This story deals with somewhat disturbing material. Just a heads up. It’s a story for Al Forbes’ Sunday Photo Fiction. A bit over the word limit, but please forgive me this time.
All Wrung Out
I feel wrung out, with a soul like an old dishrag, flapping in the burning wind. But you gotta keep on, so I flip a smile, crack a joke and pretend. We all do.
“We got a drill hole on 10th Avenue,” Marc calls. “A real slip-n-slide.”
“And here I forgot my bathing suit,” I say, climbing into the truck.
There are no survivors, of course. The laser beam drilled a perfect hole down through the 20-story building, gutting it and disintegrating everything in its path. Nobody calls us when there are survivors, only when there is “organic material” to clean up. I don’t mind the “organic material”; it’s picking up the body parts I can recognize that gets to me. Nobody said war was pretty.
“Do you ever wish one of those lasers would get us?” Marc asks that evening. “Just erase the memories and nightmares forever.”
“What, and leave this dream job?” I say, laughing and taking a swig of beer.
He looks at me with pain in his eyes, pleading silently for me to be serious, just once. But I can’t do it, because I feel so thin inside that if I stop smiling, I’ll shatter.
I’m just all wrung out.