Author : Lillian Cohen-Moore

I died for this country. Then..

…I came back.

Mock me all you want. Say, no, what I mean to say is, “I would have died for this country.”

Or, “I nearly died for this country.”

You weren’t there, were you? With the grit in your eyes and the suns streaming down on you. The sand eating away at the tanks. Filling our uniforms with dirt. You didn’t see how empty the deserts seemed, except for the automata of war. You weren’t there when the night talked to us.

It took Jack first, out into the ravine of water we couldn’t drink, and left him lifeless.

It devoured Trina’s screams as much as it devoured her flesh from her mid-section, leaving her staring up into nothing after she died. Her last memory embedded in her eyes–vitreous fluid showing us a cloud. Something. A shape.

Artifacts, they say. Too much adrenaline. Too much fear. Blurring the picture in her eyes. Unusable in court or for investigative purposes. They said it must have been an animal.

It took others. So many others. Till it took me.

It didn’t come again, after it took me.

I came back. I got discharged. Honorable. Combat duty conducted with bravery, they told me. I took stupid risks, because risks don’t mean anything to me anymore. I just needed some way to cover it all up, to get out.

I know the truth. I saw its face, under the moon, under the refracted light of too many suns on a planet that shouldn’t have mattered. I know it’s what is native to that planet. That place.

I think. Maybe fear. That it’s what I’m becoming.

I felt my blood gurgle out into the sand dunes, as it kissed my wounds, sticky sweet, hot and cold, steaming, saliva-and-blood. Flesh and flesh.

They call me a hero. When they talk… I swallow saliva. I feel it feel my mouth, and I swallow it. I stay away,now. From everyone. Women and man alike. Anyone who approaches me. Till you. You wanted a story.

I’ll tell you a story.

I felt my heart stop, the night I died for my country.

Tonight, you’ll die for me.

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