Angels

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The air smells like antiseptic in the hospital tents. Men lie in rows along the canvas walls and listen to the war waging outside, barely a mile away. So close. So very close that sometimes the gunfire and thunder of the bombs shake the walls. I don’t have enough bandages for them all. Their shirts and trousers, their hair and boots, all of it is stained in blood, and we are running out of bandages.

The air smells of antiseptic and pain. Blood, smoke, gunpowder. I can smell them all. And I want to run away.

A man grabs my hand as I walk past him. His face is stained with blood and the soot of the battlefields, and his eyes are wild with fever. I’m so afraid of them, all of them. The soldiers. Their uniforms are never the same color, never the same style. Men from different armies, different lives, different countries. We try not to see the flags they wear on their shoulders or their breasts and treat who they bring us. It doesn’t matter anyway. This close to death, there are no countries, no different nations. There are only people. Hurting, terrified people.

“I saw angels in here last night,” he tells me. His voice is slurred with pain.

I take his hand off my arm, press his fingers. Comfort him. There are no angels here. Only us. The nurses, the doctors. Outside a war wages and demons run. But here they see angels.

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