Daniel lay in his bed staring at the ceiling. His sweat drenched blankets were cast aside, a horrid reminder of his condition. As he gazed at the ceiling, he imagined the bumpy surface to be that of another planet. He wished he could be whisked away to that magical sphere and be rid of his troubles once and for all. Anywhere but this planet would be acceptable, he thought, if only he could find some way to get there, wherever ‘there’ was. His thoughts drifted to what his reception would be like upon meeting an extraterrestrial civilization. Would he be received with welcome as another fellow sentient being or would he be received with apprehensive curiosity? Would their civilization be more primitive than Earth’s or more advanced? What would their culture be like? Would it be similar to ours or radically different? What would the natives look like? Should he ever meet another race, he would attempt to answer all of those questions and maybe send a report back to Earth–maybe.
His thoughts then took a dark turn. But what if they received him with violent hostility? He would be alone in strange world without chance of salvation. He would be hunted down like an animal regardless of his natural equality and no matter how good his survival skills were, he would be captured, he would be tortured, and—no, he couldn’t think this way. The doctor said to think only positively, never negatively. His mental and emotional stability depended upon it.
He turned his head over to the nightstand on the right side of his bed and looked at the glowing numbers. The digital clock read 2:34 a.m. He moaned and pulled his blankets back over himself. He knew he needed to rest, but his eyes kept wandering back to the ceiling, and each time they did he’d think of it as the surface of a foreign planet, keeping him awake a few minutes longer, slowly wasting the night. This went on for a little more than ten minutes, until a small noise caught his ear, snapping him out the dreamlike trance.
He thought he had heard the front door of his apartment open and then shut with its signature creak, but the sound had been so subtle that even the low hum of an air conditioner would have rendered it inaudible. Daniel sat up and listened closely for some time, but his straining ears were met only with silence. He began to doubt if he had even heard a noise at all and lay back down. But just as he was slipping back into a half sleep a clear; undeniable footstep seemed to echo through the room. A shot of adrenaline rushed through his veins and he sat bolt upright. Someone was in his apartment.
Daniel slid out of bed as quietly as he could and grabbed the nine-millimeter handgun he kept on his nightstand. He looked at his door determined to shoot the first person to step into his room. Adrenaline was pumping through his veins rather profusely and the tension he felt in the air was nigh unbearable. His heart was pounding. He hadn’t felt this way since…well Afghanistan.
The heavy footsteps approached his door slowly; one after the other as if the intruder was weak or seriously injured. Daniel watched the door knob turn slowly. He prepared to fire. The door suddenly flew open and—he could not see past the darkness. The moonlight streaming in from his room’s one window allowed him to see dimly, but the rest of the apartment was bathed in blackness. Everything was silent. Daniel began to lose his nerve. He backed up a step and adjusted his aim, finger on the trigger. Beads of sweat were forming on his brow. He stared intently into the rectangular shaped hole formed by the doorway, but couldn’t see or make out if anyone was actually standing there watching him slowly fall apart. The black hole now seemed to be the enemy, boring into the depths of his soul, searching through his darkest secrets.
“Come out!” He shouted. “Stand where I can see you!”
He sensed slight movement and then he made out an advancing form. The form took two painful steps into the room and froze. It took Daniel less than a second to recognize what had entered his sanctuary and a wave of horror swept over him. He dropped the gun and stumbled backwards into a wall. The trespasser was a man, a soldier dressed in full combat gear, but its face was shrouded by the shadow of his helmet.
“What do you want?” Daniel asked weakly. The figure remained silent in its statue like pose. “Say something!”
“Where was the air support Lieutenant?” The figure rasped painfully. “Where was it?”
Daniel began to panic. “I don’t know! I don’t know what the hell you are talking about! Leave me alone!”
“Where was the air support Lieutenant? Why weren’t we covered?” The figure asked again with its hypnotic voice.
“God, I don’t know. I don’t know!” Voices from all directions began shouting at him. Contact front! Contact nine o’clock! Sir we’re surrounded! Sir, second squad is pinned down! Sir the radio’s being jammed! Sir we’re taking heavy losses! Sir what do we do now?
“We’re all dead Lieutenant.” The figure said and took a step forward. “We’re all dead now.”
The sounds of automatic weapons and exploding mortars filled the room, drowning out everything except the voice of the advancing man. Daniel clapped his hands over his ears and slid crying to the floor. Memories of brutal fighting filled his mind. Bodies. KIA reports. Ninety-percent casualties. Ambush.
“No, no, no, no, no!” He screamed.
The man took one final step and the shafts of moonlight revealed his face: the face of a young man, marred by third degree burns and a gaping head wound that bled rapidly onto his shoulder and upper chest. He gazed at Daniel with dazed and confused eyes and said again: “We’re all dead Lieutenant. Why?”
Daniel mouthed the words ‘I don’t know’ as tears streamed from his eyes. He collapsed, and everything faded to black.
Credit To – Karl M.