It was the last night of leave, which was always somewhat depressing. John caught a glimpse of his reflection in a window. Although he’d shaved every morning, he had let his hair grow out since he came home. He definitely needed to see the barber before he saw the Sergeant-Major.
He looked up and realised that his wandering had brought him into a bad area. Graffiti covered every surface, including other graffiti. Few windows were intact, and boards covered many more. He noticed a bus stop up ahead, and decided that it was a good time to head home.
He sat on the bus stop bench, trying to ignore the indescribable odours that assaulted him. It was obvious that someone hadn’t bothered to look for a washroom before taking care of business. It wasn’t the worst scent he’d ever smelled, though.
He heard a scream. Rational thought fled. He found himself reaching for a weapon that he wasn’t carrying, looking around for the source of the scream. His heart raced, his muscles tensed for flight or fight. Then, he saw her.
She was sitting on the bench, looking at him with calm black eyes. She was tiny and pale. No, not pale. Pure white. Her skin, her clothes, all pure white. Except for her hair and shoes, which were black as the grave, and her eyes, which were even darker. Then, he noticed blood dripping from the roof of the shelter. It landed on her, and she didn’t flinch. He would have said that she didn’t notice it, except that she smiled with every drip.
John leapt to his feet. As he did, he felt strands of…something touching him. He looked and saw a nearly skeletal figure, kneeling on the ceiling of the shelter as if it was the floor. This creature was as white as the girl but naked. Its eyes glowed, a counterpoint to the girl’s deep black orbs. John jumped back out of the shelter and saw the bodies on top of it.
He gasped as he recognised some of the bodies. People he had seen die. People he had killed. He realised that the girl, too, was one of the many casualties of war. John heard another scream, and only barely recognised it as his own.
Someone was speaking to him, in the calm way you do with someone who could be dangerous. He heard the soothing tone in the voice, then saw that a bus was there. The driver was talking to him, asking if he was OK.
John looked at the bus stop. There were no bodies, no creature, no blood. Not even a little girl. He boarded the bus to return to base and the promise of new horrors to come.
Image Credits: David Sladek.