Bless me, Father, for I have sinned. It’s been six months and four days since my last confession. Father, I have hurt others in the most horrid ways. I have blindly killed people, many people, even the most innocent, in the name of war and…for money. And I have disrespected my mother and forsaken my family in time of need.
Father, do you hear me?
On a hillside mount above the village, I watch and wait. Massive gunfire and exploding mortar rounds, flames and smoke, cries, screams, a woman running with two small children. I pick up and follow the woman in my crosshair. Holding one child and dragging the other behind, she carefully navigates the streets littered with debris and bodies—injured and dead. Then she stops abruptly, coming face to face with a soldier pointing a carbine at her head. I finger the trigger contemplating the two dead-still figures in my sight. As I start to squeeze, a huge explosion blasts the world into pieces scattering my body in every direction. Then in the darkness, I find myself falling, falling, falling into a never ending void.
Six days ago, I woke up not knowing where I was or how I got here or if I was alive or dead or both. I remember an explosion. That’s all. My body is in one piece, but my mind is something different, confused and elusive. I’m not sure what’s real and what’s not.
This place, for instance. I’ve seen no sign of life here, not one creature, not a bird in the sky, not even a bug. Not one human. No sign of humanity. Silence and an eerie stillness surround me like a landscape painting. I’ve spent six days walking through empty space where nothing moves or changes except for the sun and moon rising and setting.
From my initial exploration, I determined that this is an island, but where? The surrounding waters lie still, no breaking waves nor changing tides, no movement at all, just a silent flat endless mirror reflecting the heavens and dropping off into the horizon.
Tomorrow I hope to reach the far end, the part of the island still unknown to me. Maybe there I can find some answers. Or maybe I’ll just stumble onto the same nothingness, the same lifeless life I’ve gotten to know.
I must rest now. I’m tired and confused and have gone six days without food and water, but my body seems to function normal. Dead man walking, I muse to myself. Is it me or is it this world that’s out of order?
I doze off and drift into the world I knew before I ended up here. The dreams and the nightmares all the same, always with you. Then, from nowhere, the sound of screams—not the screams of animals, but people—awakens me.
The screams grow louder. I jump up and try to decipher where they’re coming from. But they are all around me, becoming louder and louder, low deep moans and high shrilling screams, cries of agony, getting closer and closer, echoing from every corner of the island.
I cover my ears, but they don’t go away. Louder and closer. Now I feel the screams touching me, the agony tormenting what sanity I have left. I run through the darkness but can’t escape them. I must have ran most of the night before collapsing, hitting my head on a boulder and passing out.
When I regain consciousness, the sun is up. Soaked with sweat, I shiver cold chills. I climb atop the boulder, warmed by the sun, and lie there trying to comprehend the voices and events that led me here. I feel my head for signs of injuries, but there are none. I eventually regain my senses, stand up, and look for signs of something.
I expect I’m near the other side of the island. The terrain has changed from dense forest to open fields. About a mile away, a hill stands between me and the hope of finding life. I start walking.
As I walk, I wonder what, if anything, awaits me over that hill. Part of me is excited and another part is afraid and apprehensive. I’ve never been afraid of anything. I wear my bad-ass attitude like a badge of pride. In my life, I’ve killed enough people to populate a small town and survived more than a few wars.
But this is different. It’s just me and the unknown.
Approaching the base of the hill, I see that it’s much higher than it appeared from a distance. Up ahead, I spot a path, steep but easy enough to walk. I ascend the hill quickly at first, then slow to a steady pace as the air thickens and it feels like I’m pushing through clouds. My breathing stifles and my pace slows to a crawl.
I reach the crest and pause to catch my breath. Then I notice something that can’t be real. A few feet in front of me, lying on a rock, is a sniper’s rifle and the rosary my mother carried to her grave.
I pick up and examine the rifle, then the rosary. Both are real.
Confused, I walk to the edge and look out over the rest of the island. I freeze. Below and as far as my eyes can see are graves, thousands or even more, some freshly dug.
I stand, numb and dumbfounded, holding rifle and rosary, staring out over the never-ending mass graves. Then my body goes limp, empty, and I snap and start laughing hysterically. I laugh so loud the dead down below begin to rise. And as they rise, familiar sounds—the music of war—silence my laughter. I turn to face clouds of war smoke covering the island and demons marching from the forest. I drop to my knees, gripping both rifle and rosary. I am no longer alone.
Father, do you hear me now?
(I entered this story in a contest sponsored by Dark Regions Press. The contest’s theme was a lone survivor on a deserted island with a word length of 1000 words. I didn’t win so I thought I would share the story here.)