REQUIEM FOR A SOLDIER • by Michael Spenser

Block out all noise, and focus on the wound. This is not a person. This is a machine. It needs fixing. One blink and the screams are gone. The soft conversation in the background blends with them to create a dim roar that is easily ignored. No longer is the man on the ground a trained soldier, face and body contorted in the agony of his last moments. He is merely “it,” and “it” needs to be fixed before too much red liquid leaks onto the ground.

Pull the leg up. Tighten the belt around it securely to stop the blood flow. Keep the leg elevated. It’s become so mechanical that the deadening heat of the desert and the sticky irritation of too salty sweat cementing soiled clothes to equally dirty skin no longer have a bothersome effect. The clearly decaying tissue eating away at sickly muscles, and the urine drenched uniform should be creating a miasma of stench too irritating to tolerate without gagging at least, but that too is easily ignored. Easy ignorance is the default response now.

People say all the time that they’ve been through hell, but no one has truly been through hell until they’ve been through this. Hell is not immense and unrelenting physical pain. Hell is not an extremely frustrating day after an exceptionally bad week. Hell is holding a dying man — a brother — in your arms and not being able to bring yourself to care.


Michael Spenser is a professional student working towards an English degree, but mostly just sitting around writing whatever comes to mind.


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  • Sarah Crysl Akhtar

    I find it a little hard to get past the “hell is not” list. For the person in anguish it certainly is–and that diminishes a powerful story into “my pain is worse than yours.” The final line is powerful and a fine ending–but I don’t like the preceding lines of its paragraph. Brings it down to three stars for me.

  • This is not a story. This is not even flash. This has powerful writing, but that’s about it. If the author were to extend himself to include a beginning, middle, and end, he’d have a gripping story and the start of a large fan base.

  • Michael Stang

    I immediately went to Nam and had to adjust to your generation. “Easy ignorance is the defalt response now” is a sentence I will not soon forget. The power writing behind this flash is equal to the talent that wrote it. Your fan base has already started.

  • Lynn Vroman

    Powerful writing that hits right in the heart. Well done!

  • Roberta SchulbergGoro

    Hell is BEING that conscious dying brother and also is extreme pain. Don’t tempt the gods.

  • Having been in some pretty hellish situations, I find this piece a bit unconvincing.

    Sorry.

  • Tina Wayland

    I got a little lost in the thick description and a few missing hyphens (which always throw me off–sorry!). I like the lesson, though. And I think it’s a good story. We see what we’ve come to believe is hell–suffering, maiming, war–and then realize hell is actually the inability to feel like a human anymore.

  • Tina Wayland

    Also, I don’t think the requiem is for the dying soldier. It seems to be for the one who feels like he’s dead.

  • Doug Elwell

    The caring comes later—after the heat of the moment. When that happens—then the hell starts.

  • John Brooke

    A tour de force stream of consciousness that seemed totally real as i read it. I believe the author, caught the brain blocking robatic actions realistically. A hell of a good piece of flash vignette. 5 leather medals to this writer.

  • Mariev Finnegan

    Sent shivers through me, more than some formula story. The descriptions of hell– or what it isn’t– worked for me. I’ll be your fan!

  • Jane

    Very nicely done!