Comfortably NumbsteemCreated with Sketch.

in writing •  7 months ago


Comfortably Numb


Noah shot himself. Again.

The words made him smile through the fresh numbness, even though he probably looked like a fool with that big dopey grin on his face. Not that it mattered, of course. Not anymore. He had bigger fish to fry. Everyone here did. Some of them already were fried, or frying, or roasting. In hell, maybe. Probably.

Noah might have laughed then if his mouth wasn't so dry. It was like the orange clay of Oklahoma, dusty and thick. It got on your clothes and your feet and your face, and if you were sweaty you looked like a pumpkin, or near enough as to make no difference.

He wished he was back home now with his little sister, Mona. She was so annoying, and so smart, which made her so annoying. He closed his eyes, thinking of her, the smile still on his face.

Well, maybe his eyes were closed, or he was blind, or it was just really dark, but in the end that didn't matter anymore either. He couldn't remember.

He thought of Mona playing hopscotch, her sky blue dress flashing about her like little birds, as she corrected him on some fact or another, or to tell him how things really were, or just talking to hear herself talk. He always listened.

Noah coughed. He could smell smoke now, maybe just dying embers or maybe some new hell preparing to burst into life. In the distance, he heard machine gun fire, and the low drone of plane engines, down and up and down again. Something collapsed nearby, then settled into an uneasy peace with whatever it had fallen upon.

How much time had passed? Since he shot himself last? Had he slept? No way to know, but the pain in his trapped legs had returned. He tried to resist, to ration the morphine out, but what would be the point?

He grabbed another morphine syrette from the cart to his right. His shaky hand stuck the pin through the seal and drove the needle in, only missing once—a fact that any of the nurses might be impressed by, if there were any—then stabbed the needle at a low angle into his belly. He couldn't feel the pinprick anymore, and had to use his fingers to make sure the needle was actually in his flesh.

Noah pressed the tube flat, shoving more short-term salvation into his flesh, then tossed the used syrette over his shoulder with the rest of the empties.

He wasn't sure how many he had left in the box on the cart. He hadn't had the courage to count.

From somewhere in the wreckage of the church sanctuary that had served as a field hospital came a faint voice, a man's shout. Words he did not know, but by now sounded very familiar.

Three years in the war made a man familiar with a good many things about the enemy.

He wasn't sure what he had accomplished in those years. There was no measuring stick or chart or medal that could really tally what was won and lost by any man who was asked to kill other men.

In the end, he had gained nothing he could name, but he had most assuredly lost something. Oh, sweet lord above, that much was certain. The bomb that had flattened the cathedral had seen to that.

He was afraid to move his hands below his beltline, as if the act of discovery itself would make real a man's worst fear. His body already knew, however, and was trying to keep the secret from him.

Noah coughed out another laugh then tried to silence himself. His mind was foggy, but he was pretty sure it would be best if the other man in the dark didn't find him. He focused on being still.

Not like I'm going to run away.

It was harder to stifle the giggle this time, and the tensing of his body made his legs ache.

The scent of smoke became rich and acrid. Might he simply burn to death where he lie? That would be a dramatic way to go, and he pursed his lips, considering, then decided. Once he could feel his flesh burning, he just might use up the rest of his morphine and die numbly. He kept that option in his back pocket.

I don't think I can even wear pants anymore. No pockets for me. Overalls, maybe? For the front chest pockets. That would be cool. Mona would probably put flowers in them. Less cool, but still pretty cool.

More debris fell amidst a nearby flaring of fire, the whooshing sound unmistakeable. His body was numb, but his fingers still tingled.

I have to know.

He explored down past his belt with the touch of a nervous lover, but everything there was unfamiliar and shapeless. Oh, God. He whimpered. His fingers reached where his strong farmboy legs were, where his legs should've been, brushing over the torn flesh, the exposed pointy shards of bone, the soggy mess of muscles, and the huge, rough timber of the cathedral that had crushed him. It was holding his guts and blood in. It had killed him, but was keeping him from dying.

The morphine ebbed as if the knowledge of his injuries eroded the foundation of its power.

Once more? For old time's sake? Sure, ma'am, don't mind if I do.

