Going Home

I wrote a short little story I’d like to share with you.  Enjoy.

The battle was over.  Mangled bodies littered the field, piled on top of each other. I walked among the carcasses, the acrid stench of death filling my nostrils, looking for other survivors.  Around me, other soldiers did the same.  No one spoke.  I looked for signs of life among the dead, and found none.  I wandered for a while, unwilling to give up.  I refused to leave a single man behind.   Some of the other soldiers just stood rooted to the ground.  Some wept quietly.  Others, like me, were prodding the bodies, willing them to rise from their slumber.

After a while I realized no one else had survived.  I looked around at the two dozen men around me.  As one, we moved together, drawing in our ranks.  Still no one uttered a word.  The eyes said it all: regret, sadness, misery.  War is hell.

By some unspoken agreement, we just started walking until we were clear of the field.  I couldn’t bear to look back.  Suddenly a train pulled up out of nowhere.  The doors opened in front of us.  Was this our ticket out of Hell?  Rescued!  I walked inside the train car, and the other soldiers followed.  I finally found my voice, then I found the conductor.  “Hey, excuse me, sir.  Where does this train go?”

The conductor had a kind face.  He replied, “Son, this train will take you home.”

I felt relief.  Sure, I felt bad for all the guys who didn’t make it, but I was glad to be going home.  I couldn’t wait to see my wife and kids again.  The other guys seemed relieved too.  Everyone put down their rifles.  The doors closed, and the train started moving.  It felt good to be getting away from the battlefield.

I said to the conductor, “How did you know where to find us?”

He said, “It’s my job.”

“I hate to say this, but as bad as I feel for those other soldiers lying dead on the field, I’m so grateful to have made it out of there alive,” I said.

The conductor looked at me quizzically but with compassion in his eyes and said, “Son, what makes you think you made it out of there alive?”

I looked out the window and all I saw was gray mist.  In a moment the memories came back.  The first shot had clipped my elbow.  The second shot hit me in the thigh sending white hot pain coursing through my entire body.  The third was the killer.  It nicked the artery in my neck.   My life spilled onto the field in seconds. I never even saw my killer’s face.   

I looked around at the other guys.  They had heard my conversation with the conductor.  Realization dawned on all of us.

I quietly asked the conductor, “Where did you say this train was taking us again?”

He answered slowly, “Home, Son.  You’re going Home.”  He patted my shoulder comfortingly.

I sat down heavily on a bench.  I buried my head in my hands and cried.  Home…

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