Author: Richard Albeen
A different world. A different nameless town, a different nameless river.
In the dimness, the water looked almost peaceful. The moon and stars danced in it through the lingering smoke of another war.
It was good to be alone. The weariness in my mind and body didn’t have to be explained or defined to anyone.
It was just the night and me. Darkling quiet.
I heard the rustle of clothing somewhere off to the side. I didn’t look, just became still and listened.
She lurched out of the shadows, a young, slim woman wearing tattered clothing. She was clutching her right hand to her abdomen, obviously in pain.
She walked within a few feet of me, swayed, and collapsed on the bank of the river. I remember how the moon shone in her eyes. And on the blood covering her torso and legs.
I moved over and sat down next to her.
“Let me see,” I said, and lifted her shirt to reveal her abdomen.
It was soaked in redness. There was an oozing hole near where her liver should have been, and she was losing blood. A lot of it. She didn’t have much left, neither time nor blood.
I had some powdered andro-morphine in my cartridge belt. I took out the packet, tore it open, and sprinkled it all on her wound. It wouldn’t do much except help to relieve the pain until she died. We both knew that. But it was better than nothing.
As the drug took effect, she looked at me and smiled. “I knew you’d be here.”
“I don’t know how,” I said. “We’ve never met.”
I think she looked up at the moon then.
She said, “Have you ever known you’d meet someone you never knew who would be somewhere that you were, waiting to help?”
I nodded. A familiar feeling.
“My husband did it,” she said, anticipating my question.
She made a weak motion with her hand. “The war,” she said, “always the war. After years, it makes you into something you don’t want to be.” She looked at me. “Doesn’t it?”
I could only nod. Again.
“He accused me of sleeping with his brother.” She smiled bitterly. “As if I ever could. I love my husband. I always have. He was crazy. It was the war. I love him anyway.”
She grimaced. The pain.
I tried to smooth her hair back. It was sweaty and clotted with dirt and blood.
I was about to ask if there was anything more I could do for her.
It was too late, though. Her eyes were glazed, looking up at the bright, bright moon. I checked her pulse, but I knew.
I closed her eyes. I took off my field jacket and made a crude pillow, put it under her head.
I found her identification in a pocket of her blood-soaked shirt. It gave me an address. And a photograph.
I found her husband after a brief search. He was in a cheap bungalow not far from the river where she had died.
I opened the door. He jumped up from a table, yelling something in a language I didn’t know.
I shot him between the eyes. Laser pierce. Only a tiny hole for one lousy life. Left him there. Walked out into the night.
I don’t remember him very much.
I remember her. I think of her often, and the bright moon shining down on that last night of her life.
I don’t remember her name, though.
And it doesn’t matter.