to the station John; we need your help with something"
"When," he replied
"We need you to come now, John. Its part of an ongoing investigation, and I can't explain anymore until you get here."
When he got down there, Officer Thompson was waiting for him. After telling John to follow him, he led the way. John had known Mike for a while now; they both graduated in 93, and took some classes at the time.
As they turned the corner, they stopped, and Officer Thompson hit the button on the wall, summoning the elevator.
"Did they move you office Mike" John teased
"Not yet man, besides, we're going downstairs"
Now he caught John's attention. He was fearful that Sharon had an accident, but mike said,
"It's an old military friend John" saying as they entered the morgue. There, on the autopsy table, was his old commander, Michael Christenson. His face was blue, eyes glazed in their sockets, and there were purple marks around his neck and wrists.
What happened?" He asked his voice distant and soft, holding back tears.
"His daughter found him this morning, after she got back from a weekend sleepover at a friends house. It was apparent he had been there for quite some time. He was bloated when we got there. We needed to get confirmation on who it was, because the daughter was too emotional to say. She's with her mom now, though"
When he got home, Sharon was already there. As their eyes met, he lost what composure he had at the morgue, and he fell to his knees. They stayed that way, Sharon holding her weeping husband, both kneeling on the floor, for two hours.
John, now sitting in his chair, two days after he saw his old friend dead on an exam table, previously wrist bound and hung from his ceiling. This morning, he is back in his old uniform, which he hasn't worn since 02. His leaving the force wasn't his choice, but the result of the accident.
It is now 8:25, less than two hours before the service, and John is the pallbearer, as his friend left it in his will.
"Tom!" Sharon called, "are you ok?"
"I'm ok hun" he replied "Just Tired"
This was true, after all. He had only gotten four hours of sleep the last two days, sleep being disturbed by old military flash backs of the war, and nightmares of what had happened to John, his imagination filling in what he didn't know.
Sharon walked into the room, wearing her best black dress. If one wouldn't have know that they were going to a funeral, they'd say that she looked amazing, her hair pulled back into a bun, her beautiful green eye set off by her full, luscious lips, which were a dazzling shade of red. Her body was elegantly slender, her skin smooth and lovely. It would have been enough to make John the happiest man on earth at any other time, but not now. Now, his mind was transfixed on his friend, who will be laid to rest soon.
"Lets get going, his daughter wants me to be there to great people: he said
"Alright" Sharon said, now sitting next to John. She then took his hand and kissed him. After that, she said "I love You John".
After all of the guest had entered the church and left, John drove behind the Hearse. In a few short minutes, he would be carrying the casket of his friend, whom had, literally, been through hell with him.
"John, are you ok? You're crying" This was Sharon, covering he hand with his.
"I'll be ok; I just can't believe that he's gone
"I know honey, I know. I can't imagine that I'm helping, but if I can, tell me ok?"
"You are the one thing getting me through all of this Sharon. I don't know if I could have done this without you.
The procession came to a stoop at the end of the cemetery. This was only the start of Tom's troubles, for they would get worse that night.
All of a sudden, John was back in Iraq, but not the one he remembers. There are no noises, nobody on the streets, and there are no people in the windows, waiting for chaos.
"John" a faint voice called "come, John."
Not knowing who or what the voice belonged to, he raised up his M16 and advanced slowly around the corner of the building. It was a dead end. As he was starting to back down the alley, the way he came, that strange voice came from directly above him.
"John" it called again "John"
He looked up, and it took him a few seconds to focus on what was speaking, and when his eyes finally did, he wished he hadn't.
Hanging from one of the fire escapes, perhaps twenty feet off the ground, was Michael Christenson. He was purple in the face, his flesh beginning to rot in the immense heat, maggots already eating his eyes and lips, and parts of hi ears. His body was bloated, and some of his flesh started sliding off, as blood would fall down a will, if there was enough of it.
"John, why did you let this happen to me?"
"What do you mean," the living John asked "just what do you mean. You had my number man, my fucking number, you could have called!" He was starting to lose what composure he had now. If he kept it up, he may be put in the psych ward for the rest of his life. He dropped his gun, lucky that it didn't go off. He sat adjacent to the corpse of what was his best friend.
"You let me do this" the corpse cried" You let me die"
As he was about to John was viciously ripped through the building, back into reality, with Sharon shaking him furiously, crying, and asking what was happening to him.
That night, after Sharon had woke him up, they were both sitting in bed, holding each other, supporting each other. Sharon had known about Christianson, but what little she did know had been enough to give her an accurate picture of how much he had meant to her husband.
He drew her close and kissed her on her forehead, right on the scar she got from a fall she had as a child. As they sat together, Sharon put her arm around John's waist, her hand resting just under his ribs.
He looked down hat her hands, one clasped in his, the other on his stomach, when all of a sudden movement caught his attention. He looked up, but quickly wished he hadn't.
Standing at his window, distant, tired, but still pretty face, was Johns only child, his Daughter Sarah.
" I'm sorry I scared you John. I tried the door and nobody answered, but I knew you'd want to see this. My Dad left it."
"Alright Sarah" Sharon said "Meet us at the door"
All three of them sat at the kitchen table, Sharon and John drinking coffee, Sarah drinking a Pepsi from the fridge.
Sarah was reaching 16, a beautiful girl, brown black, with beautiful green eyes, now full of sorrow, threatening to tear up, but John bet they could be full of love normally.
