The sky was dark red. It almost seemed the skies were at war too. The sun was ready to set. Jack noticed how unusually big it looked at that moment. He lied there waiting, head turned to the horizon where the sun would soon fall into as night took its rightful place.
He watched the rayless sun slowly fall as darkness descended. He closed his eyes for a second to imagine how the night would look. He supposed it would be pitch-black. The moon was at its weakest point the day before; he figured it would disappear completely tonight depriving them of any skylight. He didn’t see any stars since he arrived either. The sky would be utterly deserted that night. He remembered his first day. He snorted at the thought of how even the stars were frightened to be in this part of the world. He relished at his strength and courage and of those around him because they dared to step foot in front of the guns. Because they dared to put themselves in the front line as a shield to protect their country, their rights, and the lives of those they loved. But now.. Jack smiled sarcastically as he steadily opened his eyes. He only felt betrayed. Even by the sky. He thought the sun was a weakling, so easily defeated, so quick to run away from a fight; the moon a traitor, appearing during victories and abandoning them during losses; and the stars, the stars were cowards.
He forced himself to look away from the deceitful beauty the horizon was displaying. There had to be some sort of cruel irony in this, Jack surmised as he carefully looked towards his left. There, only a couple of feet away from him, was his childhood friend. He remembered themselves at the age of five when they attempted to jump off the roof with their self-made paper wings, then when they turned into young boys chasing after girls, and into young men when they left home. ‘Look at us now Brad’, Jack whispered inaudibly. He stared at his friend’s lifeless blue eyes, guilty how his mind led him to one grateful thought to another. He was glad he wouldn’t be home to tell Brad’s parents how he suffered during his days away from home. He was glad they wouldn’t be able to constantly badger him with questions how their son died. He was glad he wouldn’t have to resort to telling them how their son didn’t die as a hero, fighting and defending his beloved country. He was glad he didn’t have to tell them that their son died instantaneously from a direct hit to the head while he bitterly ate his cold, tasteless dinner as he tried to swat flies away irritably. He was most glad, however, that Brad’s death would not be able to haunt him to his death. Then a pang of guilt hit Jack. Suddenly, he felt responsible for his friend’s life. His own death was an easy escape. He realized he deserved to live a life in solitude misery as the memory of the war and Brad slowly killed him.
In the distance, he could still hear horror-stricken screams as gunshots and bombs were fired one after the other. Jack closed his eyes again, remembering the time they played football in school. It was the last game of the year, the school band and cheerleaders would kick their performances to the next level. It was all noise to Jack back then, with their drums, trombone and other fancy instruments Jack couldn’t care less about. How he longed he could hear them play at that moment, to hear cheers instead of screams. He closed his eyes tighter, reliving those moments again. He stood nervously by his teammates, slightly jumping up and down to relax his nerves. His anticipation grew by the second, longing to rush in the field to hear the crowd roaring even louder. He imagined himself slowly running in the centre, gleaming under the light-filled sky as the crowd chanted his name.
With a sudden blast, Jack’s eyes shot open. This one was nearer to where he and Brad lied. He managed to lift his head a bit to look beyond his feet. He could hardly make out clearly what he saw. But he knew what was happening. Their camps were on fire. ‘They want us all gone Bradley. Who’s going to save us?’
It was near, now. He could hardly feel any pain. He carefully tilted his head to the right. He didn’t dare think about home now, the people he left behind, the future he could have had. He couldn’t bear the thought of what ifs. Three-fourths of the sun had gone under already. It was harder to watch now. With heavy eyelids, he couldn’t control the unwanted tears, anymore. The heaven-esque view in front of him was both a curse and a gift. And along with the fall of the sun, Jack slowly closed his eyes, drew in one last breath as the words of Kipling echoed in his mind, ‘If any question why we died, tell them because our fathers lied.’