He reached for another syrette, just as the voice spoke from somewhere in front of him, just above him, guttural syllables dancing on the edge of his understanding.

Damn. He found me.

The box of syrettes he had been drawing from tipped over, empty.

The last one was in his hands.

'Tis fine. Only needed the one. If the guy's aim is off, at least my death will be painless. Sorry, Mona. Couldn't make it back.

A scuffling sound crested the mountain of rubble above him, and harsh phrases in German cascaded down to him like stones before an avalanche. Noah tried to pick out the words through the soft cotton blanket draped over his mind, but it was like sifting sand from sugar.

There was a shift in the wreckage, then an aborted curse, and a meaty weight tumbled down to his left amidst a shower of plaster and wood and roof tiles. Rubble pattered against his face and dust settled on his dry lips.

All was silent.

"Hello?" Noah croaked, suddenly wishing for nothing more than for the other man to respond.

A groan.

"Scheisse."

"You okay?"

"Nein."

"Welcome to the club."

"Verlor meine hände ... wie kann ich eine waffe benutzen." A cough, then a suppressed cry of pain and tears.

Lost...his hands? Can't shoot a gun? Something like that. Poor bastard.

"No gun here either. I think our shootin' days are over, Tex."

"Es tut verdammt weh..." The other man's voice was a sob now.

"Yeah, the pain sucks, I hear you there."

Noah swung out his left hand across the rubble and flailed for a moment, then caught a sweat-soaked collar and tried to pull the man to him. He felt something in his guts tear, and he winced more at the sound of it than the pain. Morphine, don't fail me now.

He pulled harder, then got his hands under the man's armpit and hauled him another foot closer. He ran his hand along the man's arm to his forearm, stopping at the mess of wet flesh.

"Mein gott!" The man screamed.

"You weren't kidding, buddy. Gonna be a bitch to take a piss." But you're better off than me. He reached out and pulled on the man's coat, popping a few buttons with the effort, but dragged the smaller man to lie by his side. Noah's lower half felt like it was coming loose from his upper half, and a queer queasiness flooded him.

Swallowing hard, he patted the man's shoulder, and felt the other man's clumsy elbow close around his, a pale imitation of a handshake that was the best either could do.

"Guten abend," the man said between deep breaths.

"Good evening to you. Hell of a pickle here." Pickles. Mona. His sweet, sassy little sister Mona. She liked pickles. His mind was slipping away from him, blurry and numb, but he clutched at it before it escaped entirely. Noah was breathing heavily now. "Tell you...what I'm gonna do. Deal of the day."

Noah unwound the long bandages from around his ruined face and eyes—the reason he had been in the makeshift hospital in the first place—and felt for the stubs of the man's arms. He looped the strips of bandages around one, knotted it, then stretched painfully to the other and used the remaining cloth to do the same.

Noah prepped the final syrette of morphine, lifted the man's shirt, and stuck it into his belly. He held it there until his own numbness was finally complete and his hand fell away.


This is a contest entry for @jonknight's First Fiction Contest - Armistice.

Image Credit for title image. Edited by @negativer

Story title borrowed from Pink Floyd's song of the same name

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Incredible story, man. You can knock out one hell of a tale filled with some strong emotions attached! I'm extremely impressed. :)

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My thanks for reading! I'm happy I created some kind of impression!

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Told you!!!
Neg is a freak of nature. He scares me, how well he can write.

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You were spot on! This guy is oozing talent...

Hi @negativer. A Treasure Hunter from the Isle of Write found this two-part story to be a gem worthy of curating and, if you accept, publication in our upcoming anthology series.

This post explains our curation project and what this means for you! A 5 SBD reward should appear in your wallet momentarily. Please navigate to the The Isle of Write on Discord and type @TreasureHunter into any chat to inform us of your arrival. As soon as possible an Isle Treasure Hunter will contact you to answer any questions you may have and verify if you would like to be included in the publication.

Congratulations, and thank you for sharing your talent with the Steemit Fiction community!

IOW COLOR MAP.png
art and flair courtesy of @PegasusPhysics

Guy, you are a really good writer. When is your first novel coming out?

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'Eventually'.

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Haha!! I liked this... For me, I don't want to have a novel, but maybe a short story collection?

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My question exactly.

