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By J. Wendell Miller
I shifted my gaze to the deck, trying hard not to be a little bitch. Smith said if my mother wasn’t sure whether I was a virgin, it meant I was. I’d gotten with plenty of girls, I just never told my mom about it. She never really wanted to hear about other girls. Smith was an asshole.
I continued down the dark P-way, eyes to the deck. A few hatches further, Eckhart stopped me and asked, “Where’re you going, faggot?” Another asshole. His words stung like when I picked up Lance Corporal and some guys pinned me, the sharp prongs from my shiny new chevrons leaving four small dots—perfect little pinhole scars—just below my clavicles. I tried to ignore him, a twenty two year-old man ignoring another over hurtful words. Tiny tsunamis slammed into the backs of my eyeballs, but I held steady. “Goddamnit, Franklin, I said where are you going?”
I wanted to hit him, wanted to cry. Instead, “To my rack. SIQ.” It was mumbled, obvious that I was trying—unsuccessfully—to keep my tears off the sticky coating of the USS Bataan’s rough Ameron P-ways.
I was a goddamn sissy bitch.
My shoulders hurt. It felt like the blades were trying to break free. I wanted to take my SIQ chit and fly away.
Medical offered zero help. No Vicodin. Just ibuprofen and water.
“Hydrate and get the sand out of your clitoris.”
“I don’t have a clitoris,” I said.
“Well if you don’t have a clitoris, how’d you get sand in it?”
I crawled into my rack and waited for sleep. It never came.
The pain intensified and I thought about going back to medical. Instead I took an 800mg ibuprofen and twenty minutes later the bones started slipping through the skin of my shoulder. I screamed, felt blood trickle from two freshly opened three-inch slits.
My teres major began to slowly rip, daring me not to cry but I was beyond tears; I was in the deep end of hysteria. Three guys came over to see what was wrong, tried to hold me down, told me to shut the fuck up. Hit me with closed fists.
“What the fuck is your deal!?” Sergeant Potts shouted. “Robinson, get to medical, now, and bring the doc back. I think this kid’s finally fucking lost it.”
The muscles were shredding, the trickle became a stream. I shouted for help, for someone to exorcise the pain. Instead, Corporal Hicks punched me in the face.
I hardly felt his fist, my muscle fibers audibly tearing.
I felt my wings burst forth, a flood of infinite relief.
Potts and Hicks had me pinned. I needed to get free, to stretch. I kicked and spasmed, letting loose the warcry I’d practiced ten thousand times in boot camp and in the mirror ever since.
I kicked loose from Hicks, propelling him backward. He lunged at my legs again but I slammed my boot squarely into his nose, feeling the crunch of cartilage. I saw the river, heard the drip, drip, SPLASH.
Hicks fell on his ass and let out a moan.
“What the fuck, man!?” I wanted Potts to shut up.
I broke free, dropped out of my rack, headed for the hatch leading to a secret smoke deck.
The sun was bright, reflecting off the Atlantic like ten million floating, forgotten diamonds. The sun’s rays scalded my eyes, but the Doc and Potts were after me. The blood-soaked bones protruding from my back unfolded. I hurried up three sets of steel stairs toward the flight deck.
A Harrier took off, its turbofan engine vibrating my skeleton.
One more flight.
Sergeant Potts closed the gap, swiped at my leg.
The black expanse of the flight deck welcomed me. The air traffic controllers looked at me like cancer: He shouldn’t be here.
I sprinted toward the ship’s keel, nearly three football fields.
My legs burned.
My new wings extended, blossoming.
Ears pounding; heart racing.
One football field.
Pumping, pumping, praying.
I gained speed, closing on the steel mesh safety nets that protected the air traffic controllers.
Leaping forward unto freedom, wings fanned, my hair and feathers caught the ocean’s mist and wind like full sails ahead of a perfect tailwind.
Finally, I was free.
I heard the ship’s sirens—calls for Man Overboard—as the sinking sun set the ocean ablaze.J. Wendell Miller spent four years in the Marine Corps and laments the death of punk daily. He graduated from North Central College in June, enjoys cooking lasagna, and doesn't mind if you call him Wendy. His work has previously appeared in 30 N. and The Kindling.
#Unreal #Military #Wartime #Escape #ManOverboard #Fiction #CreativeWriting #ContemporaryLiterature #Icarus