“You ever been shot, meddy?”
The medic paused for a breath, surveying the wounds on the soldier’s shoulder and abdomen in an instant, flicking through mental textbooks to adapt to the worsening situation in front of them. “Can’t say I have, L.T.”
The lieutenant grimaced under the medic’s ministrations, their breathing shallow and constant. “It’s funny.”
“Funny.” The medic chuckled distractedly, “what’s funny about a hole dug into you?”
“The- ahh, the size of it.” The lieutenant gazed back at their platoon, gleaming armor like beetle carapace in the eclipse. “Great big hole in you? You might think that’s the end, game over, you-”
Sharp inhale, like breathing dust.
The medic absently nodded while they sutured up the lieutenant’s shoulder, murmuring to show their attention.
“But a big hole is just a big obstacle. You overcome it, suddenly other stuff looks tiny.” The lieutenant leaned up on their good shoulder, whispering orders to a waiting soldier. “Knew a sergeant once, had a hole the size of my fist in her chest,” They gingerly punched their upper pectoral, wincing through the pain, “right here.” This garnered a disdainful look from the medic as they were pushed onto their back again.
“Plasma bore right through and cauterized the whole bit. We all thought she was hooped – no service, no lifting anything, not even out of bed for a year.” The lieutenant leaned up into the medic’s view, grinning a gritted smile. “Now, she’s touring the planets more than we tour the local cluster. All smiles, how-do-you-dos, shakin’ babies and kissin’ hands.”
“Lieutenant, if you’re feeling any confusion or can’t focus, I need you to let me know.” The medic called for more painkillers, but the lieutenant waved off the soldiers.
“No, meddy. The big wounds get morphine and k-doc, but the little ones? Those little pinpricks and pilot-holes? Those never get treated right. Those are the ones-” Their breathing picked up, and the medic started to swear in the lower Jovian tongue.
It took several minutes and an extra set of hands to extract the casing from the lieutenant’s abdomen, but after some stabilizing, they finished their philosophizing.
“…those are the ones that hurt the most. The little obstacles, they…trip you up, see. Little caltrops on the road, shards of glass in your toes…all just…sitting there. And of course they heal – time, and all that.” The lieutenant gazed longingly back into the eclipse, their tinted visor lain forgotten at their side. “…but the little holes in all of us…they never get filled, do they.”
There was a silence that could well have flooded the planet, so heavy and pregnant with grief and threatening to-
“You know…” The medic whispered in the impenetrable shadow of that third moon, “…those kinds of wounds always come in a set.”
The lieutenant suddenly looked relieved, in the same way they had seemed relieved to have the metal shards removed from their wound.
Their eyes met the medic’s, and all at once, a shared history, shared pain, shot between them, riddled with memories well-worn and aching. The two were part of a timeless void, reliving a past dripping with emotion, even denser than the silence that had come before.
Then, the flood was over, and they were themselves again, their duties resumed.
The eclipse began to end, and the war crept back to its fever pitch.
I wanted to tell a story of grief from a distance, with vague imagery centered around a heavy conversation. I won’t detail what the reality between the Lieutenant and Medic is in the story, only that it’s left vague to allow some breathing room between them.
Short, (bitter)sweet, set in space.