Neil’s surroundings were complete darkness. Pitch black. All he could hear was voices and sounds. He was sure he was dreaming.
He couldn’t get Julia out of his mind. She was just a little girl about seven. Just like that, her life was snuffed out, all because he couldn’t pull the trigger two seconds faster. He cried all night, and had spent the next few days doing the same thing. When she was being buried, he attended her funeral. Every week he went by to put flowers on her grave. Her laugh echoed through his head.
Then Bebo died. An injured oriole he had found, he nursed him back to health and spent a few months with him. But one day when an aerial battleship from some Middle Eastern country was fighting the Vigilance, the ship took hits and a large portion of one of the decks was destroyed. One could guess where the poor bird ended up.
Neil had lost a lot; about everything he cared for was gone in the past two months. Grief was bothering him a lot; the dark was scary enough by itself. At night, all he kept dreaming was blackness and voices. It was haunting, but above anything else, it was heartbreaking knowing that the things he loved or had fought so hard to protect and care for were lost.
Tears started to flow from his eyes as he cried, the sound echoing in the hollow space around him. Time seemed to go on forever and nothing change when he felt someone touch his shoulder.
Trying to look, he saw two people next to him, all whom he recognized. The first was Chawla, an Indian woman in her late twenties in a black military dress uniform of a jacket and skirt, complete with a white captain’s hat. The other one was Jennifer, another girl just about twenty with deep crimson hair in a ponytail and bangs, wearing a black and gray pilot jumpsuit.
“Why are you crying?” Chawla asked softly. She knelt down on one knee next to him, touching his shoulder.
Neil couldn’t bring himself to talk to Chawla despite that it was a dream, for the fact that he respected her as a superior officer. But even though he didn’t want to tell her, he felt “this” Chawla seemed to know what was going on.
“Nobody to be close to…it must hurt a lot locking yourself up in a shell to protect yourself. Then when you try to reach out to somebody and be yourself, they get hurt, and you feel weak for not being able to protect them.” Jennifer answered what was going through his head.
Chawla placed an arm around his shoulders and held him close to her side, stroking his head.
“…Why..” It was all Neil was able to utter in between of sobs.
“I don’t know the answer for that. I honestly don’t. I’m sorry.” Jennifer answered. “All I can say you give a little bit of yourself every time you try. I completely understand when you feel like you have nothing left and you’ve felt like you’ve given up your entire self, and you can’t give anymore.” She held his hand and stayed quiet for a moment. “It’s okay to cry; people do that when they get hurt.”
“All of us will always come after you to help you out. You’ve even risked your life to save us many times; I can’t return any less of you.” Chawla chided in. “You’re a special person to all of us.”
Neil seemed to see more people appear, but in the distance. But he recognized many of them; the ship’s cook, wingmates, even mechanics. A lot of them didn’t appear to understand what he was going through, but they knew that he was having a hard time.
“Follow your heart…and let the people who care for you care when they try to.” Chawla started to fade away.
“Go on...find someone in the real world. Dreams are only dreams if you don’t make them a reality.” Jennifer let go of his hand as she disappeared.
Everyone else seemed to vanish as he found himself alone again.
“I just want to be a human being and express my feelings..” He could hear himself say in a child’s voice. This made him cry once more.
And he woke up.
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