The Soldier

22 Aug

By Emily Hill
9th Grade

The rain pools in the brim of his khaki fishing hat like liquid moonlight. The man, skin tanned and weathered, doesn’t seem to notice when the crystal water begins to trickle from his cap. He is in his mid-fifties, and was obviously handsome in his youth: strong jaw and high cheekbones. His inset stormy eyes stare blankly into the lonesome streets, pondering. And as the rain falls heavy thuds on the pavement, his cotton duck jacket darkens its shades of green to match the blackened clouds, both of them now swollen with water. He has fought in too many wars to ever consider nature as a plausible threat, and so the man remains still in the strengthening downpour.

He is of average height, but slouched as if he is forced to carry the planets on his shoulders. Beneath his badly patched clothes, creaking bones, and flesh, he holds the spirit of battle. Yet as you watched him sit at the bus stop, in the rain, you begin to wonder if the demons he’s fighting are machine guns or addiction. Though his fingers aren’t clenched around a bottle, you see pink and purple pills in his eyes. His hands, nails grown out and chipped, count digits of license plates passing by, and if you hadn’t been raised under the fear of god, you would have sworn he was the messiah. You imagine the man clad in tarnished armor, his cracked lips reciting prayers through binary codes, his words swimming across battlefields.

Round and plump, the raindrops roll down your skin, and you find yourself tumbling down into the shadows of his world, his life. Before you sits a young man, teeth no longer stained from tobacco, skin as pale and smooth as ivory. The silver water spills from the heavens and slowly dribbles down his thick lips, as if nature herself felt blessed to touch him. The bus stop is the man’s only source of protection from the enemies he cannot see, and you begin to feel his anxiety. A forest green helmet, from a war more than three decades prior, sits loosely on his head. The men he has been told to exterminate are rigged with bombs of suffering and trickery, ready to detonate with the death of their host. He holds a gun in hand, the flooded empty streets fading away to reveal jungle. The rough tropical terrain is scarred with tire-marks. The young man’s innocent complexion now home to bubbling sunburns and grime, turbulent eyes cut through the mass of vines. Sweat trickles down his peeling brow, and he tenses up in pain.

The ground begins to rumble with the pounding of steel-toed boots, and both you and the man hear the sounds of men howling in the distance. The man takes in a shaky breath and swallows, thus storing away the guilt and fear of what’s to come. You know that with one shot from his gun he will extinguish the stars, causing the world to crush him. You know that with one shot, soon all that will be left of him is a rain-soaked jacket and a bottle of pills. You feel something heavy in your hands and you look down to see that a rifle has fallen into your grasp. The opposing army is approaching, and you see the vines begin to rustle. The man draws his weapon and prepares to shoot. “Hey!” you shout. The man looks away from his sight and glares at you. You lift the rifle to your shoulder, aim, and pull the trigger. The jungle fades back to the city streets, now flooded with rain. The man in the dripping fishing cap nods to you, rises from the bench, and slowly walks away from the bus stop.

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