This story was written for last week’s Microcsms flash fiction competition.
“We could barely speak each other’s languages, you know. Barely understand them.” James’ hand shook as he drank his tea, his eyes focused on a far-off memory of one of the battles of XP-269 – the colony before it even had a proper name.
“I was the journalist sent to report from the battlefield.” He cleared his throat. Years of smoking had not been kind to his lungs. “I was the newbie, so I was sent to go and take the photos once the enemy had fled. Retreated. Whatever.”
He glanced over to where his grandson was reading his social media feed, gulping down an energy drink.
“They had killed so many.” His voice lowered, softened, saddened. He took a rasping breath. “Both sides did.” He shrugged, shoulders shaking. “I don’t know what I’d expected the aftermath to be like.”
His grandson sniggered, but whether it was at his grandfather’s innocence at eighteen or something on the screen, James could not tell.
“One of them was still alive. He grabbed my hand, blurred the photo I was taking.” James shuddered, blood draining from his face.
“Part of his face was missing. An arm and leg as well. He should have been long dead. I don’t know why he was still breathing.” Another cough. “I couldn’t understand the language too well, but you pick stuff up, you know. Slang, curse words, a few words here and there.” James shrugged again.
“He asked me not to leave him. And I didn’t. Then he begged me to shoot him.” He rubbed across his eyes. “And I did.”
James’ grandson glanced at his grandfather sitting pale and shrunken in the chair. The smell of disinfectant hung in the air. Other visitors were sitting with elderly parents and grandparents. He looked back at the screen.