When Silence Calls

Thomas R.J Hudson. US Infantry Division, Afghanistan. Missing in action, presumed dead. [Brilliant cover by ireumeun.chloe]

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1. Homecoming

"Daddy!" The little girl screamed at the top of her lungs, almost like the world depended on it, and ran towards the first man who stepped off the plane. He was wearing uniform, they all were, and each carried a heavy bag which they slung over their shoulders. The first man began to run towards his daughter. Bag slipping down his arm. Tears rolling down his cheeks. Black boots plodding loudly.

I inhabited the air, and the silence, as their bodies touched and the love rushed out all at once, like the viscous blood from a bullet wound. The L/Corporal dropped his bags as he held his daughter like nothing else mattered, like all that he'd ever been fighting for was right there in front of him. Her tears stained his military jacket, also tarnished with the distinct smell of tobacco and gunpowder. Wild eyes, the eyes of unforgivable crime, had finally seen something of great delight. Those same eyes had also been someone's last glimpse of this pitiful world.

As the airfield overflowed with crying families and homecoming soldiers, I frantically searched for my own father. Oh how I had missed him. Longing for his loving hugs and his softhearted smile. One by one, his colleagues stepped out from the plane, the whole Squadron.

The sun dipped below the western horizon, pouring out the last of its brilliant hot oranges and reds into the sky like a pot of molten lava. The clouds curled like split ink around the rays of sunlight, stretching towards the edges of the earth. We always used to watch the sunset on the front terrace, just my father and me. We'd laugh and he'd play the guitar for me in the setting sun. Did the same on our last night together, before he was stationed in Afghanistan the following day. I fell asleep come nightfall, and dreamed of the day my father would return home. And here I was. On that day. Reliving that night's dream, for real this time.

The last few soldiers were leaving the aircraft and I waited and waited for the face of my father to appear. Heartbeat grew faster. Tension grew stronger.

Nothing.

The last man departed the plane, his face concealed by the rush of fading sunlight blinding my eyes. Panicking, I broke into a jog, and then a run. "Dad!" I heard myself shouting. "D-Dad!". I pushed past crying families, my legs becoming numb and my eyes becoming blurred with my desperate tears. Blurred so much I momentarily could not see. "Dad, Dad!" I cried again, as the shadow of the last man departing the aircraft melted into the crowd... 

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