The Lights Will Guide You Home


Explosions, burning red, searing hot, erupt on his left. Bodies, twisted and mangled, fly through the haze. Blood spatters any surface within reach. The force pitches him to the side, and he throws his arms up over his head as he hits the dirt hard. His comrades’ blood mingles with his own on his battered face. Shells jump through the smoke around him, cascading into the mud as boots trample them down. His lungs scream for air, desperate to regain oxygen.

Get up, something screams inside of him. Eyes dart across the space in front of him, desperately searching for an escape in between the parade of the living and the circus of the dead. A hand grasps the back of his coat, heaves him out of the mass of corpses and onto his feet. Cold metal is thrust into his shaking grip, and he tries his hardest to stay upright.

“Move, Soldier!” a voice orders in his ear, loud and urgent.

Breathe, he tells himself, clutching the gun up to his heaving chest. Subconsciously, his feet propel forward, falling into the run with those around him. There are no faces surrounding him as he runs, heart pounding, mind racing. There are no names, no childhood friends, no stories to these men. There is only friend or enemy – those who will die for the cause and those who must be killed for the cause. There are bullets diving into chests, hands gripping hemorrhaging wounds, mouths struggling to whisper their last secrets to the wind, hoping it somehow carries to their loved ones. There is war.

Another explosion, up ahead. He ducks his head and weaves to the right, pretending not to hear the agonizing shrieks of the newly departed as their souls were ripped from them. Just make it to the barricades, he urges himself, setting his jaw against the world. The mud is thick, like glue under his boots. It works against his every step. His legs burn under the stress, scream for relief. His ankle gives out under the strain, and he drops to his knees in the brown cement. Get up, his insides scream again. He digs the butt of his gun into the muck, forces himself up with its assistance, and lets the momentum carry him just a bit further.

Pain races through his joints, begging him to stop. The bastards won’t take me, he snarls. Bodies race by him on either side, so much faster than his broken frame would allow. One grips his arm as he passes, and thrusts him forward, into the safety of the buildings. The gunfire echoes off the plaster walls here; shells ricochet back, slamming into heads, arms. The other man relinquishes his hold on his bicep and sprints to aid a struggling machine gunner.

Shoot. Shoot something. The thought flicks across his mind like a pond skipper, fleeting. Find Ji-

Burning pain tears through his shoulder blade, hurling him forward under the momentum, and he feels the scream rip through his throat. His hand flies up to meet the warm, red glue snaking down from the wound. Find… He stumbles forward, staggers, collapses. Fog rolls in across his eyes, and he reaches fingertips out for his gun.


There is crimson pooling under him, and his eyelids are steel – too heavy to keep open. The fog melts into blackness, and he is scared. Is this what death is? His fingers can’t reach, and they falter, give up, resigned to their fate. He can’t breathe. Salty tears melt down his face, streaking through the blood and dirt. He can’t move.