"Is this is what everyone goes through when they die?" asked Ben.
Nelson shook his head. "You are a special exception."
"Why? Because I'm fucked up?"
"No. Because you killed yourself thinking your life is meaningless. And, among other things."
"But I didn't mean to," said Ben as he felt his anger rise.
"If you say so. But, like I told you before, I'm not here to judge. I'm just here to show you what you missed."
Ben felt the air leave his lungs as realization hit him. He was getting closure to the memories that haunted him.
"Nelson, I can't experience all this military shit. I can't do it."
"Yes you can. I'll be there."
"You don't understand. I have lived these nightmares for years. I can't take it."
"Yes you can."
"That's easy for you to say."
"Because I'm dead and didn't suffer like you did?"
Ben cringed at Nelson's harsh words. "I wouldn't put it exactly like that."
"Look, Gray, there isn't any doubt in my mind you have gone through hell and back a few times in your own mind. We are ahead of schedule so we can spend time processing these memories."
"Ahead of schedule?"
"What the hell is that suppose to mean?"
"Time will tell."
Ben smirked at Nelson in frustration and amusement. "I feel like that is your new saying."
"My other new saying is this.....are you ready to move to the next one?"
Ben didn't know what to expect next. He thought for a moment and couldn't think of what it could possibly be.
"Don't worry. The next one is easy."
Ben nodded slowly and watched the blackness form into sand again. Soldiers scattered the landscape again. He felt his throat hitch seeing some soldiers on the ground. But, he soon realized he was back in training. This time, NTC. Ben heard himself yell behind him. He turned and saw himself running up to a soldier who was dragging another one.
"Private! What the fuck are you doing???" roared Ben.
The private dropped the other soldier abruptly causing his head to bounce on the ground. He stared at Ben in fear as he marched toward him.
"He had a neck injury. Why in the world would you grab him by his fucking head you idiot?"
The private continued to stammer unable to come up with an answer.
"How the fuck did you become a medic? You are going to fucking kill someone."
Ben watched his former self continue to yell at the Private. His shoulders were forward and his neck was bulging with rage. So this is how I look when I loose it. Ben watched himself march away before putting his hands on the Private. He remembered that all too well.
"I'm confused why this matters?" said Ben as he looked next to him to see Nelson standing by him.
"You remember what you did?"
"I pushed for him to be placed in another MOS. I believe he was sent out to be a truck driver if I remember correctly."
"So how does this matter? If anything, I probably broke his soul how much I yelled at the poor bastard."
"You saved more than one life."
Ben looked at Nelson's calm face and raised an eyebrow.
"He was a shitty medic like you suspected. Not his fault really. He should have never graduated. As a truck driver, he did a much better job. If he did deploy with your unit, he wouldn't have known what to do. Panic, ignorance, and other factors would have resulted in soldiers dying from their injuries."
"Wow," said Ben in shock.
"I told you this one would be easy. Pretty cut and dry."
"Didn't I tear his soul too much though? I was constantly yelling at him for doing stupid shit."
Nelson shook his head. "He's happy now. He did his time as a truck driver and now does it on the civilian side."
Everything grew dark again and Ben found himself standing in front of Nelson.
"That was quick," said Ben.
"We didn't have to spend too much time for you to see the impact. On a side note, did you see anything else?"
"I'm an intimidating Mother Fucker?"
"Close but not quite."
Ben thought briefly and couldn't think of what Nelson was referring to.
"Your anger has changed."
Ben thought about this briefly. "I don't see what you mean."
"Just remember that and you will see the change."
Before Ben could argue a scene started to fade in. He heard gunshots in the air. A 50 caliber rang in his ears. Sand kicked up from the ground and blew in Ben's face. He recognized the smells and sounds. He was reliving his nightmares in person.
"No Nelson. I'm not ready."
"You will never be so I didn't ask for your permission."
Ben crouched down as an explosion vibrated the earth underneath his feet.
"Nelson, I can't do this."
He jumped as he felt a hand on his shoulder.
"I'm right here. I'm not going to leave you for this one."
Ben watched the familiar scene. Soldier's taking cover returning fire. Ben looked next to him as he heard a bust of rounds erupt. He saw himself holding his M4 and pointing towards a rooftop. His shoulder vibrating with the rounds being shot. Ben could almost feel it as he watched the slight recoil jump with every shot.
"Fuck Nelson. I don't want to do this anymore. I get the point. I changed some lives. I don't want to relive it," he said quickly as panic started to fill him.
"You have to get through this. You don't understand fully unless you relive it this way."
Ben felt himself wanting to run to cover but Nelson held him firmly in place. Ben watched his former self round a corner and place his back against the wall. He knew what was going to happen next. Ben attempted to buck Nelson off him.
"Nelson, I'm done. Get me out of here."
"No. It's better to do this now Gray. It's either now or later. I don't want you to remember me like this later when we are done."
Ben couldn't fully comprehend with Nelson said before a blast erupted in the air. Nelson laid on the street, half his body in pieces around him. Ben felt himself fall apart as he watched his former self run out in the street hoping to save him. Nelson squeezed Ben's shoulder slightly.
YOU ARE READING
The Veteran Left Behind - ON HOLDGeneral Fiction
Ben is a disabled Army veteran that struggles on a day to day basis. The nightmares keep him from sleeping. The daily physical pain is almost unbearable. But, the worst burden he must face now is the memories that haunt his mind. It takes an gra...