She took out a note, already worn from use, from her pocket and slid it over to John. He took his hand from Sharon, and opened the note.
"To the family and friends who find me,
First off, I'd like to say this is not anybodys fault. I love you all, but I just can't stand it anymore. My friend John may be able to tell you this story. But I can't., but all I can say, is, John, the little boy from the war came back to me, haunting me. You'll have to tell them this story, and I'm sorry, but I can't. Goodbye my friends, I love you All
Michael Christenson. "
John read the letter. Then he read the letter again, again, and again. He still couldn't believe what he was reading. They had talked about the war sometimes since they had been out of the war, but they had never talked about the boy, let alone about him haunting him.
So, after telling the story to Sharon and Sarah, John dropped off to bed and began dreaming.
The first noise that he recognizes is gunfire, the unmistakable sound, thud, thud thud, rapid, repetitive, relentless. Then, from somewhere up ahead, something that sounds like a explosion erupts in the air, splitting his head right down the middle with momentary pain. His sight comes, but he's no longer at home, as he expected. No, he woke up, it seems, right in battle. When he looked up, he didn't just see the sun, but he saw the sun behind a film of dust and fiery wisps of smoke that only man made objects can make. Gun smoke. Around him, alleys, destroyed buildings, boarded up houses, just as he remembers.
He hears movement coming from behind him. He wheels around, just in time to see Michael Christiansen backing down the alley, firing at a group of extremists, as we call them. He felt bullets flying past his head, and quickly popped up, and began firing himself. As he clicked off his safety, he saw one of the extremists, tall, man looking and gun blazing, get his head blown off, his hair and skull, with some brain matter, flying in a spiral, covering his other friends.
One by one, John and Michael, some how not getting hit by the hundreds of bullets, had toggen all eight of the attackers.
They walked down the ally, and approached their now dead advisories. They started to line up the bodies, covering them up with fallend drapes, when they heard movement far down the alley.
The both looked up, ready to fight. They stood there, guns in hand, cautiously awaiting the next move.
"Whats wrong son" John asks. The boy doesn't answer, just takes more steps forward, finally stopping ten yards away. John repeats his question, and, still, the boy doesn't answer, and doesn't move this time. He begins to cry.
As John and Michael lower their weapons, the boy reaches inside his jacket, and picks out his cell phone. They both have terrible feelings in their stomachs, but neither man can move. All of a sudden, weighing them both down with dread and fear rooting them where they are, the phone rings.
The boy, knowing just as well as the two men, answers the phone, though still crying, with a smile on his face. In the next second, the two men, John and Michael, are being thrown down the alley almost thirty feet by the little explosion, and what's left of the boy rains down around them like an apocalyptic rain shower.
Sharon woke up to John thrashing in the bed, sheets beginning to pile up all over the floor, on the side of the bed, and on the nightstand, the bed covered in cold sweat. She tried to wake him, but couldn't do so. She didn't try dare and touch him, or he may hit her. She did all she could do, and went downstairs, turned on the television, and waited for the storm that is her husbands nightmare to calm down.
John came too, but not is his bedroom, or an army tent, like he would have expected, since the dream continued. Instead, he was in the alley that he was just in, except for a few differences. There is no Michael Christenson. The boy is there, and isn't in a million pieces, but in one perfectly whole piece, and is standing near where John is getting up.
As he got up, the boy started to walk away. Nervous, John called out
"Where are you going?" The boy walked on, paying no attention to John's question. Having no idea that he was doing so, John began to follow the boy, but at a distance, keeping a watchful eye on the figure ahead of him.
Some time passed, and then, all of a sudden, and without warning, the boy stopped. Thinking things over for a minute, John stayed back, but then, slowly, walked up next to the boy.
He comes upon a familiar sight. All of the corpses that he and Michael lined up earlier, draped with cloths and fallen drapes, are now laying before him, the same way. He turned to the boy, who had tears in his eyes. It didn't take a genius to figure out who these people were to the boy, and all of a sudden a great and dark guilty feeling entered him.
Amazingly, the boy speaks. Astonished, John asks him
"What did you say" the boy answered "I said, I know you didn't mean to harm anybody. We're not all bad, you know. There are those of us, like me, who find your presence over here comforting. But, my family, the elders, took one last desperate measure after losing hope, and decided to come after you two. They had strapped the bombs to me, and told me that if I needed to, when the time came, to answer the phone.
John feels his stomach sink as he hears this young boy, surely no older than eight, tell him these things. The boy continued speaking
"I knew that it was wrong, but I had nothing left. I knew that if I didn't, I would have ended up dying, on my own, alone and with nobody to care for me. I brought you here, as I did your friend, to tell you that I understand, and I'm not angry. Your friend, the other soldier, was so shaken up, I had to let him back. He was starting to mutter, and talk in a weird language, not English, not anything.
"I didn't mean for him to die, I was just trying to say I was ok, and that he shouldn't hurt himself for anything. I hope you understand now, what he was saying.."
At the boys' last word and before he could respond, John was sucked through the dream world and back into his own.
He walked downstairs, and found Sharon amazingly sleeping on the couch. He saw the damage he had done in the room, and surprised anybody could sleep through it, but it also didn't surprise him, since she hadn't been sleeping well these last few nights.
He crawled onto the couch, holding Sharon in his arms, and slowly going to sleep himself. This time, he had no dreams, and from then on, never dreamed about the war or about Michael Christenson, ever again.