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The Dead Man's Smell

By Steven H. Short


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The Dead Mans Smell




Blaine Pierce opened his eyes only to see the dark blind world around him; his ears carry the sound of a loud ringing noise mixed with the muffled tones of a human’s voice.  He feels nothing.  As his vision begins to clear, he sorts out the face a black man surrounded by the blue of the sky.  Pierce breaths in a smell he’s smelled several times since he arrived in Viet Nam nine months ago, a smell he can only refer to as the dead mans smell

As his vision becomes clearer, Pierce takes notice of a large red cross in the center of a white cloth band sewn to the sleeve of drab olive green jungle fatigue. He watches as the slender black face turns away, the mouth opens wide and mumbled tones are exhaled.  Pierce sees a single drop of sweat drip from under the leather band that holds the steel helmet to the head, it targets Pierces left eye.  He feels the stinging of the other mans fluid as it begins to invade underneath his eyelid.  He wants to rub it with his hand, but the hand won’t move.  The eye blurs, the sharp sting increases for a few moments before it subsides.

The black mans face returns to within inches of Pierces. The two stare into each others eyes.  Pierce can only see the fear the dark brown eyes speak.  Again he feels the sweat of the man hitting his face like drops of rain and the odor of the unbathed body fills his nostrils.  He wants to tell him to get away, but the words fall silent in his mind.

The black mans face turns away for a second time; he sees his lips separate and the mouth open wide, sending out only muffled noises. 

The eyes of the man above him return to meet Pierces and he sees blood on the side of the face of the person he can only call the black man.  “Is the blood his or mine?”  he wonders.

The motionless and silent soldier recognizes that every thing around him moves in at a very slow speed.  He feels nothing and hears only the faint mumbled sounds of the man leaning over him.

A sudden flash appears and again Pierces world is dark.  He feels something heavy on his face but he can’t move his arms to push it off.  He begins to gasp for air and he feels something heavy lying across his face.  The distinct taste of warm blood creeps its way into his mouth.  He tries desperately to move, but he can’t. 

Help me, I can’t breathe, his mind repeats over and over.

After desperately trying to move, Pierces mind stops sending the messages of help and he no longer feels the man lying across him.

The war Blaine Pierce never wanted to be in, is now over.


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