New Recruit

William opened the door to the hospital room and stepped inside. Several pieces of life sustaining equipment surrounded the bed. They beeped, clicked and buzzed as he checked the name on his clipboard against the name on the patient’s chart. Mr. Dawson began to wake up.

“Mr. Dawson, I’m William.”

“William who?”

“Just William, Mr. Dawson.”

“I knew a William once”, said Mr. Dawson. “Back in the war. A good kid, scared shitless all the time though. Hell we all were. He took a bullet in his head, on his birthday no less. I was his Cap–“ Mr. Dawson was interrupted by a coughing fit that lasted several minutes.

“What kind of Doctor are you anyway?” asked Mr. Dawson “Letting an old man cough himself to death. Ahh, who cares? I’m the last one anyway.”

William kept quiet; experience taught him it was better to keep his mouth shut and let the patient guide the conversation. He pulled up a chair and sat along side the frail Mr. Dawson. The sound of the machines began to grow faint.

“Last one?” asked William.

“I’m the last of my platoon and last of my line. They’re dead, all of my friends, all of my family, gone.”

The coughing began again. A small amount of blood trickled from the corner of his mouth but Mr. Dawson lacked the strength to do anything about it. William wiped it away.

“Should have been dead years ago.”

“Yesterday,” whispered William.


“Yesterday was my birthday,” said William. “I was going to get promoted but I called in sick.” William patted Mr. Dawson’s hand. The lights seemed to be dimming.

“Good idea. If there’s one thing I learned in this life, it’s don’t move too far up the line. Sometimes too much responsibility gets the people you care about killed.”

Mr. Dawson’s eyes began to tear up. William clasped the old man’s hand. This time the coughing spell lasted a little longer.

“I called in sick yesterday so my schedule would have to change and I could be here today, with you. Just like you were there for us,” said William. “You always looked after us back then Cap. I never forgot how you looked after all of us. Scared as hell, but you never let it show. Today’s an important day for you Captain and I wanted to be the one who brought you over.”

“William? I-I don’t under…”

“It’s OK Captain. You’ve been a good and faithful servant. Now you have a choice to make. The same choice I had to make when we were in Germany together.”

“What choice? What are you talking about? I’m too old for fighting. Look at me. I can’t even stay alive without all this crap hooked up to me.”

“My life wasn’t ended by that bullet Cap, but it sure as hell was changed by it. Now I offer you the same choice. I can deliver your soul, or you can become as I am.”

William wasn’t surprised that his old Captain wasn’t shaken by this rather unique offer. Nothing ever shook the old man. He had nerves of steel, but under that gruff exterior William knew the Captain was a kind soul. Just the sort of disposition you had to have for this type of work.

“It’s time Cap.” William reached over and shut off the machines that kept the old Captain alive. There were no alarms on the machines. No doctors running in with paddles and yelling “clear!” No noise. No fanfare. Just the Captain and his reaper.

Captain Dawson stood up and took a few tentative steps toward the door. He turned and looked at his body lying still on the hospital bed. “Lead on Private, it seems it’s time for me to report in.”

Author’s Note: This story was written for Write Anything’s [Fiction] friday with this week’s prompt: Yesterday, your character called in sick on their birthday because they knew their co-workers had a surprise party planned. Write what happens today. I substituted a promotion with surprise party because I’m a naughty boy. All work and no play blah, blah, blah. Please leave a comment and let me know what you think about this one. Cheers.

20 thoughts on “New Recruit

  1. A chilling compelling story, delighting my soul and spirit. Your storytelling once again leads the reader down on path and yet we end up at a different spot all together – a masterful touch.

    No-one minds if you bend the rules a little with FF – heck – thats what rules are there for – but consider yourself reprimanded – you can claim your slap on the wrist from me anytime ( big grin)

    I weakly attempted poetry this time as I have made a commitment to exploring different writing styles over the next few months. my entry can be found here

    • Thanks Annie. I’m so glad you enjoyed this story. BTW I read your poetry and totally disagree with your self deprecating use of the qualifier “weakly”, as I completely enjoyed your prose.

  2. Nice. I definitely have a soft spot for stories that contradict mors ultimum. In a small number of words the relationship between the characters was clearly expressed, and the themes of role reversal and the reward for the weary soldier back it up solidly without any hint of cliché.

    Applause for your subversion of the prompt – variations on a theme can be stronger than being true to the theme itself.

    • I’m glad to hear it wasn’t too cliché. I try not to get to obvious with my 1000 word allotment. It’s not always easy to do. I appreciate your comments.

  3. I like the quiet emotion in this story and the nice curve from start to finish. As others have noted, where the reader ends up is not where the road seemed to be heading at the start.

    Nice job.

  4. The link between these characters is what made this work. The idea of a dead comrade coming back for the man left behind is a nice twist on the cliche. I’m intrigued as to what happens next to Dawson. Intriguing piece with enagaging characters.

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