Soldier

He mumbles to himself. Words in no particular order that eventually change into a barely audible humming sound. He sits on a wooden dining chair in the middle of the room. One of the chair’s legs is shorter than the others causing the wooden panels on the floor to creak every time he moves his own weight. A sofa has been pushed to the side and now faces the wall so that no one can see its stuffing coming out. The rest of the room has been left empty. He quietly cries as he stares. He sees the blurred outline of the fireplace in front of him.

 

He sees the outline of a man on the ground. Then pieces of scattered brain in the sand. There are about ten other bodies spread across the courtyard, a broken camera lies next to an arm. He trudges towards the damaged van. An acrid smell with a hint of earth and bubbling fat encloses the area. The closer he gets the heavier his body feels. Light fades. Glass tears the skin of his finger. A shrill sound fills the inside of what is left of the van. He sees ghostly white eyes on a blood-covered face. A little girl sits in the front seat of the van.

‘You’re alive,’ he says. As he reaches out, his hand falls dead.

 

With his fists he grabs hold of thin air, stumbles and falls on the wooden panels of the room. The chair has fallen on its back. He stays on his knees, his body bent over and his face in his arms. His sweater can’t muffle his cries.

‘Are you alive?’ he mutters when he finally lifts his head. His eyelids have slightly drooped. His eyes glisten and tears left damp trails on his face. He stares at what was once a fireplace, now blocked off by wooden panels. He sees her face again, the glass splinters in her eyes.

 

He picks her up and runs towards a building where he leaves her with a medic. She’s still crying. He’s crying. She answers him from behind the fireplace.

‘Don’t come!’ he cries out.

Deafening gunshots rapidly land like rain on a tin roof, just a block away from him and his squad. Dust rises up above the buildings.

‘Lead Bradley turn south down the road where the engagements happened.’ They head towards the courtyard.

There’s a little crack in one of the wooden panels. He can see her through the broken window.

‘I’m so sorry.’

He crawls closer to the fireplace where he reaches out to remove the glass from her eyes but hits the panel instead. He blinks a few times without changing position. Silence fills his ears. On the mantelpiece, something shiny catches his eye. Without hesitation, he grabs hold of it and throws it to the ground. The medal doesn’t break. ‘Iraq campaign,’ it says. The medal is attached to a ribbon with red, white, green, and black lines. He hunches over it as he starts crying out loud.


Written for a creative writing assignment for the module ‘transpositions’. This story has transposed ‘A Poem’ by Robert Hass from genre to genre. By doing so, my text, which can be read as a standalone piece, created new elements and a new function compared to ‘A poem’. I intended for readers to experience PTSD as experienced by an ex-soldier. I tried to go to the heart of the experience through research as I have thankfully never had to experience PTSD or war myself.

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