Ch. 1: The Only Easy Day was Yesterday

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Mica Laverty's body takes cues from his mind. A flash of movement and his brain sends the message: danger, danger, death. Heart sprints; nostrils flare. Gunpowder mixes with sand mixes with iron; his nose and lungs fill with it.

Danger, danger, death. The enemy could be anywhere... or everywhere.

It could be here. Here is a desert compound eighteen klicks southeast of T-4 Airbase. Sand gathers in the corner of an open window.

He blinks and here becomes a nursery in a two-story house in Coronado Island, California. There's sand, yes-beyond the open window, not within its creases. Beach sand next to a shimmering ocean instead of sand next to more sand and no water, only taupe earth set against eggshell blue sky. He's in a house and there's blood... maybe. He blinks and it's there, blinks again and it's gone.

A baby is crying.

He's supposed to do something but he's forgotten how to do it. There's this baby here in his crib but here where the crib is, there's instead a thin mattress and a man on the ground next to it and a girl on top of it. Her body is still. Too still, too small for so much blood. She isn't supposed to be here. He didn't know.

He didn't know, he didn't know, he didn't know.

His ears ring in D-flat. The baby's wails can't compete with the howling in his mind. It blocks out his own cries too. Maybe if he can't hear it, it isn't happening.

A flash of movement. Danger.

Mica is all hands-on deck, every muscle ready to fight. He needs to get ahead of this danger. The wind needs to stop blowing sand into his eyes and a dirge into his ears.

He's ready to strike when the movement slows from a flash to a blur to a distinguishable form. That form is a she-a she with eyes wide. Annoyed. She scoops up the child and holds him to her chest.

Amanda. Wyatt. His wife. His son.

Here. California. This is California. The coast, not the desert.

The flash that is now Amanda is pissed. "He needs to be fed. How long have you been standing there, Mica?"

Mica isn't sure if he's hearing her words or reading them on her lips. He's good at lip reading. Comes in handy when your eardrums have taken a beating and your buddy's arms don't want to work anymore. There's nothing wrong with his ears now, though. It's his brain that's the problem. Her question isn't complicated. He should be able to answer it, but he's already forgotten what it was.

"I didn't know."

"You didn't know... that your son, a foot away from you screaming his lunges out, needs something." She bounces Wyatt on her hip. "Where are you right now, Mica?"

He blinks. He's here. Now. That's always the answer. We are always where we are and the time is always now. Problem is, the past is the present and the future will be the same forever and ever.

The same bright blood dripping from the same narrow wrist.

Every time is now. Every place is here. Soon there will be enough blood to fill the desert.

Amanda doesn't want to hear about dead girls and blood, though. He can't bring himself to tell her about all of that anyways.

"I'm home."

Amanda's shoulders relax. "That's right. You're home. With me, with your son, with Rachel and Kaylee, and your mom. We all support you."

That's silly. A five-month-old baby and his wife's teenage sisters take more than they give. Besides, he doesn't need help. Or doesn't want to need help.

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