This story is by Scott Hamilton and was part of our 2018 Spring Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
Sounds in the Night
I heard a sound. I can smell the rotten smell of the quiet jungle. What happened? My throat was dry and I started sweating. Is it the gooks? I better take a look.
It’s too bright for nighttime. There’s someone crouching down by the wire, just a shadow backlit by the light of the trip flair behind him. That’s what woke me, the trip flair.
He’s coming right at me and pointing his gun. He’s going to shoot me. I was startled by the sound of gun fire. Did I pull the trigger? Where’d he go?
Sitting up in bed he remembered he was in his house and not in Vietnam. It’s that darn recurring dream again. It was the sound of the gun going off that did it—always in the same place. Why can’t I get over this? It was his fault, not mine. I wish I’d never had to kill him.
What was that? I’m awake now. It could just be the house settling. I smell rain, maybe that’s it. Looking out the bedroom window he saw only a light sprinkle. It’s not the rain. Perhaps it’s the dogs? No, they’re in their beds.
Maybe Martha is up and moving around. He picks up the pistol he keeps on the bedside table in case of intruders and looks in Martha’s bedroom. Nope, not Martha, she’s resting quietly. There it is again, downstairs. It’s very soft…maybe footsteps?
He heads down the hallway for the stairs. It’s quiet again. If it is a person, they don’t want to be heard. Aw, I’m sure it’s nothing. But there have been several stories about home invasions the last few months. Last week a couple was killed by intruders! Please Lord, not again. I promised you I’d never kill again.
I’ll take a couple of steps down and listen some more. What am I going to do if someone is there? I don’t want to kill another person. There, what was that?
He takes another two steps down the stairs and gets lost in the old memory again.
“Good shooting, Lieutenant, you got him twice, one in the shoulder and another in head. He probably never knew what hit him. Come over and have a look.”
The red lens on the sergeant’s flashlight makes the body look strange, but I can tell he’s just a boy. Probably only 17 or 18. He looks sickening. His left shoulder is crushed, and the left side of his head is pretty much gone. I did that. I took away his life.
There’s an awful smell, even stronger than the jungle. It must be from the body—probably feces. Why was he here anyway?
“You better get to back to your radio, LT. There’s got to be more of them.”
More noise downstairs. It has to be somebody moving around. What if it is an intruder and he’s armed? I don’t kill him. But if I don’t, he might kill me and maybe Martha too. What do I do if he has a gun? It’s my job to protect my wife. But then I be a killer again and I swore I’d never kill again after the war. I hate this. What should I do?
It’s Bobby! That’s who it is; it’s got to be him. He’s supposed to be here tomorrow for the weekend, a treat for his grandmother on her birthday. He probably left after his last class this afternoon and that’s why he got here so late. Yeah, that’s it. It will be good to see Bobby. I’ll go welcome him and we can have a beer before we go to bed; a beer and a good ‘ole grandfather-grandson visit will be fun. Thank God it’s over!
It’ll all be okay now, I can relax now. I can put away the gun, I just let that damn dream spook me —I won’t have to kill again. Thank God!
There’s another sound coming from the storeroom where the safes are. What’s Bobby doing in there? He doesn’t even know the combinations for the safes. Maybe he’s just getting his guitar out to play. The door to the storeroom opens.
“Hey Bobby, you’re here a day early, it’s good to see you.”
That’s not Bobby, he’s not that tall. “Who are you?” Damn, he’s coming right at me and pointing his gun. He’s going to shoot me.
I was startled by the sound of gunfire. Did I pull the trigger?
* * * * *
Mary sits up in her bed, “David, what was that noise? You okay David?”