I am back at work for the first time today. For the last three weeks I have been on leave, waiting for something to happen that did not, waiting for the phone call that did not come. Waiting for them to drag me back into the morass so that I could be part of the whole again. The wayward child standing alone for a bit, allowed to drop the load and wander astray. Out of the circle. With returning comes the usual greetings as to how things were. Thinly veiled inquiries as to whether or not I am still sane in some small respect.
"They're leaving in mid September." Mark says between drags on a cigarette. The sun is beaming down on the smoking area as we sit chatting before everyone else shows up at three thirty. "One of the new DDG's."
"Those fly two things?" Asking only confirms that the conversions have begun in earnest, FLY 2 is significant in that it will allow Spruance class Aegis DDG's to carry SH-60B detachments. I want to go, naturally. Anything new I am after, anything different than what I have dealt with before, anything away from here. Only now things are more complicated.
"Yeah, guess they finished the first, bringing it out to the west coast. Think four is going to take it but I'm probably going to the Stennis." This may indeed be true, he screened for Chief.
"They looking for a lead tech?" Here we go, there we are again. The old self shining through the layers polished on by a few days of leave spent away from this place and these birds. I can feel the need again, the desire to run hard and fast back to where I feel whole again.
"Scott would be the one to talk to about that."
"Ah." Probably worth a questioning then.
"When do you transfer?"
"I dunno about that then, see they'd be leaving about the same time."
Snow falls out of the yellow-gray night sky under the Plutonium Facility in Los Alamos. The arc sodium flood lights paint the flakes grey for some reason, rendering them as ash until the crystalline structure blooms fully in the cone of light. They flash bright, fading until they rustle softly to the ground. So quiet, the sound of ice drifting slowly to the ground in the still air nothing more than the distant sound of two papers being occasionally drawn across each other. I watch this from the side of the road, transfixed by the silent beauty of the monument that serves one purpose and one purpose alone. Leaving this place will prove difficult.
"Did you dream last night?" Turn off the lights, try not to forget who I am.
"No." Muzzle flashes close in the dark, deep booming thunder on the horizon. Fear. Something warm bleeding out and then fading fast. They named her Molly. The fifty cal. "Was I talking in my sleep?"
"Yes." Pausing, carefully.
"What did I say?"
"I didn't understand."
"Huh." Good, I would not want you to this time.
"Hell of a way to spend fucking Christmas." Commenting on the situation, Mark watches as an oil fire slides past the bow of the Shiloh. Another orbit in the NAG, another day down, another moment lost between here and home.
"Could be worse." I observe wryly. "At least we're not getting shot at."
Breathing heavily, I stare at the blood soaking through the shredded white fabric that at one point had been intended from preventing this from happening. Apparently, medical tape slips severely in high humidity environments when subjected to repeated impact stress applied over the course of two hours. I pad to the bench and pull the scissors from the kit, cut the worn material from across the knuckles of hands and feet to inspect the damage. Feet are fine, dirt from the floor has rubbed off and turned the soles dirty in tell tale contact patches. Hands are a slightly different story. The split in the bag that I had not noticed until it was too late to care has lacerated the knuckles in a dozen places. Crimson slowly builds into small mounds until a combination of surface tension pulls it down toward the ends of the fingers. There it pools slowly until it finally falls, disappearing into the heavy neoprene matting. The dripping produces a sound similar to someone tapping softly on the floor in a slow irregular motion that reminds me of heavy snow falling in the trees. Looking up, I notice a brown comma-shaped stain on the side of the bag's red surface.
"You okay?" I'd almost forgot that Sheila had come into the gym as I was finishing up minutes ago. The rage was such that I forgot the need to control it in front of other people. The effort has pushed it back into a hard, black mass again.
"Jesus. You're bleeding."
"I'm fine." Growling forces thoroughly agreeable although ugly silence into the room.
'...there's someone else...'
Wow, I must be that stupid.
"Whad'ya thinking about?" Water sliding by the hull, Mark stares at the overhead red light in the smoking area of the port windbreak.
"If we're going to make it out of this mess." Pause, feel the breath rise and fall, collect to begin again.
"What mess?" Fade, move, feint toward an unseen goal.
"This Gulf Shit." Glance, thrust out, slam into dense foam and plastic coating. Repeat.
"Better if we'd just start shooting, get it over with." Memory of violence fading rapidly, the scars grown over and almost invisible.
"No." Shutdown. Hammering of gunfire visible behind closed eyes, the bright five hundred fifty round a minute pulse blooming in glass silence. Throat raw from screaming formless words at an invisible target. I sigh and open my eyes, laughing shallow at a joke that should not be funny. Glancing toward the ceiling, I notice the form of a single dead moth is pinned prostrate in primary red beneath the plastic cover.
"Welcome back, Yurei." Chief, in the smoking area.
"Thanks." A final handshake to confirm that I am home where I belong again. In a way I suppose I should not fear fate. The eyes open to push back the possible hell, the nightmare always the same.