False Dawn

Tommy gazed at the rising sun with a tired smile on his face.

He sat propped up against a small boulder, hidden in a depression in the hill, far away from the plains and paddy fields down below. But he did not look down below.

Instead, he watched as the colors began to bleed into the sky, filling it with shades of red and orange. The colors seemed to promise a new day, a fresh start, but Tommy knew it wasn’t for him.

He wiped the sweat from his tired brow and groaned at the pain when he moved. He kept his eyes on the sky, wanting to keep his final moments full of some form of beauty or another.

But he knew it wouldn’t last. They were already coming for him.

Small clouds scudded across the vast blue ahead, slowly being chased by the gentle wind. It hurt how beautiful the sky could be, when he stopped to think about it. So wide and so full of possibility.

Tommy took a deep breath, trying to suppress a cry of pain as he kept his hand pressed down firmly on his bare stomach, which was now slick and sticky with his …

He didn’t want to think about that.

He heard them then. They spoke in loud foreign voices, probably moving amongst the other dead men from Tommy’s squad as they made their way up the hill.

Tommy looked up at the sky until a head suddenly interrupted his view. He felt afraid but he managed a coarse lame “Hey” when the man stepped in front of him.

The other soldier was young, barely more than a boy. But Tommy could see the hardness in the man’s eyes. He did not see mercy.

The soldier shouted a question at Tommy. But Tommy didn’t speak their foreign language. So he couldn’t even protest in any way that was meaningful when the man raised his rifle at Tommy and barked out the question in a louder voice.

“I’m sorry. I don’t–” Tommy started to raise his hand, but the soldier kicked it away.

Tommy’s breaths were labored as he gazed up at the man who was blocking his view of the sky.

As he stared at the soldier, he wondered if they could have been friends if they had met in another time, under a different sky.

The sun rose steadily, still brand new. Tommy didn’t want his day to end but when the soldier lost interest and finally decided to pull the trigger, the end came anyway.

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