Going Home

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Everyone else is asleep. The captain confined us to our quarters the moment we stepped on his ship, as if our ragged, bloodstained clothes and battle-scarred weapons threatened him. The others complied easily enough, they don’t mind being confined for a few days or a week. Most of them have done nothing but sleep and eat, and are happy for it.

But I can’t eat. And the nightmares always wake me up when I try to close my eyes.

I’m seated in the bow, nestled just behind the figurehead, and I can see the lights of the coast winking in the distance, through the darkness. None of the sailors have found me yet, and maybe they won’t. I won’t stay out long. Just long enough to let the seaspray and the sight of home settle my racing heart.

But right now, I can still see them when I close my eyes. Faces of men, dead and dying. Men I knew and men I didn’t. Bloodstained fields, the smoke of the cannons. The smell of gunpowder. The screams of horses and men, the shouting of generals and captains. It all comes back. I can’t breathe below decks anymore.

I want to be home.

Home. I want to see the cliffs in the morning, see my father in the fields plowing with his oxen, and the dogs taking the sheep out to pasture with old Jim striding behind them in his big boots. I want to hear the geese cackling in the farmyard, and smell the fresh milk the girls are taking into the house to strain.

I want to be home, not here, not on this ship any longer, not at war. I close my eyes, steadying my breathing.

Tomorrow. We’ll be home tomorrow. I can wait that long.

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