Week 8 of 52 short stories prompt.
They were on opposite sides.
Every fibre in her body was telling her, ‘it’s you or him’, but she couldn’t do it. He was lying there, bleeding out on the battlefield and she was standing with her gun in hand.
All it would take was one bullet. And she knows, knows that he would take the chance if he could. He wouldn’t think twice. Or maybe that’s what she told herself, to ease her conscience.
But standing here, now? No, she can’t do it. She’s so tired. She’s bloody and worn down, the blood on her hands, both literally and metaphorically was too much to wash out. And there he was, lying in a pool of his own blood.
“Shoot me, please. Just do it. It’ll be worse for me if you don’t,” the soldier begged, tear tracks cutting through the dirt and blood on his cheeks, “they’ll just torture me anyway.”
“I – I can’t, I’m sorry I –
“Are you a soldier or not? You wouldn’t be here if you weren’t,” the man replied through bloodied teeth and chapped lips.
She paused. Was that really why she was here? No. She was here to help people. Not kill people. A soldier fights the fight that no one else can, to help protect the people back home. She didn’t take pleasure in killing her enemy but it had always been a dog eat dog world, even when she was a civilian. But now, standing here, in probably what would be her last living moments, she refused to go out this way – taking another’s life.
“No,” she replied, dropping her gun to sink to her knees and take a look at his wounds, “you’re going to bleed out here without –
“They’ll kill you. They’ll kill you because I can’t and you haven’t killed me,” the man grunted, groaning when she peeled his trouser leg up to his thigh, to take a look at his knee.
“No. We’re all going to die,” she muttered, “the base is comprised. Someone else is in charge. No point fighting each other, when someone else is just gonna kill us all anyway.”
The man fell silent for a moment, before grabbing her hands which made her look at him.
She smiled, her last smile, and squeezed his hands, “gotta go out with some sense of humanity, right?”
The man grunted and then reached forwards to take hold of her identity tags, “I’ve been here for months now and you’re the most human soldier I’ve come across.”
“Well then, soldier,” she said, giving him a halfhearted laugh, “you got any alcohol with ya back there? Might as well go out like a pair of kings.”
The two were found by the enemy, the real enemy, extraterrestrial beings, dead, by morning. They’d been finished off by their wounds and the bitter weather, but they hadn’t harmed each other.
So, on humanity’s last day, other worldly beings, learnt what it meant to be human, after years of seeing our corruption.
Because they promised, all those moons ago, that if everybody runs, they’ll choose to stay.
And they did.