Flash Fiction- These things we carry

I’ve always wondered what would happen if our young’uns would have to go to war. Our generation has always been criticized as that of self-indulgent brats. So, what if the world imploded and we got ourselves stuck in an era devoid of electronics? How would we change? How would we react? What would surprisingly remain the same?

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We were taught from the very beginning that everything we owned we had to carry. It seemed like the practical thing to do. Surely. I’ve seen war movies, and the men in green carry their lives upon their shoulders with such great efficiency that I almost believed that I understood the difficulty and fatigue of it all. What I did not expect was that when I actually experienced war. A real one. It wasn’t the weight of everything I carried that exhausted and forced me to lie awake at night; it was the weight of the things absent.

We were taught from the very beginning that everything we owned we had to carry. To us, that meant that instead of our game consoles, we brought packets of Ready to Eats. Instead of cell phones, we would pack bullets. I still remember the day when Pete had to throw away his tablet. It was the last of any of ours, a useless piece of crap. The internet had been long gone, and we were already deep into the remaining blown up bits of land where electricity doesn’t even exist anymore. Still Pete held onto it, and carried its weight for months, remarkably so considering he had to carry about 15 pounds of survival gear as well. It was like a security blanket to him. A cracked, rusting, safety hazard of a security blanket.

When Pete finally threw the tablet into the lake, every one of us knew that we would probably never see anything like it again. You wouldn’t think something like that would hurt, oh but it hurt like hell. As we watched it slip into the sooty, radioactive waters, I realized how ridiculous our gaggle must have been. A grown army, trained and hardened to kill, weeping at the loss of a broken electronic toy. Yet it is all too fully that I understand. The moment Pete’s tablet went under, the last piece reminding us of our childhood, of what used to be a normal life, drowned with it.

We are long past such frivolities now. We are soldiers, and soldiers know when things had to die. For Pete’s tablet, it had been long past its time to do so.

I mean, it stopped working a year ago.

We were taught from the very beginning that everything we owned we had to carry. Everything that wasn’t an asset to survival was a liability, dead weight. However, there was one exception to it all.

The smoke and fire choke you right down to the lungs, and you fight for breath as you try to climb over the hill to safety through the burning, the screams, and the sizzling chemicals. You tell yourself to just take one more step. Just one more, but each step feels like lead and you almost convince yourself that it is your last. You can’t stop. Not in the line of fire. And suddenly it all becomes a little too much and you collapse. The seconds slip away as you oscillate between forward momentum and exhaustion. As the bullets whiz past your ear, you suddenly find yourself facing an oncoming wave of uniformed rage in its most primal form. The chemicals of fear kick into the air.

It’s starting. Soon you are going to lose everything.

There is only one thing left to do. You seize up the dead weight that had slipped partially onto the ground. Your arms are broken, but you carry your equally broken comrade on your back. This isn’t the time to think of assets or liabilities or survival. This is the time to carry with all that you’ve got, drop everything else if you have to because even if everything else is lost, this is the one weight that you never, ever want to feel the absence of.

It was the one exception to it all. These things make up who we are. These things we carry.

For the daily prompt: Carry

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