Chapter 16

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Ben saw helicopter blades above him.  He was gliding over the ground in with his feet heading towards the helicopter.  His vision blurred in and out as a medic stood over him talking to him. 

Ben opened his eyes to see a white curtain around him.  A machine beeped next to him in a steady pace.  He looked down and saw his arm had IVs running attached to a few bags above him.  He yelled in pain as if his leg was on fire.  A man in uniform came running in and put his hands on his shoulders before Ben could pull out the IVs.

"Sergeant, just stay calm.  You're safe."

"No, my men!  Get me out of here," yelled Ben as he pushed himself up.

"We need a sedative here," yelled the man as he struggled to keep Ben down. 

Ben flung the sheet off him and stopped fighting when he saw his leg.  Skin grafts clung to his leg but it didn't look the same.  It was swollen, chunks of flesh missing, and he could see they had already operated on his leg trying to save it.

"Oh my God!  My leg!"

"I need that sedative here NOW," yelled the man in uniform.

The man turned to him and said calmly, "Sergeant, your leg was badly injured.  But we are trying to save it.  We need you to remain calm.  You are safe.  Everything is okay."

"No it's not!  I need to go back.  My men need me!"

The man continued to look at him with a sad expression.

"No!  Noooo!!!!" yelled Ben as he struggled against the man's grip.

******

Ben woke up yelling at the top of his lungs and fighting the sheets around him.  He threw off the sheet to see his leg.  The pink and white scars with the dips of flesh missing met his eyes. 

It was a fucking dream. 

Ben knew better than try to trick himself of that.  It was a dream but a memory.  He pulled himself up and realized he was shaking.  He walked over to the living room and sat down on the recliner rubbing the arms with his hands. 

"I'm here now.  I'm not there," he muttered aimlessly as he shut his eyes.

The leg throbbed painfully.  He took the whiskey bottle off of the table and started to drink.  He decided this would be his pain relief.  The alcohol always numbed everything.  Ben continued to sit in his recliner, taking a drink every time the the memories started to reemerge.  He turned the bottle up and realized he was out.  He stood up, not knowing how long he had been drinking for.  Enough to wear he felt his buzz turn into a drunk feeling when he was upright. 

Ben walked over to the kitchen and grabbed another bottle of liquor in the cabinet.  He plopped down at the table and opened the bottle.  He heard his phone vibrate in his pocket.  He pulled it out and squinted his eyes trying to read the blurry letters. 

"Hello?" answered Ben.

"Grayson?  Is that you?"

"Yep, the one and only," said Ben as he took another swig from the bottle.

"Are you drunk?"

"Yep."

"Dude, it's six in the evening"

"Really?  I didn't realize."

"Are you doing okay?"

"Never better," lied Ben as he took another drink. 

Radcliff said something else on the phone but Ben was paying attention to his lighter as he lit his cigarette. 

"Sorry I didn't catch that."

"I said, you don't sound so good."

"How did you guess?" asked Ben with a chuckle.

"How much have you had to drink?"

"Enough.  Speaking of which, I need to finish my drinking.  I'll let you go but thanks for calling."

"Wait...."

Ben hung up and continued to drink from the bottle.  Radcliff was a reminder of all his memories.  He threw the phone to the side ignoring the text message popping up on the screen.  He stumbled up on his feet and grabbed the bottle.  He took a long drag on his cigarette as he tried to think straight.  Instead all those memories kept flooding in.  He grabbed his head and pressed on his eyelids trying to forget everything.  Gunfire, blood, death....it was all overwhelming him.

"I'm so fucking tired.  I just need to sleep.  I just need to sleep," he whispered to himself. 

He grabbed the pill bottle next to the chair and tried to read the print on it.  He pulled out two pills and took it with the alcohol.  He limped over to the rain drenched patio and ashed his cigarette in the tray.  Ben wiped down the chair with a towel before sitting down in it.  He leaned back feeling his head spin from the alcohol. 

"Grayson."

He shot up from the chair and looked around.  The world seemed to be tilting slightly from the alcohol but he continued to search for who was calling his name.

"Fucker, I hear you," muttered Ben to himself taking another drink.

The sound of bullets whistling by came to both his ears. He shook his head making his head spin more. 

I don't hear out of one ear so it's just my mind fucking with me.

He stood up and walked out on the grass in his bare feet with the whiskey still in hand.  He felt his breath starting to slow.  The noises in his head started to drown to a whisper. 

"Finally, this is fucking working," he said outloud as he took a few more gulps.

Ben walked aimlessly around the yard.  He pulled out another cigarette and tried to concentrate while he lit the end. 

"Grayson."

"What the fuck do you want!!!  Just leave me alone," he sputtered with the cigeratte drooping out of his mouth.

He turned up the alcohol bottle again and took a few steps forward trying to keep himself from tumbling.

"I just want to fucking sleep with no fucked up memories.  Is that too hard to ask," he muttered as he stumbled back towards the patio. 

Flashes of Nelson, the driver, coffins, flags, and all the memories of the dead suddenly overwhelmed him.  Ben plopped down on the chair and felt his chest heave trying to keep back the sobs.

"Why?  What the fuck?" he groaned trying to catch his breath.

He turned up the bottle and continued to drink. 

It should have been me.  It should have been me. 

Ben slammed the alcohol down.  The world was becoming blurred and the gunfire erupted again in his mind.  Flashes of war of the hospital.  He grabbed his head and buried it in his hands wanting this to stop.  He walked back inside and grabbed the sleeping pill bottle.  He looked at it and couldn't remember when he took it last.  He just knew he didn't feel tired.  Drunk, but not enough where he could go to sleep.  He pulled two pills out and popped it in his mouth.  He chewed it up and walked back out to the patio. 

He lit another cigarette and sat down on the chair.  He felt his brain start to fog as his breathing slowed.  The sounds faded and the memories were gone.  Ben pulled the alcohol glass to him and took one more swig before setting it next to him.  He leaned back and stared at the sky as he continued to feel his body become weak.  His breathing continued to slow.  His brain was quiet for the first time in a long time.  Ben watched as the stars grew darker until everything was pitch black. 


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