Knocking on Heaven's Door
A Simone Story
By Nix Winter
All Rights Reserved
Calloused fingers caressed the smooth black grip, itching to aim the weapon on no notice at all. Young, he didn't look more than twenty. Pale dust, powdery fine sand clung to blond hair that was almost short enough to be regulation. It mixed with sweat, smeared, melted camo paint, blood splatter that might have been his, but probably wasn't. He squatted, more on his ass than not, back against half a thick mud brick wall that used to be someone's house.
He was tired of this game. It was too hot and there was no way to adjust the settings. Ritzak hadn't respawned, but maybe it took longer if you got a bullet to the face. The sound effects were fabulous though. He could hear their HMMWV burning, the flames popping glass and straining metal. Helicopters beat at the distant air. Morris kept screaming about how they needed to pull back.
It was a stupid idea. Without the HMMWV, there was no cover and they didn't know how many opponents they had to defeat. Zombies. They were zombies and the goal was just to stay alive until the choppers got there. He couldn't see the clock though. There should have been a timer.
Bullets hit the wall he hid behind, shaking the whole affair, shaking him, and he so wanted to turn the game off.
Morris screamed again, but this wasn't words, just a ripping as a man gave up more than a video game character ever could. Simone shuddered, his eyes wide, the gun suddenly cold in his hands now.
Prisoner. Dark, dark, pain, hate, fear, they bleed from him in his sweat, until he couldn't sit anymore. He jumped up, weapon up and he went around the wall, firing. He was in good sync with the game. Aim. Pop. Aim. Pop. Hostiles dropped, splattered. He couldn't see his points either, but he had to be racking them up, striding across the former courtyard. Blood stinks. Shit sticks. The game really didn't need those sensations. Bullets sent dirt and debris into the air, dusty, nasty confetti.
He kicked open a door, big black boot in the middle of it, rough and angry. In perfect military form, he scanned the room, his red dot scanned the surfaces, the shadows of the room until it stopped, in the center of a human face, a dirt smudged small face. His finger tensed. Target. Pain slashed through his mind and he blinked, as if he were waking up. Without moving he felt the tickle of blood down the side of his face. He remembered their vehicle rolling in the air.
His hands went weak and he feared he'd drop his weapon. Thirsty. So thirsty. The small human face became a little boy, running at him with a knife. He took a step back, tipped over the lip in the door way, went over backwards, his weapon going out of his hands away into the confusion that was the world just beyond his skin. Screaming fire drilled into his leg and he let go. He probably should have been somewhere else. Yeah. He should have been somewhere else.
He thought maybe he was opening his eyes, but maybe he wasn't. Warm sweetness surrounded him, let him float in it. The darkness that had always seemed just slightly out of his thoughts was gone and he felt.... good.
"Corporal Crane," a woman said, professional, calm. "You're in the base hospital. You are going to be okay."
"What happened," he purred. He tried to look at her, but all he really saw was red hair. Red hair had always been in his dreams.
"Your patrol was attacked. You are the only survivor. You were badly injured, head injury," she paused and he thought he heard a wheel chair, rubber on cheap linoleum.
"Yeah, yeah," a deep voice complained. "What she's trying to say is you got your brain shook up like a martini, got a knifed a couple times and a bullet across your arm. You're a lucky mother fucker, Crane."
"Oh," he said, as if that made all the sense. He just felt too good to care. He even liked himself right then. "I'm a martini."
"Well, you ain't feeling no pain, are you?"
"Nope," Simone said, smiling euphorically. "I wanna be like this forever."
"Well, that's not happening," the doctor said. "You're on your way to Germany tomorrow, then back State side. Enjoy that buzz while you can."
Simone did just that. He had no idea what pain his body wasn't feeling, but his mind...felt free for the first time that he could remember.