Short Stories →

Lay lines

May 27, 2024

He never knew what hit him. The sharp blow to his temple knocked him right off the turret and into darkness.

He was lucky, they told him later. The armor piercing round shattered as it hit the turret’s rim. The one piece of shrapnel that he caught had pierced right thru his helmet but stopped just short of his brain. He would be back in the sandbox in a couple of days.

Things started to get weird a two weeks later, when he saw the team getting ready for patrol duty. He glanced to see them going thru the gate and had to do a double take. A web of thin red lines ran thru all of them except for private Williams. He stood there staring as they crossed the compound gate.

They didn’t come back. They hit an IED just two miles down the road. They found Williams in real bad shape but still alive. He had been farthest from the blast.

Two days later his team met a local elder to negotiate free passage thru his village. He saw the thin red lines between the old man and his two sons… three hour later they lay dead, ambushed on their way back by their own men.

The following week he saw the thin red lines again, the comm team was changing shifts. Three men and two women emerged from the bunker, all tangled in the crimson web. Just then a mortar shell blew right in the middle of the group.

It was then he knew he had to tell them what he saw. He could have saved all those lives. Perhaps he might save still save others.

They gave him an honorable discharge and sent him home, no longer fit for duty on mental health grounds.

As he watched the clouds far below the wings on his way back home, he kept thinking about the lives he could have saved. If they would have just listened. The flight attendant’s voice brought him back from his thoughts.

“Something to drink, sir?”

He turned to answer, and froze in horror, staring at a web of thin red lines flowing between them.

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