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TITLE: Nightmares of War
By C.M. Erickson
01/18/08
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I'm looking to submit this for a writing competition in Canada (they take American writing). I'm concerned my dialogue is weak and my description/setting is lacking. I was in the Army - you can be brutally honest.
He stood in the center of the stadium, stifled by the oppressive heat and burning sun. It didn’t help matters that he was wearing body armor and a helmet, concentrating the furnace-like effect over his torso and head. Sweat poured down his forehead and into his eyes. His whole world was on fire.

“They’re coming!” shouted his platoon sergeant.

He looked up. Against the glare of the sun, he saw movement as the insurgents crested the top of the stadium and poured down towards the two of them in rushing black waves. He pulled his pistol from its holster and brought it to bear on the nearest insurgents. The pistol felt abnormally heavy, and he struggled to lift it. The insurgents were getting closer. Their yells pierced his ears, and their knives glinted painfully in the sun. He chose the one bearing a bazooka and squeezed the trigger. The trigger didn’t budge. He tried to use both hands to pull the trigger, all to no avail. Icy cold fear stabbed him in the stomach and shot upwards to his throat. He turned to look at his platoon sergeant, only to discover he was having the same problem.

“Tom, Tom!!” his platoon sergeant shouted at him, panic rising in his voice. Tom had the hazy fleeting thought that his platoon sergeant should not be addressing him by his first name. The world started moving in slow motion. Breathing was too much effort.

“Tom, Tom!” his platoon sergeant was now shaking him while yelling at him. The insurgents were a stone’s throw away on all sides, and they had no hope for survival. As he stared at his wild-eyed platoon sergeant, he realized he didn’t care. He just wanted the struggle to be over.

“Tom!!!!” his wife shook him so hard she thought his teeth would rattle. His moaning had awakened her once again. He was shivering violently, sweating, and crying. She hated his nightmares. His moaning chilled her to the bone. Not knowing what else to do, she slapped her husband.

Tom sat bolt upright in bed, breathing hard. He turned to look at his wife, who for some reason looked guilty. His face stung.

“I’m sorry I slapped you,” she said hesitantly, “I didn’t know what else to do. You wouldn’t wake up.”

Tom’s breathing slowly settled. He wiped the sweat and tears off of his face with his left sleeve. His wife flipped his pillow over to the dry side. He lay back down, and she snuggled up against him.

“I love you,” she offered tentatively, unsure of the appropriate thing to say.

“Oh baby, I love you, too.” He sighed before falling asleep again. His nightmares always exhausted him. His wife lay next to him, feeling his chest rise and fall rhythmically. She had thought their family’s sacrifice for the war would end when her husband got home. She was starting to wonder how many other sacrifices would be required in the service of their nation.
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