Edward Owen – Author

Ray Bradbury Challenge #43 – Raven’s Story

Raven’s Story

 Raven

 

Delta-three-niner to command, I have a clear shot at target Bravo-Six,” she said into her mic.

Command, Delta-three-niner you are clear to go hot, repeat, go weapons hot,” the reply sounded in her headphones.

She flipped the safety out of the way and the targeting sights on her heads-up display blinked from red to green. With the softness of a lover’s caress she squeezed the trigger. Her chopper lurched and the missile streaked toward the horizon. The explosion lit up the early desert morning, causing Raven’s eye-shield to go dark against the glare. She dropped her Apache helicopter to less than a hundred feet and streaked over the sand taking the same course as the missile. The building was in smoking ruins. Another enemy installation taken down. Bodies littered the tarmac, some still smoking. One of them was holding something. She swung around for a closer look and her blood went cold –

Raven sat bolt upright in her bed, sweat soaking her clothes and bedding even with the cool fall temperature. The dream came every night despite the pills, booze and random sex partners; all the chemicals and guilt in the world were no match for her Creole libido.

It had been a sanctioned target with solid intel. Collateral damage was part of war. She was following orders.

None of the platitudes helped either. Something had gone horribly wrong and regardless of what anyone said, she pulled the trigger, the blood was on her hands.

Her cellphone blinked the time: 03:35. It was unlikely that sleep would come and she had no desire to suffer through the dream again at any rate. Spending the night alone meant no awkward explanations for her insomnia and no embarrassing walk of shame for whichever guy she had dragged home from the bar.

Win-win as far as I’m concerned, she thought as she tromped into the kitchen.

The half-empty bottle of rum sat on the counter as both accomplice and accuser. Cotton mouth and a dull throbbing in the back of her head steered her to the fridge and the cold water inside. She drained half a bottle and pulled a box of Aleve from the drawer. Four tablets went down with the rest of the water.

Aleve, recommended by murdering, alcoholic chopper jockeys the world over.

Witty, but unlikely to boost sales of the pain reliever. The box landed in the drawer and she slammed it shut. The rum beckoned but she ignored it and grabbed more water.

“Is this seat taken?” she muttered into the darkness before plopping down on the kitchen chair with its back turned against the table.

Does drinking alone count if you’re drinking water?

The thought didn’t even depress her. Depression implied that she felt something. In truth, she was devoid of any feelings at all. Her weekly sessions with the base shrink had been a waste of time. He kept asking her how she felt. Empty and dead inside were apparently not the right answers. The man was an idiot. Raven was pretty sure she could take him in a fight and he wouldn’t last five minutes in her bed. That placed him in the useless category as far as she was concerned.

The feeble glow from the streetlamp bathed her kitchen table in a soft, yellow light. A stack of unopened mail, two dirty coffee cups and a three day old pizza box crouched like nocturnal creatures caught far away from the safety of the shadows. Amid the clutter was a small, black box. Raven flipped open the top and stared at the medal inside.

For Bravery in Battle. The words were inscribed across the back. Her intention had been to throw it in the trash. Yesterday. And the day before that. And every day for the last three weeks since she had arrived Stateside. It should read For Murder Most Foul. Then they could call it the Hamlet instead of the Medal of Honor. That would be fitting and keeping it would make some twisted kind of sense. She snapped the lid shut and shoved the box across the table. It careened between the coffee cups and came to rest against the pizza box.

“Gooooooooaaaaaaaaaalllllllll!” she said making a halfhearted attempt to raise her arms above her shoulders. She drained the second water bottle and stared at the rum. Maybe it would make her sleep this time. Maybe the dream wouldn’t come. Maybe monkeys would fly out of her ass and clean the apartment. Equal chance as far as she was concerned.

*****

… Delta-three-niner you are clear to go hot, repeat, go weapons hot – direct hit – building destroyed – body on the tarmac – holding something – the chopper swung around and she hit the spotlight. There were some odd fixtures – a swingset? And a body with small hands – one of them was holding a doll.

Raven jerked her head up from the table, a strangled cry forcing its way out of her throat.

An elementary school full of kids. The enemy had built a radar installation on top of the school. Their missiles had taken out a dozen of our fighters and three transports at the cost of almost sixty American lives. My missile took out the radar, the lives of twenty-seven children and three teachers. Not one military person had been in the building. The cowards had hid in an underground bunker, safe from the death that Lt. Raven Reneau rained down from on high. And the U.S. Marine Corps gave me a medal. It doesn’t get much more fucked up than that.

*****

Raven shielded her eyes from the glare coming off the highway. A late model sports car pulled up beside her. She opened the passenger door.

“You sure about this?” said the driver.

“Yep,” she replied as she threw her duffel in the back seat and climbed in. The tires squealed as the driver pointed the car down the road. Raven didn’t even look back at the base fading in the distance.

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