Guns and Roses in Life

Posted: December 25, 2009 in Fictional stories
Tags: , ,


“Mark Atkins!” “Mark, attention boy; we are on the roll again!”


 The voice thundered and boomed in his head. The intonation of it was not lost on him. He woke up with a start and stared around him. The darkness of the room hit him like an opaque wall. His eyes peered desperately for any sign of life around him. The ticking of the clock was all he heard. He fell back on the pillows and slapped his forehead with his palm and willed himself to sleep. After an hour of tossing and turning his tired mind blanked out and passed out into a deep sleep.


 This was his third week after his return from deputation in Iraq. He was physically present at home but mentally far away in a distant land that was not only different in terrain and people but a world apart in culture and beliefs. He was so used to walking around in his army fatigues with a rifle slung on his shoulder and heavy soled shoes. His eyes were constantly on the watch. Every time his army cavalcade moved around the troubled hot spots the brain was in high gear listening, watching, and waiting for the sound of gunfire and an ambush. His nerves were frayed. Two weeks back an army cavalcade was ambushed and he had lost his dear friend Sgt. Steven Miller. Steven was from the 2nd battalion, 16th infantry, 4th brigade combat team the news had announced that night. They had returned his body home, with full honors with the country’s flag wrapped around the coffin. Mark had died on that day and every other day when another innocent was killed. Some days it was his men, some days the innocent people of the land who just wanted it all to end.

 Peace was nowhere in sight and those who battled on were loosing their confidence steadily. Nobody knew why the war was being fought anymore. The clarity of vision was lost but patriotism towards their homeland drove them on. They were soldiers.. They had to fight no matter what. There was no room for negotiations. It was to do and die. They had chosen that path and it was a matter of honor. They were duty bound. They saw it day in and day out. The innocent were being killed, life disrupted, a lack of order, children unable to attend school, men of the house unable to work regularly for fear of being killed in a bomb blast and as if this wasn’t enough they lost their friends one after the other . The coffins did not stop going home.  They weren’t even featured in the eight-O-clock headline news anymore. Of course! The rest of the country had to eat their dinner in peace while watching TV. It was only the mothers and the nearest of kin who would suffer for the rest of their life. There would be state honors and an epitaph that spoke of another brilliant soldier who gave up his life. A widow, an orphan, a child without a father or mother would be the consequence, just like any other war. They would cope eventually and move on.

 Mark’s wife Linda snuggled closer to him and held him tight. She hadn’t seen much of him since their marriage. He hadn’t seen their new born either. Linda had managed with help from relatives to bring up their little one. Frequent calls and letters were their only means of communication. She had forgotten how it felt to be holding him close and cuddling with him on a cold winter night in New London. She had forgotten how he smelt or felt for that matter. So had he. But life had not gone back to routine and it wasn’t easy for either of them. Marks recurring nightmares had disrupted their life and he had become strangely aloof. There were times when he felt like a social outcast. Memories, mostly harsh ones of his friends dying in his arms and seeing torn flesh and gory blood had numbed his senses way more than he had imagined. Linda was a stranger to him now and he was coping, knowing her and loving her all over again. Linda had to be excruciatingly patient and helpful with him.


 Mark’s steady breathing calmed Linda’s mind. She looked into the darkness and wondered who the stranger in her bed was. Where was he? Somewhere in Iraq she had lost her husband and had to reclaim him all over again. Tears flowed down her cheeks silently wetting the pillow. She held him closer, like a mother protecting her child. She wanted him back so badly that it hurt.


 A strange guttural sound emanated from Mark and he sat upright screaming in agony. His hands flailed in the darkness, shielding his eyes. He was mouthing something in a language Linda did not understand. Linda jumped up and turned on the light, flooding the room with its intensity. She tucked Mark’s head into the curve of her shoulders and patted him gently whispering his name. This was a routine now. Those nightmares wouldn’t go away. Mark opened his eyes and looked at Linda, the realization dawning on him. His body racked with sobs as he silently shed tears. He held her and cried.


 “I am sorry baby! I can’t help it!” he said.

 “It’s okay! Its okay,” she said calming him.


 A child’s cry from the nursery brought them back to the awareness of another person, whose needs were more urgent. Linda disengaged herself and left the room to attend to the little one. Mark crashed back on to the pillows and stared hard at the ceiling numbed and spent.

 Days passed on into months and somewhere along those days that stretched endlessly, a life had to come back to normalcy. Mark coped, learned and re-learned to be human again. The pain was evident occasionally but time had made those memories more hazy and bearable.

 There were others who had lost a limb or had lost the fight to survive. But he wasn’t giving up easy. Not tomorrow or ever. He owed it to his family and to himself. He had to find his bearings and un-become the Zombie that he had come to be. He had to make the rest of his life a bed of roses to protect his sanity and for the rest of his family. It was a hard climb but he did so eventually just like those before him and after him. The personal hell he had gone through would stay tucked away in him memories and safely in the fissures of his mind.


 Note: The views and opinions here are personal and not meant to offend anyone’s sensibilities about the war.



  1. Rajiv Mohan says:

    This is a repeat of Vietnam….. Kids romanticising war, and getting totally disoriented by its harsh realities. .. The body bags may be less… Reminds me of Billy Joel’s ‘Goodbye Saigon’ – one of the most poignant nos. on the ‘Nam war..
    … “we came in spastic, like tameless horses
    we left in plastic as numbered corpses.”

  2. Raju so glad to see you here and read your comment. That verse so true…body bags it is and the family takes the brunt badly…Most of the returning soldiers have PTD (post traumatic stress disorder). The situation is quite bad and the federal govt is not doing anythign about rehabilitating them on their return. Left to fend for themselves they suffer more than people realize…
    Thanks :)