Anxiety made his heart race. He couldn’t be discovered. They would put him in jail, then they would eventually discover where he had come from. He would be sent right back to the regiment, where he would face court martial charges as a deserter.
He had to get rid of any sort of identification immediately. Why didn’t he think of ditching it on the way to the train tracks?
He hadn’t wanted even an indication of what direction he had run. That’s why.
Four years with the military had taught him to be cautious and patient. He had known that he wanted to escape the regiment and had decided that during his shore leave would present the perfect opportunity. Not only would he be in the states, but travel would be so much faster. Europe was a mess. The roads and infrastructure was a shambles after Germany’s siege through the landscape. Of course, he could remember all too clearly the damage that his own regiment had inflicted, all in the name of war. The sounds of trucks and tanks, riddled with men swearing and shouting, all crushing their way over the winding roads, then the volcanic explosion of detonation as they destroyed all the bridges after crossing them…it was a living nightmare.
There was no way around it. War was dirty, ugly, and soul-less.
Lester kept remembering the haunted eyes in those who stood by the road, watching the destructive procession as they passed by their property. After countless troops, from both sides of the struggle, had ransacked their homes, taking what meager morsels of food were stashed in their cupboards, and searching for fuel, there was now nothing left to take. Their animals were dead, horses were taken, and fields were trampled and mowed under. They would just stand there, clinging to each other with their skeleton arms, muttering words that Lester could not understand. More than anything else he witnessed during the war, those looks haunted him.
Lester shook himself. He had to figure out what to do with his uniform and identification tags before anyone saw him.
The train’s brakes were squealing loudly. The train was about to stop. Lester opened the door on the side of the train car a fraction, trying to determine his options. He was in luck. His car was toward the back of the train, which was not near the small platform of the station. He opened the door on the other side of the car and exited while the train was gradually rolling in to its stop. As soon as his feet hit the dirt, he was sprinting toward the brush line on the far side of the tracks.
“Honey, don’t you like your dinner?” Kate was asking Mac, as he stared blankly at his bowl of potato soup. More and more visions, which Mac had reluctantly determined were his own memories, had been flooding his mind all evening.
He brushed off his wife, trying to mentally shake himself. “It’s fine, Kate, really. I think that I’m just tired.”
He didn’t know why he hadn’t told Kate about what had happened to him on his first day at work the moment he walked in the door. He just couldn’t bring himself to divulge who he really was, and dissolve the romantic notions she had of his past.
He was a deserter. A fraud. A coward. He had run, when others would still die.
No, he wasn’t any of those anymore. He was no longer Lester Van Tassell, military run-away. He was Angus MacIntosh, husband to the sweet Kate, who had stood by him through all the long months in the hospital, when he had no idea who he was, and now father to little Angus.
Kate’s was the first face he saw when he woke up in the narrow white cot of the hospital. Her brilliant red curls peaked out from under her rectangular nurse’s cap, creating a vibrant haze around her face. She had two sweet dimples in her cheeks, which sprung to life as he opened his eyes groggily.
Mac thought he was having a vision. Was he dead? Who was this beautiful white creature hovering over him?
Her lips parted as though she was speaking, but he couldn’t make out the sounds. Finally it seemed that a gauzy plug was being released from his ears.
“Hello, sir!” she spoke brightly. “Nice of you to finally join us!” She was beaming down at him, her green eyes twinkling brightly. “Do you know your name, sir?”
Of course he knew his name. Who doesn’t know their name?
He faltered with his words. His voice was crackly with disuse, and his throat ached with the effort to speak. It was so dry.
“I…I don’t know…” he said. “I don’t remember my name…”
Check back tomorrow to read more of the story!