The Nightmare

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Heat licked up at Edward's boots as his head started to pound. A crushing weight seemed to numb his thigh, but the sudden rush of sound was what slapped reality in his face. His ears rang and clanked, high-pitched and relentless, and an out of place soft melody mixed in with all the noise. Voices—no, screams—invaded and seemed to come from all sides.

Sweat and blood dripped in his eyes and kept him from getting a clear picture of the situation, other than fact that he was hanging on by the bite of the lap belt across his groin and thighs. The Humvee was on its side; fuck, that was not good and he knew it.

Frantic and desperate to make sense of it all, he reached for something to grasp—anything. The familiar feel of a buddy's arm was beneath his unsteady, gloved fingers, and he clung to it. One look at the hand and he recognized the cross tattoo between Jose's thumb and forefinger, allowing him to breathe a sigh of relief and ask for a report. When he heard no reply, he tugged, realizing too late that it was the detached limbof what was left of his friend.

A terror-filled sound seemed to reverberate in his head, one that sounded much like his own voice, along with a softer one that still sang. He took one look toward the driver, Jose, a friend since he was five years old, and he had to pull back the churning in his gut.

"Fuck, fuck," he slurred, looking at the others in the back, both dead, and friends from home, as well. He pounded his fist on the roof a few times, quick jabs that brought feeling into his body again. He made a mad grab for all of their tags and slipped them around his neck.

Despite the blood, gore, and gut-wrenching fear, he knew had to keep moving and cut himself loose with a knife. He found something else pinning him in place, metal twisted around his leg. A few shots popped approximately fifty yards ahead of him; too close. He had to get Martinez, Newton, and Tyler out. It was the least he could do for not listening to his instincts. The intelligence they received was wrong and he felt it in his gut minutes before they rode into the area.

Edward's jaw clenched as he tried to extricate his leg, calling out in a whisper-yell to the others in the patrol, but only gibberish and static came through on the radio. Cursing, he finally freed himself, falling against Jose. It was hard to avoid seeing that his friend was missing half of his face.

"Fuck," Edward hissed, but pushed past the emotional and physical pain. He went through their pockets and grabbed a few other essentials, including Tyler's rifle and extra ammo. After a quick look around, he found a way out of the twisted vehicle through the busted out windshield and belly-crawled along one side, assessing the situation. The last thing he wanted was to draw more fire, because he intended to get his friends and the rest of the unit home.

Flames and smoke shot up from two of the five vehicles in the patrol, the others immobilized, much like his. One had at least three of the passengers firing toward the west. The glaring sun helped keep his cover. He asked for positions, and one by one, the others checked in. For some reason, the radio intermittently played a familiar song, causing him to wonder if his head injury was worse than he thought.

Ignoring the seepage of blood under his gear, he crouched and dared a look toward the west. He confirmed the positions of the hostiles and spotted one creeping up on his unit. Using the fire and smoke from the burning vehicles to shield him, he aimed. Before the target had a chance to release a single round, Edward shot him, catching the side of the hostile's neck. His aim remained steady as he dropped another five before something brought him to his knees. The familiar tune he'd heard for the last several minutes seemed to get louder as he fell back, before the world went black.

"You are my sunshine, my only sunshine."

It took a moment for Edward to recognize the voice, and instantly he sat up in bed with sweat coating his naked body and the sheet beneath him. His curse was hoarse, his throat sore and dry as if he was still in that desert heat. The erratic beat of his heart pounded in his ears and head, and he had to shift to the side of the bed. He propped his elbows on his knees, attempting to wipe away the horrific memories from his eyes. Something soft, a whisper from his nightmare seemed to follow him into reality.

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