Congratulations! This story has been curated by The SFT. :-) A small SBD reward has been transferred to your wallet.

https://steemit.com/curation/@sft/the-sft-curates-11-10-17

It has been added to the Literary Reading Room at the SFT Library.

http://sftlibrary.com/

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Thanks to the SFT team for the curation and the bonus! You have a quality list of stories on that site already that I'm proud to join.

Beautiful. I stumbled upon your story thanks to today's "Meet A Mod" post—wonderful story.

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Thanks for reading! Always cool to have someone come in and read something from MONTHS ago on steemit, and still have it be good content. That's the upside to fiction writing; it ages well, whereas much of the content on steemit does not.

Beautifully written. I still haven't cried...

...honest

...it was DUST!

In muh eyes.

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Has it just been raining...
On your face?

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Nobody questions your manhood. Nobody. The UK is a dusty place. Probably because it's so old.

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Haha @gmuxx! I think "he got" us all. (wimper)

Also...

This gem of a post was discovered by the OCD Team!

Reply to this comment if you accept, and are willing to let us share your gem of a post! By accepting this, you have a chance to receive extra rewards and one of your photos in this article may be used in our compilation post!

You can follow @ocd – learn more about the project and see other Gems! We strive for transparency.

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Accepted, with pleasure and honor!

Comfortably numb, one of the few Floyd songs I actually like ;-)

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Same. It was all a bit before my time, I think, but I at least recognize that one.

Well written, very vivid imagery. Kind of reminds me of how I felt the first time I watched the beach scene of Saving Private Ryan.

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Thanks! I know exactly the feeling your describing.

Ahh my heart hurts DX Awesome writing :)

goatsig

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Wow, this was a great piece @negativer. You painted the environment vividly and brought me into the struggle. Well done. Great song too... always gave me gooseflesh listening to it.

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I'm glad you enjoyed it! Thanks for reading!

I don't cry. But this was great storytelling.

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Thank you for reading!

Immensly enjoyed. Only cried a little bit, but it did bring back memories of a war movie I watched ages ago. I couldn't sleep and turned on the TV at 2 or 3am and came across "The Execution of Pvt. Slovick" in the middle of the movie, but I watched it and cried like a baby for it seemed like hours. Thanks for the story and bringing up the memory of this movie. I checked it out on Wikipedia​ and found out that there is a reference to the non-fiction account of the story in Kurt Vonnegut's Slaughter House Five, one​ of my all-time​ favorite books and movies. Billy Pilgrim

upvoted, following and resteemed


SDG

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Thank you for reading, and I'm glad it resonated with you in some way. I found the movie you mentioned and will put it on my 'stuff to watch' list. Looks like it's a good one!

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Execution of Pvt Slovick or Slaughter House Five?

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Ah, 'The Execution of Pvt. Slovick'. I had never heard/seen the movie, but looks very interesting.

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it's weird that I even remember it. Over the years it comes up and I attempt to hunt it up and watch from the start, but I've never got around to doing it. I'm going to have to hunt it up again now and actually watch it. Who knows if it will have the same effect as when I watched it almost 40 years ago.

I am going to cry into my shirt now. Damn, man!

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I'm glad you...enjoyed it 😪 Thanks for reading!

Amazing! I would find it hard to even visualize a story like this in my mind, not to mention write.
The way you describe the environment, emotions, behaviours and expressions really make the reader visualize it but you never make it too clear (especially at the beginning) so there's curiosity through the read.

Awesome short story, thank you!
Will make sure to check more of your stuff 😉

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Thank you for reading, and appreciating the pacing! Storytelling is about timing the revelations as much as it is the plot or characters.

Now that’s a good story. Gripped me till the end! Love it.

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Thanks for reading! I appreciate it!

Well you did it...made me cry. God, what a story! Heart wrenching are the only words that fit. I would and will say "Great Job!', once I am fully composed. Dang you, @negativer!

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Thank you for saying so. A good story has to leave some kind of impact, so I'm happy...that you're sad. I guess? :) Thanks!

As I told you at the block, you knocked this outta the park. Great job Negativer! You captured so many aspects incredibly well here. I knew it was WW2 before the other soldier entered the picture. The thought process as the gravely wounded soldier contemplated his injuries. Amazingly done from every angle.

