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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