Rickshaws and Memories

Doc settles back into the seat and takes in the view. The wonderment of it all sets in. "I really am in the future..." he mutters to himself. As he sits slack-jawed, he reflexively reaches for his chew and adds some to his lip as he pats his pocket to reassure himself that his switchblade is right where it is supposed to be. The coat doesn't seem to fit quite right without the Colt though, but that is a minor inconvenience. Doc has always relied on his quick spin of a tale to sidestep most of the snags that life has put in his way, but after his stint in the National Guard, he knew there were times when words just fail and situations evolved into violence in less than a blink of an eye, and without warning, corpses start piling up like cord wood.

The interior of the rickshaw seems to fade away as Doc's mind's eye returns him to a grisly afternoon so long ago...


The heat makes a frying pan look comfy and the heat waves distort anything to far away. There is a continuous soft surge of the coolant throughout the Envirosuit across Doc's skin that keeps him from frying to a crisp in this sun, but it is of little comfort as the weight of his pack seems to keep pulling him closer to the blistering, baked sand and the fairy sparkles glint at the edge of his vision from exhaustion.

Doc travels with a different squad today. Their medic was cut in half by a mine yesterday and Doc gets volunteered to go with them, just house to house stuff. Just routine, but he is traveling with a bunch of unknowns after two weeks of this same nail biting shit. His buddies got their three days off behind the lines and enjoy food that doesn't come in a paste. They are clean and comfortable in their dress uniforms at the NCO club by now.

He pushes the button that brings his drinking straw to his mouth inside his helmet as he pictures his lifelong friend Ian slamming his empty beer glass against the bar and calling out to anyone who cared to listen that he could out-drink, out-fuck, and outfight any son of a bitch that ever walked the Earth, and he was prepared to prove it to anyone at that very moment and he would take on all comers.

Doc and Ian grew up across the crick from one another. They played together as children. They knew all the same people in the small town of Wilkin's Corners where they grew up. They went to school together and even split the cost of the limo that took them and their dates to the prom. They hunted and fished together. When neither could come up with the exorbitant fee for college, they did the only thing they could think of. They signed up for the National Guard, and hoped for the best.

Ian had always been the charismatic one. He was the guy who knew everyone and was invited to every party. He knew every girl and who she had dated, and there wasn't anyone who didn't look forward to seeing him. Bosses and mothers loved him, and most any woman within thirty feet wanted to know his name. On three separate occasions Doc witnessed Ian talk his way out of three tickets from three different police officers. The last one bothered to write up the warning, but put his phone number on the back with the promise that Ian would call when the next party was happening and if Kitty would be there.

While Ian was a silver tongued devil and welcomed everywhere, Doc came along and struggled with his shyness.

Doc takes a long pull of his water as his Envirosuit warns him that he has exceeded his water allotment for the day. Then the world turns upside down.

Doc looks to his right as the horizon does a flip-flop in front of him. The ground rises up in a hellish ball of dust that throws him to the ground. The thud of falling is only punctuated but the sudden weight of the body that lands on him after the blast. The next few seconds pass in a blur of explosions as Doc struggles under the weight of the man on top of him. As Doc tries to shove the man aside there is no mistaking the thwack of the piece of shrapnel that strikes the man above him, and the sensors of his Envirosuit detect the warmth of this man's blood as it trickles over him as they show it on his H.U.D.

In a moment of panic, Doc gathers his strength and manages to get out from under the body and struggle on hands and knees to the Captain as the ground heaved and the Envirosuit processed him vomit. The Captain couldn't be saved if they were in the E.R. of Johns Hopkins, and Doc moved to the next vague shape amongst the blasts.

The fifteen minute attack left thirty-six dead and fourteen wounded, and Doc suffered a wound to his left knee when the corpse he was crawling past spasmed and pulled his trigger. For the rest of his life he could tell when a storm was coming as his knee would act up.

When the shelling finally stopped, Doc followed his tracks through the dust back to the man that had fallen on him.

One look could tell that this man never had a chance. The neat hole in his Envirosuit had been sealed with a thick layer of blood and the sand around him has soaked it up quick. Doc called to the H.U.D. to identify the soldier and it came back with "File Not Found" then it shuts down. The piped in filtered air stops and Doc yanks off his helmet and gasps as the hot dirty air fills his lungs. His hands find the clasps of the other mans helmet by feel, as his eyes water against the dust and heat. As the cool air escapes the man's helmet, Doc breathes deep to suck in some air that isn't close to flaming mud, and the air fills him with a sensation that the world has suddenly snapped into focus. As the helmet rolls away and the dust parts for a moment the face becomes clear.

It's Ian.

Ian is supposed to be seventy-four miles from here, on leave and having fun. The name on the front of the suit says Sergeant Mel Fogle who is roughly sixty-eight miles away enjoying a leave he wasn't up for.

For one brief second Ian's eyes regain focus and his lips mutter a soundless word, "friend", and then he dies.

From there on out, Doc swore he would live his life to the fullest, just the way Ian had.


Doc looks around the rickshaw and realises his chew has gone dry in his mouth, and without thinking, chucks it out the open window.

1 comment:

ERR said...

Beautiful development story. Perhaps we can save Ian's life one day.