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Rated: E · Short Story · Contest Entry · #2256267
A soldier goes home
Where does this door take you?
The scent of burnt gunpowder clung heavily in the humid, breathless air. Far as the eye could see, once fierce mighty warriors now laid crumpled and trampled on the lush green pasture. In the distance, the sound of active battle still raged as enemy troops forced the front lines to give up hard-won ground gained only hours before.

Alan Holtmyer blinked, trying to comprehend what had happened. Through the fog trying to drag him back into an abyss of nothingness, he forces his eyes to stay open and focus. The relentless heat bearing down on him was unmerciful, feeling as if he were being slowly roasted alive. His eyes scanned his surroundings. Not too far from where he lay, he spied was that a door? He closed his eyes, counted to five and slowly reopened them, and focused once more in the direction he'd looked before. It was still there, a door. From where he lay, he could not make out anything except the door.

Carefully, he moved first one arm then the other. Both moved with minimal pain. With his right hand, he felt his chest, abdomen, and sides. When he felt his left side, he first felt the wetness then, as his hand found the gaping wound, he felt the pain and sucked in a lung full of air to keep from passing out. Gingerly, he moved one leg then the other. His left leg refused to move. Clamping his teeth together to keep from screaming, he pushed himself into a sitting position causing his vision to blur and the world began to spin. It took all his strength to keep from toppling back over. When the world stopped spinning he opened his eyes and looked down and tightly closed his eyes. No, it was not possible!

A tap on his shoulder forced his eyes open wide as he looked up into the face of a soldier wearing the same uniform as his own. He didn't recognize the man though. "Need a hand up?" Without waiting for a reply, he reached down and grasped Alan around the waist and yanked him effortlessly to his one foot. "Lean on me, and I'll help you," the man said. "We are heading to that door, just over there." All around him, Alan saw other soldiers standing and moving towards him. What had happened? Why did they all get left behind if they were all still alive? It was not easy, but with the help of the massive man helping him, they reached the door and Alan was surprised he no longer felt any pain. His head was much clearer. Other soldiers were walking through the door and as far as Alan could tell, nothing strange, nothing bad was happening.

When it was their turn, the man helping Alan stepped over the threshold without letting go of Alan, and Alan slipped in right after him. They were in a hall of some sort, long, narrow, and packed dirt under his foot. Slowly, Alan became aware that he was not hobbling and leaning as hard on his brother in arms. In the dim light, with astonishment, Alan saw a new limb where none had been just a little while ago! He let go of the man helping him and the man grinned, nodded and they proceeded to follow the others down the long hall.

Bright light, unlike anything Alan had ever seen radiated as the hall opened into a massive sprawling pasture, except it was nothing like the one he'd fought on that very day. As he stepped across the threshold the fragrant breeze held hints of lavender, magnolia, and pine. It was a cool, refreshing breeze that welcomed him and enticed him to enter further into the new dimension. Lush, emerald grass as far as his eyes could see blanketed gently rolling hills. Majestic weeping willow trees grew strong and tall along the banks of a river that looked lazy and Alan had the intense desire to kick his beat-up boots off and to wade into the waters.

As he approached the river, it felt so natural, so right to discard his armor, to free himself from the restrictions of this clothing. A peace unlike anything he had ever felt settled over him and he boldly waded into the river. The water cool but not uncomfortably cold. As he rolled onto his back and just let himself float along with the current he felt like for the first time in all his life he had finally come home.
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