When I was in the army, the single soldier always seemed to be an after thought. There wasn’t much for us beyond the gym, the library, and the rec center. I used to go to the rec center a lot. It had a big TV, games, and a place to hang out. There was always this one guy there, a regular. He was older than most of the other soldiers there, and I later learned he was a Specialist, retired. To retire at a pay grade of E-4, which is one level above private, meant something bad had happened.
Everyone stayed away from him, usually far away. Because he was lost in his own world, a world of the past, a world of Vietnam. Things happened in this world, and he talked to people in this world, and he made the sounds of battle in this world.
I thought about him as I started to write a story for an anthology themed “The Darkness Within.” Soldiers see things and experience things, and sometimes those things are too much. Twenty years later, I wonder what happened to him.
I never knew his name.
Visit my flash fiction story Sand Dollar Wishes on Writer Unboxed!