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Night Vision

by

Ed Bull

 

 
     
   

 

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GREEN IS EVERYWHERE.  IT’S THE LAVA LAMP. Tangled limbs and bare flesh heave on the bed in the corner. The ceiling fan pulses and shadows flutter across the room.

Lola guides Danny’s movements. They shift up and down slowly, dreamily. Her hands caress his sides and core, but Danny is stiff, awkward. His eyes move to all the wrong places—he’s blind and not quite used to it yet.

They could be moving or standing still and he wouldn’t know the difference. Then, in the dark green emptiness, he sees little flecks of light glimmering like diamonds. He could almost reach out and pluck them from the void. His hands leave Lola’s breasts, and it’s like he’s floating. He could be anywhere.

They’re streetlights, not diamonds. There’s sand in his boots, in his collar, his teeth. He crouches on a rooftop with three other Marines, hip-level concrete parapets on either side. Here in the city, Danny has learned to love concrete.

It’s dark, but Danny isn’t blind anymore. He can see because of his night vision goggles. They’re expensive. Danny’s Sergeant told him not to lose them. They’re heavy.

The other Marines, Laidlaw, Ryan, and Sergeant Sloan, don’t have NVGs. They wouldn’t have a set at all, because Laidlaw lost them, but Sloan picked these up at a market—maybe even the same ones, found by a scavenger and sold back to them for some dollars and MREs.

Laidlaw pats Danny’s shoulder. Anything yet? he says. He used to wear the NVGs.

Danny peeks over the parapet. He pans left and right. Through the grainy green haze he sees shapes, buildings. No, he says, nothing yet.

Lola doesn’t notice Danny was gone. Her hips curve around Danny’s, and he strokes the gentle concave slope of her abdomen. She pushes up against his palm with each thrust. She is a ghost, painted green and smooth. He can see just a little, a tease, like he’s on the other side of a curtain of gauze. There is a swirl of a shadow curling into her navel, and he squints, hoping for a little more. They’re going faster.

Lola cups Danny’s cheek. He wonders how she can do this. He’s had surgeries, reconstruction. In the mornings, he feels his face and it’s open, raw. Someone once told him he looks like an Otto Dix painting.

She breathes in Danny’s ear, licks, bites. She has almond eyes, he remembers. Laidlaw eyes. The acne-faced kid, Ryan, talks. They stay low.

Maybe they bugged out, Ryan says.

I’m more worried they wised up, Laidlaw says. Sloan, we should get out of here, he says.

Look for stashed mortars, Sgt. Sloan says.

Guys, shut up, Danny says. Let me check the other side.

More green, quiet.

See? Ryan says. Nothing.           
           
Danny starts to say something, but doesn’t. There is a glimmer in the green several blocks away. Danny can almost feel the bullet, the way it bends the air to his right. Then, a pop. His head snaps down and to his left, as though an invisible hand grabs his NVGs and pulls, hard. He can’t see—there’s only color, so bright it burns. Only green, mist and shadows and green, forever.

This is a very rare condition, the doctor says.
           
Will it get better? Lola says. She is green, a shadow, and she squeezes Danny’s hand.

This is a very rare condition, the doctor says. I’ve never seen anything like it.

Danny falls. He falls back and Lola catches him in her crotch and they’re gaining momentum, they’re going so fast he can’t breathe.

Oh god, she says. Don’t stop, she says.

Danny stops.

Are you all right? she says.

Danny puts his arm against the wall.

Sniper, someone shouts. Shit, someone says. Danny’s hit, someone says.

Danny moans and breathes, he breathes.

Stay down, someone shouts. Laidlaw, get the SAW, someone says. Suppress, then move, someone says.

Danny’s face is hot, and he thinks to touch his cheeks, but he doesn’t. He thinks, am I blushing?

Where am I shooting? someone says. I don’t know, someone says. Tall building, there, top floor, someone says.

Someone fires a rifle. Someone scratches a bipod across concrete, opens up with the Squad Automatic Weapon, the machinegun. There is a delicate, tonal dripping, like a wind chime—brass cartridges, falling.

Sloan turns Danny over. Danny feels Sloan’s fingers on his cheeks, soft. Lucky son of a bitch, Danny hears, your NVGs took the hit.
           
The NVGs make a sucking sound as Sloan peels them off, and  they pull something hot and sticky with them. There is a warm liquid, like ear-water after a swim. Sloan throws the goggles off the rooftop. Some seconds later, a thud, something weighty cushioned by sand.

Shit, Sloan says. His soft fingers quake on Danny’s face. They can fix it, Sloan says. Hold on, man, Sloan says. Fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck. Then he shouts: Keep shooting! Keep shooting! Keep fucking shooting!

Sgt. Sloan drags Danny by the shoulders. The Marines keep firing at ghosts. Against the darkness their gunfire seems small, lonely.

Danny, it’s okay. I’m here with you, Lola says and she touches his neck. Danny punches the wall. He punches it and punches it and punches it. Powdered drywall covers his hand.  He closes his fingers onto the grit. He gets up.
            Please, Lola says. Don’t do this, Danny.
            She touches him. He takes a swing at the green. Lola screams. Nothing connects, and the momentum of the swing carries Danny in a stumbling pirouette onto the floor. Lola starts to put on her clothes. She talks.

I can’t do this anymore, she says.

I know.

I’m leaving, she says.

I know.

It’s not really your fault, she says.

I know.
           
I’ll call to make sure you’re okay, she say. She tosses a cordless phone to Danny’s lap. Call someone, she says.

Who?
           
Your mother.

Danny leans his head against the bed post. He follows her sound. She walks toward the door. There were other ways for this to end, he thinks. This is not the worst of them.

I love you, Lola.

I love you too, hon, she says. She stops. Then she goes. From inside, Danny hears the deadbolt lock. Click slide click. Just like the bolt-action of a rifle snapping shut, readying another round for its long, brief journey.

OS

     

Ed Bull

Ed Bull’s fiction and non-fiction stories have appeared in Red Wheelbarrow, the G.W. Review,and roger, an art and literary magazine, and are forthcoming in the Fall in Redivider and also Burrow Press’s Fragmentation & Other Stories. A recent graduate of the University of Central Florida, he now lives in West Palm Beach, FL, where it is bright and sunny and much, much too hot.

 

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