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DescriptionNobody tells you how ugly the world is going to look after you’ve stood at the helm of war and watched blood mold itself around the soles of your combat boots. They seem to forget to mention that tidbit in boot camp. Figures.
Noah O’Conner is a Virginian turned solider. Back from his tour in Afghanistan, he’s struggling to see the world through civilian eyes. The more he scrutinizes the cobwebs in his mind, the more he thinks about his father the Vietnam vet, and the more he’s forced to admit the similarities between the ghost of man he hated as a child and the stranger staring back at him every time he looks in the mirror.
When his best friend’s widow invites him over for a visit, he hesitantly accepts her offer. At first, he’s angered to find out she’s remarried and has seemingly moved on with her life. However, when push comes to shove, Heather cracks and he attempts to soothe her breakdown only to realize with a fascinated revulsion that war really has made a monster out of him and accepts moral responsibility for his sins against humanity…and the sins of others.
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Excerpt:Noah stared up at the ceiling into the vacant, star-studded sky. Could Allah hear his screaming? Did he give any more of a shit than Jesus did? He knitted his brows. Was that heartache exploding through his chest? Oh, that’s right, he remembered, he’d been thinking about his ex-wife…whatever her name was. Speaking of wife, he lolled his head to the right and registered the hard red numbers illuminating the cheap alarm clock’s face.
Too bad the light wasn’t strong enough to illuminate the room—or his mind, for that matter. Like his father before him, Noah had developed a fondness for the night and a need for the dark. He swallowed hard and relished the pull of the beaded silver chain drawn tight over his corded neck. Who would’ve known the time spent with dear old Dad would eventually lead to Noah getting a set of his very own fangs? The abrasive chain agitated his windpipe and he coughed. Sitting up, he noted with aberrant disinterest that he did, in fact, have a set of working legs and forced himself to breath evenly as the weight of his dog tags loosened and righted the skewed chain.
Why do I sleep with them on? Noah clutched the flat squares and dragged the pad of his thumb against the Courier font, staring past the dingy wallpaper into the ocean of sand as far as the eye could see. Why wouldn’t I? He’d die as slowly as he’d been born if he ever rejected his identity, if he ever lost his fangs. Without the tags to remind him who he was, to remind him what his name was, he was sure he’d forget altogether. They were his only method of understanding where he fit into this world. And he hated them as much as he loved them. As much as he needed them. His grip tightened, and the metal bit into his palm and he bled desperation. I don’t want to lose them. I can’t lose them. Without them, without the medal and the scraps of praise the President had saved just for him, he wouldn’t have anything for the tombstone maker to etch onto his grave marker.
A Hymn For Those Left BehindBy: J.D. Holmes