A NIGHT ON WATCH, a short story

The explosion woke him.

They knew when they crossed those two lines that the battles were going to intensify.

Months they waited.

Still no treaty.

His eyes struggled to stay open. He'd been on watch all through the night. He forced his will to hold them open, at least long enough so they could adjust to the darkness.

There his bedmate was, next to him, flopping like a fish out of water.

“Dammit,” he muttered as his eyes no longer needed willpower but were held open by awe.

A thick, dark substance coated his bedmate’s waist and lower half. Even in the shadow of the midnight hour, he knew it could only be one thing.

He lifted himself up and angled his body in position over the victim of the night. He didn’t want to, but he had to. It was the call of duty, the responsibility he had taken on. No one else was going to do it and if he abandoned his post, there would surely be hell to pay. Not only would the guilt eat away at him, the government would surely come after him.

It was everywhere, he thought to himself, be calm.

The bedmate was still writhing, now accompanied by screaming. It was ear piercing; however, he was used to it by now. Screams were heard almost every night. Screams, shrieks, cries of pain and fits of hunger. It was a terrible scene and he wondered when it was going to end. Everyone with more experience in the field liked to say it wouldn’t last much longer but he didn’t believe them. No, part of him actually hated them.

For years they told him lies about how glorious it was to be in this battle, this struggle. They didn’t inform him of the losses he would experience, the lunacy he would be consumed by. No one explained the horrible, terrifying nights alone in the dark. They just repeated the usual cliché sayings, told their reminiscent stories and showed off their medals.

He thought he was ready for it, but now in the late night as he placed his hand on his bedmate’s chest and attempted to soothe him, he didn’t know anymore.

Just do it quickly, it’ll be fine, he told himself and took a deep breath. Then he undid the messy undergarments to get a closer look at the damage. The darkness might have covered the color of the substance but after plenty nights of battle, he knew it all too well.

He knew the smell. Everyone knew the smell.

The damage was colossal and the slippery matter was everywhere now. He started to panic as he looked down at his hands and saw they were covered in it. Shit. Shit, shit, shit, shit. His mind was racing on what to do next, he looked for something to start wiping the mess up.

That’s when the bedmate started crying for his mother. It was never easy seeing it come to that. He hated seeing it. It happened often in situations like these. In the dark nights of this war, mother was usually a word that brought salvation. It pained his ears to hear the fear in those desperate cries but what was he supposed to tell him? He himself had been in this position before and cried for his mother too. Anyone would.

He was almost finished wiping up when bodily fluid started spraying at him. He dodged it quickly as it squirted and whizzed past his left ear. Scrambling for something to stop the leaking he grabbed another pair of undergarments and threw it over the source. It hit the undergarment and bounced off, splattering across his shirt. He felt the wetness soak through and shook his head.

What had he signed up for? Where was his backup? Where were the reinforcements? Didn’t they hear the commotion? His mind was racing, he wasn’t prepared for this. His bedmate was still squirming and tearing away at his vocal chords.

It was time to call it in. He needed assistance. Someone more equipped for the job.

Just then the light in the room flicked on.

“What the hell’s going on in here?” the woman asked.

“He shit everywhere, then he pissed on me. I don’t know what to do,” he said.

She looked at the scene of her husband on his knees holding a diaper to their baby’s crotch. There were feces all over his hands and the sheets, along with a smattering of urine across his shirt.

She couldn't help but chuckle. “This is supposed to be your night,” she said, walking over and taking hold of the baby. The cries stopped and turned into a calm hum as the baby was glad to see the mother had finally arrived.

“I don’t know about this whole ‘my night, your night’ thing. Don’t you think we’re better off as a team?” the husband asked from the bathroom while washing his hands with as much scented soap as he could fit in his palm.

She shook her head while wearing a smirk.

“Sure,” she said. The baby was quiet now and she kissed him on the cheek. “Hey, teammate, how about you make a bottle for this guy?”

“Copy that, ammunition on the way,” he said.

“What?”

“Oh, nothing,” he said and leaped into the living room where toys scattered the floor.

He had made it through the first part of the night. Now his battalion needed ammunition. He looked in front of him at the minefield blocking his path to the ammo.

This war wasn’t easy, but hell, what did he expect?

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