A Tear of Flesh
by Daniel Lerner
I had arrived at the Marine's driveway faster than I had hoped. It only
took me about twenty minutes to get to his street from the highway
where I had eaten a meal. It was so strange to be there, sitting in a
car and staring at the tan ranch house. I sat there for another fifteen
minutes, mentally preparing myself to open the door, get out, and walk
up that porch. When I finally did, I found myself hypnotized by the
grass that spilled over onto the walkway as I approached the house.
Then, I stood on the porch, looking at a dark yellow doorbell. I
thought for a moment, how simple it would be to turn around and leave.
The family would get a letter in a few days, signed by some Corporal,
and the soldier's family wouldn't have ever known I had existed.
However, I would like to believe that I am more honorable than that.
I pressed the doorbell and heard a steady beep reverberate through
the house. Soon, a young woman opened the door. Her face was filled
with excitement, as if she had expected someone, but she was clearly
surprised that it was me, or rather, someone she did not recognize.
Quickly, that excitement became fear. Upon seeing me, she looked
shocked, and readied herself to close the door.
"Hi, um, who are you?" she asked. Her voice had a sort of
hopefulness, and her entire body appeared tense. I stood there,
gathering thoughts, formulating words, preparing to finally
communicate. "Excuse me, but who are you?" She moved the door slightly
away from herself, preparing to close it.
"You are…" my voice trailed off. I sighed, realizing that I didn't
even know her name, first or last. "Your husband was a marine, he is
off-planet right now fighting above one of Saturn's colonies. Is this
"No. His shuttle is landing tomorrow. Who are you? How do you know
him?" The woman had opened the door back to its original position from
a few seconds ago, and now she blocked off any view into the house.
"My name is Uretein. I'm an engineer from his ship. Could we please
talk outside? I'm not too fond of the lights." I nodded towards the
glowing chandelier hanging above her head. I beckoned, motioning to a
white bench on my left. She nodded and followed my hand gesture. She
sat, but I remained standing and turned away from her, leaning over the
metal railing of the porch.
"Why are you here? You said you were from his ship. Where is he?"
It is so difficult communicating with people. I feel as though any
idiot would I knew would have understood by now, and have burst into
tears. "I regret to inform you, your husband is dead."
"No! He can't! He wrote to me a week ago!" Her voice cracked, and I
thought I heard her trying to stifle a sob, but I didn't look.
"I killed him two days ago, as our cruiser was passing over Earth's
moon." I waited for her to curse me. Maybe not curse me, but to do
something. People don't react to bad news in such a restrained fashion.
I risked a glance backwards and saw the woman sitting on the bench
just as she was before. Perhaps, was she in shock? No, she was crying,
simply doing so without making noise. She began to dig around in one of
her pockets until she found a cigarette and then lit it. She didn't
bring it to her lips though, she just held between her fingers and
watched it burn. She then churned it to dust and looked up at me.
"We were attacked by four smaller explorers. They're the kind of
ships that were built at the start of the colonization of Mars. They
didn't have any external weaponry, so the Captain chose to ignore them.
I had just started my shift in the second hangar." I turned back to
continue leaning over the railing. My hands couldn't get a good grip on
the surface of the railing. It was too round, too sleek, as if it was
oiled. I always had to wear gloves when I worked with tools. I couldn't
really grip stuff. My skin was very… dry. Metal would always shred my
"I didn't realize what was happening until the alarms began to go
off to warn us about the third ship that was approaching. The first one
slammed into the communications relay, and the second one hit the
bottom of the ship, where the engines and generators were. It wiped out
all the electronics, and disabled the light barriers in place to seal
the hangar. I guess that's the one place where those things fail." I
chuckled to myself, forgetting about the woman who sat behind me.
I sighed. "The change in pressure destroyed all of the battle suits
and single-pilot aircraft in the hangar, and sucked a few guys out into
space. I was preparing to go outside to work on a damaged auto turret
with another engineer, so we were attached by cables and prepared to be
in space. We were the only two in the hangar that survived. This only
took about thirty seconds to happen. In that time, the third ship
smashed into the command bridge, and the fourth had landed in the
wreckage of the engine rooms to let attackers flood the living quarters
and cargo bay."
"It took about ten minutes for me to pull myself back into a
pressurized part of the ship. By then, everything had gone to hell. Few
of the marines on board had died during the first moments of the
attack, but at least half of them died when the fourth ship landed on
the engineering deck and let the attackers out. The entire ship was
being torn apart by gunfire. I followed a group of marines who seemed
to know where they were going, and your husband was among them." I
glanced back at the woman to see if she was listening. She was indeed
doing so, but she also gave off an aura of absolute misery. Her face
was expressionless, and her eyes had slowly begun to sag. Her arms,
too, were drooping at her sides rather than on her lap, as most people
would have kept them. I ignored it, and continued speaking.
"We took a wrong turn and walked straight into a group of the
raiders. Three people were shot before I could turn to run. Your
husband got hit in the leg, and he couldn't walk. I didn't get a good
look at it, but his leg was burned really badly. It looked like a
corrosive round to me. I opened an air vent and jumped in, dragging him
after me. Except for the dim amount of light from the vent, it was
"We began crawling through the air vents, making our way to the
escape shuttles. I didn't even notice it at first, but your husband
started to moan. His leg was getting very bad. Eventually, he would
have started screaming. The acid from the shot he took had begun to
seep into his skin. I could actually see bone, and red water began to
leak out from him."
She forced a bitter laugh, then said "blood. Not water."
"I don't bleed." I did my best to place my hand on the railing, and
continued the story. "There was no way he would make it anywhere. The
acid was consuming him, and he was going to die. He knew this, and
asked me to kill him." I turned around to face the woman, looking her
in the eyes when I next spoke. "Before I killed him, he made me swear
to come here and tell you the story. I used the butt of his pistol to
do it. I hit him once, here", I reached forward and touched the side of
her forehead with one of my fingers, and she flinched, then moved away
uncomfortably. "Sorry" I breathed.
She did not say a word. She barely breathed. Actually, at that
moment she seemed very composed. In an instant, however, she fell
apart. Tears poured down her cheeks and she tried to speak, but her
words were muddled by sobs.
"It displeases me to leave on such a poor note. I was only allowed a
few hours to tell you this. The shuttle to my own home is leaving
soon." I reached forward and placed my hand on hers. A tear fell from
her eye, and when it landed on my hand, my skin began to burn.
"Goodnight" I whispered. I then turned and went back to the car. I
looked back at that house and at the woman who sat on the porch and
cried. Her sobs made me hate her slightly more. I understood her pain
now; my hand throbbed where her tear landed.
© 2014 Daniel Lerner
Bio: Mr. Lerner is 16 years old. This is his first published story.
E-mail: Daniel Lerner
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