Free Flash Fiction:
By: Jae El Foster
July 28, 2019
When he woke, he was an old man. Time had flown past him, and he had lived, but he had not. He knew that with each breath he inhaled, his last would not be too far behind. That was a scary thought and a scary feeling. Terrifying, at that. It was true that in his time he had seen much, but it was also true that there was much that he had not seen. Still, there was very little that he had a desire to see.
The clock on the dresser read 7:33 AM. It was perhaps the latest that he had woken in years. And it was still too early. Jared Johnson was to that point. He never wanted to wake again.
The thoughts from the night before were still with him – the memories that he could not run from – no matter how far he ran. The bombs falling, the gasses igniting, the guns and the blades and the screams and the cries… the deaths.
They were all still a part of him.
He shook his head wearily and stood from the bed. Taking a look out his solitary window, he could almost feel the light rain falling over the grounds of the Anterville Rest Home.
A rest home, he thought. HA!
There was no rest for the weary. No rest for Jared Johnson. He had lived his last fifty years with no rest. He had almost adapted.
The rain began to fall harder and slowly he crept to his recliner where he could see it shower down without the unpleasant bothers of standing. Normally, he enjoyed the rain and looked upon it as a release of sorts, but this morning, it looked more like fire falling from the sky. He’d seen it before, in places in his past.
Shutting his eyes, he could see it better. The way the rain fell on to his renegade uniform, soaking him and his men. The way that it shadowed his eyes and protected the unknown from the known. He could see it, smell it… he could feel it. It was there, trampling hard against their bodies as they moved through the trees and marched across the depths of the lethal river, plummeting over hills and under bridges. Rain. Endless rain. It fell so hard….
And then it hit. A shattering sound that awakened the dead and placed the living to eternal rest. It fell from the sky, splintering soldier after soldier, tearing their limbs from their bodies and forcing their final screams from their burning lungs. Most never screamed. They never had the chance. They only died.
Blood splattered over Jared and his platoon. He watched a head roll over to his feet, the eyes open and the mouth poised to speak. The mouth never spoke, however. It simply whispered from the dead like….
Like the howling wind that grew outside... Jared jerked back to semi-alertness, focusing again at the rain, which was twisting into a storm just outside his lone window. He caught a small glimpse of an orderly rushing from one corridor to another with a covered cart of food. From the grim smile on her lips, it was almost convincing that she had caught him watching her through the window – something Jared hadn’t done in years.
But there were a lot of things Jared hadn’t done in years. He hadn’t shopped in a city in thirty years. He hadn’t made love in over twenty. He hadn’t left the rest home in fifteen and he hadn’t left his room in almost eight years.
He sighed. What kind of life was he living? Sadly enough, he knew the answer to the question. He was living his punishment. There had been fifteen of them. And now, fifty years later, there was one. One survivor. One survivor who had lost his life with the rest of them.
Johnson! He could hear them call. Help us!
But there was no help to be given. Sergeant Jared Johnson was frozen in fear. A helicopter whizzed overhead. His eyes jotted to it, focused on the shooter hanging from its railing. And then he heard it – one shot after another after another after another… Mercilessly, the shooter was attacking.
One scream. A loud, forceful, treacherous wailing of a scream! It shot straight into him, into his heart and his soul. Four feet away, he watched as the last of his platoon fell to his knees, blood running down his face and a frightened, shocked look in his eyes. Jared stared, afraid to move. Afraid to speak. He watched as the last of his men extended an arm to him – reaching out for a final, desperate attempt for help – and he watched as the man fell dead before his very eyes.
“No!” he screamed, his voice echoing from his room and down the interior corridors of building 4-A. He clasped his hand against his chest and felt his heart pounding, desperate for an explosion.
The door opened with quickness.
“Are you okay, Mr. Johnson?” A young orderly stepped in, different from the one in the window. This one was dry.
“I’m fine. Bad dream,” he mumbled.
“Awe! I’m sorry about that, but it is time for your medications. Open wide.” She smiled at him and poured out a handful of pills from three bottles. Then, walking over, she handed them to him with a cup of water.
"I usually take three pills," he told her, looking at what she'd given him. "There are nine here."
The orderly bent down and whispered to him, "Your dosage has been changed," she said and kissed him on the cheek.
Jared looked at the pills again, closed his eyes, and popped them into his mouth. He swallowed them down and took a sip of water to help them pass through his throat. When he opened his eyes again to hand the water cup back to the orderly, she was gone. The tray and the pills, however, were still there with him.
An hour passed and another orderly entered Jared's room. She came in quietly and looked at the tray of pills.
"These aren't Mr. Johnson's pills..." she whispered. Then, she looked at the resident, who rested dead in his chair. "Oh, bless..."
Before leaving the room, she pulled the blanket up over Jared’s chest. She studied his face. He was smiling - something she had not seen in the eight years she'd looked over him.
Now with death, Sergeant Jared Johnson smiled for the first time in fifty years.
Copyright Jae El Foster, 2019