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Thank you sir. I appreciate your comments, coming from someone who has actually seen some of the things I'm trying to write about.

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Just so there's no misunderstanding, I did not serve in the military.

Many of my co-workers have. But despite my lack of military service, I have dealt with co-workers dying on the job. I have trained for life-or-death situations and building the mental preparedness for such things. I know what it's like to trust the people you work with to possibly save your life and for them to return that trust. These facts, and experiences on the job, have provided me a small understanding of what soldiers deal with in combat. What sliver of light I've seen in that regard is what made some aspects of your story stick out in some ways others might not see.

And now that I've thought about it, I realized something else. At first the soldier's mentality of his injury is lighthearted, "guess I won't be able to wear pants." He's still holding to that mental toughness; continue the fight and be the one who goes home. When the story ended I thought, 'I don't know if I could be as gracious as him in that moment.' Your training instills many things: reaction is slower than action, your capacity for violence could make the difference to survive, etc. Then I saw, the realization and acceptance of his death is what made the opportunity for an uncommon act of grace... otherwise he would have killed that Nazi soldier as quick as possible.

Outstanding writing.

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Right, I think you had mentioned you had seen some of the 'blood and guts' side of things, which is far from anything I've seen, and I respect that. I'm not confronted with death ... at all. So, those that see it in their jobs (EMTs, doctors, soldiers, etc) I have the highest respect for, since they are constantly confronted with their own mortality at every turn. I can't imagine that is easy.

Thank you for the additional info, clarification, and personal insights :)

Finally got to read this and was it ever worth it! Great story, fantastic writing.

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My thanks, and I appreciate you taking the time to read and comment!

@negativer,
Incredibly WOW! Thanks for the story, completely blown away by it.
@Lymmerik

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Thanks! As I mentioned on discord, sometimes it's nice to hit the nail squarely once in a while :)

Hello again my friend,

Stopping by to say "Woot!" and Congratulations on your contest win. ;)
More than well deserved. :D

😄😇😄

@creatr

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Thank you sir! Yours was equally good, and I can't wait to read more in that world you're assembling!

Oh my! Stunning doesn't come close to describing this piece. You drew so much emotion from the setting, and characters.

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Thank you for reading. I appreciate it!

Congratulations! This post has been upvoted from the communal account, @minnowsupport, by negativer 🥓 from the Minnow Support Project. It's a witness project run by aggroed, ausbitbank, teamsteem, theprophet0, someguy123, neoxian, followbtcnews/crimsonclad, and netuoso. The goal is to help Steemit grow by supporting Minnows and creating a social network. Please find us in the Peace, Abundance, and Liberty Network (PALnet) Discord Channel. It's a completely public and open space to all members of the Steemit community who voluntarily choose to be there.

That was beautiful. "Something collapsed nearby, then settled into an uneasy peace with whatever it had fallen upon. " Man, whatever you're doing that isn't writing, just stop. Please.

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Thanks for reading! (And welcome to the Writers Block!) :)

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Well said, ratbastard. Oh wait. I probably shouldn't call you that here. LOLOL! But I agree with your advice for him.

I finally got time to read this!! Awesome, but painful story... Is it based on WWII? it's really interesting... Can't understand the other language (German I assume.) so some parts got over me...

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Yes, pretty much a WWII scenario, and the language is indeed real German. Thanks for reading!

Well heck. You just made a girl cry. Your mama must be so proud. ;-)

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That makes two of us.

Yeah, I'm two months late, so what?
The prose was flawless, and the story was absolutely painful, yet, somehow had a flicker of hope. Only you, man. Thanks for writing!

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Much appreciated! Better late than never, and a good story isn't like lunch meat in the fridge; it ought to stay good for a while :) Thanks for reading!

You have a real talent for writing brutal, raw, painful human emotion.

This is really good.

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Thank you for reading! I do plan to someday write something with a bit of humor. Someday.

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You just did!

Hi, @negativer,

I've finally gotten here to read the final version. Outstanding. Gut-wrenching. Thanks.

Congratulations on your SFT curation, and best wishes in the contest, compadre! ;)

😄😇😄

@creatr

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My thanks for reading it! Congrats on your SFT curation as well!