by • May 10, 2017 • Flash FictionComments (0)

Negative Spaceman

The Drill Sergeant would not quit screaming even after he had reduced Josey to tears. We had called him Outlaw when we had been in basic long enough that everyone had started handing out nicknames and someone had pinned the name on Josey from some old Earth kino about a tough guy rebel and it had stuck. But now Josey didn’t look much like an outlaw or a tough guy, but just some green recruit who was blubbering his face off because of fatigue and mental exhaustion. And the Sergeant kept screaming until I thought Josey was going to disappear into his void suit. I don’t know who it was, but I think maybe we were all thinking it, so someone said, “Why don’t you leave him alone?”

And the Drill Sergeant turned that bloodshot stare on the rest of the platoon. “Who said that?” he demanded, loud as a bullhorn. His eyes bulged as he scanned the line of us, looking like someone had spaced him and I had a tiny fantasy about all of us grabbing him to push him out the ‘lock. He must have seen the minute change of expression on my face ‘cause he steamrolled right down formation to me. He stopped so close to my face I couldn’t help but flinch a little, more so when his yelling sent bits of spit onto my face, “Was it you Recruit Fuckwad?”

As a part of training I had been gassed, shot at, spaced in a suit with a leaky pressure differential, screamed at, denied sleep, denied food, shit myself, and had wanted to cry for my mother more times than I could count. And after all that the bravest and stupidest thing I ever did was look the Drill Sergeant in the eyes to say, “Yes.”

See the author’s published work here.
Image courtesy of Daniel Teres

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