Here’s story I started thinking about yesterday and it started writing itself. It’s in a pretty raw state, still needs some transitions ironed out and some continuity things worked out as well, but lemme know what you think!
Arrival For Duty
The wheels of Air Force One bounced and screeched on the runway awaking the President, he slid up the visor of the window and watched as the plane ran down the runway, he could see the jungle running along the perimeter of the airport, He was landing in a country he never thought he would have to visit Vietnam. When the call to serve came his father paid a doctor for a medical note saying he couldn’t serve, serving was for suckers, the stupid, and the poor. None of which he was. America had a long history of the rich paying the poor to serve in their place. Now, he would shake hands with dignitaries, be catered to, visit a few sites of historic importance and act impressed. It didn’t matter, he didn’t have any ghosts here.
The door to the plane opened and he felt the humid air flood into the plane, he would be hot in the dark suit and tie he always wore, his wife met him at the door, they stepped out onto the platform and at the bottom of the stairs awaited the Vietnamese delegation of diplomats and military officials waiting to receive him, he grabbed his wife’s hand and they started down the stairway. At the bottom of the stairs was a Marine guard, beyond them the dignitaries, diplomats, and officials of Vietnam. The military, another servant his father had sent him to a military school when he was young because he thought he needed discipline, he was singled out, yelled at, made to march in step to their tune, demerits for insignificant infractions, and all because his father unfairly through him in the school for a minor transgression. Now, those generals, his generals snapped to and saluted when he entered a room and now they danced to his tune. The air rippled with heat, his eyes became unfocused for a moment, he stopped on the stairway regaining his composure, then he saw clearly again, the air felt thicker pressing in around him, it was as if he‘d passed into a tropical zone. His wife was gone, had she gone back to the plane? Did she not feel his moment of weakness and she had continued on down the stairway? He looked down the stairs she wasn’t there, and the receiving party had seemed to change as well, the faces had changed and the uniforms were different, they were all American, and all young men from every branch of the services. At the bottom of stairway awaited a naval officer in dress whites, and what seemed prematurely white hair for a young man, he thought he recognized the officer. The officer saluted,
“Finally, you’re here,” the officer said, “we’ve been waiting for your arrival.”
“Good, good,” the President said, “do I know you? Are you an attache?”
“No, you don’t know me, I wasn’t a hero, I was captured.” Those words rang in the President’s ears, he looked around, the airport looked more primitive, like it had been run down, he still didn’t see the Vietnamese delegates. He turned to the officer, looked into his eyes trying to remember where he knew the man from, he knew he didn’t know the young man, but his features were familiar.
“Don’t look to the past to remember me,” the officer said, “try the future, my future, your reality.”
The President’s eyes widened a bit, registering both recognition and shock, “McCain is that you?” The officer smiled, “Where am I?”
“Where you belong, Hanoi, but a Hanoi that has long been awaiting you, it’s a Hanoi outside of time where you may have come to a lifetime ago.”
“I’m the President! Take me to the receiving delegation! Where are my secret service agents?”
“We’re the receiving committee, the others are back in their own reality living it out.”
“What’s this all about? I’m an important person you can’t just hold me here, what do you want from me?”
“Nothing really, just that it’s your turn to stand guard, we’ve been here a long time standing guard, for those that died, those who lived, but we can’t stand at guard forever, we’ve been told you’re our relief.”
“Stand at guard!” he snorted incredulously, “the war is long over, it wasn‘t my war.”
“No, it’s not over, it’s not over in our memories, in our dreams, in our bodies, it’s not over in the dreams of generations after. It was all of ours war, even for the protesters, but what did you do? Nothing.”
“I was for the war,”
“What did you do besides voice a support for it, what actions did you take to fight it? To end it? None. You sat back and let others fight it for you while you tried to grow rich.”
“I understand your sacrifice, I was shipped off to military school because my father thought I needed discipline.”
“Don’t lie, you may tell yourself that, but we know the truth, a military school for rich kids, crisp uniforms, medals for having your bed made, loved the pageantry and pomp of parade, carrying swords that were every bit as blunted as you, no rounds in rifles you drilled with, you never had to crawl through mud, the dirtiest you ever got was working up a sweat, you always knew what was coming, there was no danger except getting VD from a girl on a weekend furlough. Should I take you to where they held and beat me?”
“What you don’t understand is life is a service industry, so far you’ve avoided serving your fellow man.”
“I’ve built industries and housing…”
“All for attaining wealth and your glorification.” The officer morphed into his older self, the white hair thinned, the face puffed out of proportion because of the injuries toll over the years, slightly hunched over with the years, now dressed in a dark suit much like his own it was the officer, older, a Senator.
“Charges have been drawn back in your reality. Now you must choose how to serve. Here standing at post or back to your reality to face the charges.”
“How long would I have to stand at post?”
“Until your replacement arrives.”
“There’s no relief in sight.”