“Welcome back to the land of the living kid.”
Daniel tried to sit up. Which was a stupid idea considering he’d spent eight days on his back, the blood rushing against a forgotten enemy that threatened to rob his brain of much needed oxygen. He fell back against the makeshift cot almost as quickly as he rose.
He looked over at the speaker; a woman, her helmet sitting at an angle on her head. She was eating an apple off of her knife. She grinned at him, like old friends, but he saw nothing.
“Calm down kid. You’re back. That gas did a number on you.”
A new guest arrived, older than the other, and for the first time Daniel began to take in his surroundings. The rock walls, the slow trickle of water and the biting cold. The tunnel was dark but he could feel the thumps of distant reverberations.
The newcomer took off his helmet and tossed it casually to one side.
“How you feeling Diego?” he asked.
“Who?” Daniel asked.
“He seems to be doing that a lot,” the female soldier said from the corner. “Who, what, where. Only thing he hasn’t asked yet is why?”
“Why?” Daniel asked.
“Can it Suarez,” the newcomer said, kneeling beside Daniel. “What do you remember son?”
“I was home. With my wife and kid. We were getting ready for the Harvest Festival and then.” Daniel scratched at his head, feeling the bandages beneath his fingers. “What happened to me? Where’s my family?”
The two soldiers shared a glance. Suarez finished her apple and picked up a rifle. She patted the older man on the shoulder.
“I’ll keep watch.”
After she’d gone, Daniel and the old soldier sat, quietly, for a few moments. Daniel gratefully accepted a water ration, gulping down the liquid.
“Helena,” the soldier said.
Daniel looked at him, memories of the woman from his dreams returning.
“Your wife’s name was Helena, and she died in the Harvest bombing. They all did.”
“No,” Daniel said, clutching at the bed, the bandages, the last threads of his memory. “No.”
“They all died. You’re a soldier kid. Have been ever since that day. Me and Suarez and Mackenzie, we’re like a family. The only family each of us have left.”
Daniel touched his head again, tried to wipe away the tears. None of it was true. He was home. His wife was salting the meat. His son, oh god his son, more tears, was trying unsuccessfully to uncork the mead.
As he closed his eyes and saw their faces he could feel the heat of the explosions.
“You caught a whiff of the yellow rain,” the commander was saying, speaking through Daniel’s grief. “It marbled you. Knocked you something good.”
Outside Suarez lit a smoke, watching the embers fall. They couldn’t get the good stuff this far south. The villagers had only cheap herbs, nothing like the tobacco in the highlands. She took another drag and passed it to Mackenzie.
“He buy it?” the big man asked.
Suarez picked at the helmet, not used to the shape these Southerners used. The entire uniform was itchy, ill-fitting. She regretted her choice of her corpse more and more with each passing day.
“We’ll see,” she said. “When the time comes, he’ll either do it or we’ll do him.”
Prompt originally posted by slicetheginger on reddit and received 1 upvotes.