To Heal A Dream

Author's Note: This story was originally published in 1989 in a zine called Suffering Heroes by Tanis Press.

Face felt betrayed: he had thought that he could trust the men who had ordered him and his men into this mess. Boy, was he wrong. He tried to dig even deeper into the rabbit hole he had dug in haste that afternoon after the rest of his company had been wiped out.

The General's words came back to haunt him: "Don't worry, it's an easy mission. Just hold them down for a short while; we'll give you back up."

He laughed aloud at that: back up in a little while. So far, he had been here eight hours and night was coming in fast and, when it did, he knew what it meant, the enemy would advance on him and, if he was captured, it would mean a slow death or, if he had the guts, he would have to kill himself.

Bullets flew into the ground around him and he let out a short cry as one whizzed past his ear. He felt his helmet shudder. God, he wanted out of this game; he didn't like the rules any more.

Then he heard it; the distant sound of rotor blades and, with a sense of relief that he was not forgotten, came the realisation that the chopper would be flying straight into a trap. The Charlies on the ground would just wait for the chopper to come into sight, then let it have hell. Face decided that he would not like to be the pilot of that craft.

Before he realised what he was doing, he was up and out of the hole. Afterwards he would wonder if it was the sheer insanity of the act that saved his life. Whatever it was, they missed him every step of the way across the vast clearing.

He threw himself into the bush, gasping for breath. He was no hero, but he did know that he was dead anyway - but there might still be a way to save the helicopter, if he could reach the enemy in time.

Crouching down, he began to edge towards the enemy. He knew that they were dug in just as he had been; he had to find them and fast. He was hardly breathing, whether it was because of fear he was unable to say. Closer and closer came the sound of the chopper, he had to move faster - they would soon be within enemy sights.

Yes, now he could hear them yelling to each other. Didn't they care about him or did they believe him dead? He had fallen into the bush rather hard, their bullets splaying about him. By the noise they were making, he guessed there were about eight - maybe nine - of them. He would have to watch out; he could not believe that they thought he was dead - they must know that they had not hit him in his mad dash for the cover of the forest. Slowly he moved forward on his belly. He felt sick: this was not him, he could not just kill these men and, yet, if he wanted to save the chopper and the men inside, he would have to.

A sudden movement from behind him brought him onto his back just in time to see a Viet Cong come running up towards him. The man let out a yell, which Face echoed, and both fired at the same time. The man staggered and fell forwards onto Face, who had become frozen as he felt the bullet rip into his arm and out, into the ground.

He knew that he had to breathe. Noise was everywhere: the Viet Cong were screaming in excitement, yelling encouragement to their now-dead companion. They must believe that their friend had killed him. He slowly began to push the man from him, edging bit by bit towards the Charlies. He knew that they would come and check, but not yet, the helicopter was too close they would only come and check after the chopper had been seen to.

As he began to crawl forward again, he began to shake. He could smell them now, but still the bush hid them from sight. Then, suddenly, he caught a movement between the trees: there they were, well dug in. Would they be easy to destroy.

He fumbled for a grenade and, wishing he could wipe the sweat from his eyes, he slowly moved his arm up to his mouth and very gently, removed the pin. Closing his eyes, he counted the correct numbers then threw, his arm screaming in pain. As he did so, he realised that he was far to close and he would be caught in the blast.

He felt the impact, but was detached; it could not hurt him any more. He felt a smile cross his face; he knew that if any Charlies survived he was dead, but all he could hear was the chopper coming closer, closer. Yet it was a muffled sound. With a grin he realised that his hearing had been affected.

He lay there, face turned upwards, staring up through the trees, watching the blue sky. A cloud caught his eyes and he began to drift with it. Suddenly he realised what he was doing and he tried to move, but discovered painfully that he legs were caught. 'What the hell?' Slowly the light above him started to fade. He wanted to cry out, somehow stop it, but even as the thought crossed his mind it fled - then the point of light blinked out.


He awoke with a start, gasping for breath, half-choking upon emotions. It had happened again: the dream always came just when he thought it was over with. It always returned to laugh at him. He was not a killer and the death that he had caused in 'Nam would always worry his soul. It was wrong to kill another man: the priest at the orphanage had always spoken against violence and, because Face had respected and loved him as a father, he had always tried to live up to his expectations - but still the dreams returned. The killing of so many men, even though it had saved the lives of the chopper crew and the men it had been carrying - it still did not make the murder easier to live with in his eyes.

He knew that the others would not really understand. Sure, they would listen if he needed to talk and, in their own way, they would try to help, but in this case, he could not tell. It had happened in war, so that made it all right, didn't it?

He turned over in the bed, wishing he had the courage to get up and go for a walk in the fresh air, but he was afraid of the questions this might cause - even the look of concern upon their faces, even that he could not bear at the moment. No, this was his problem, so he would deal with it.

If he were not on the run, he would be able to check into the VA for a few days and get their help and understanding. Sometimes he envied Murdock: he was safe in the hospital; he could let loose whenever he wanted, to be just himself.

He moved in the bed again, trying to find a comfortable position. He ended up with his arm behind his head, staring at the ceiling. There would be no more sleep this night; every time he closed his eyes he felt their presence just beyond the trees and the smell always lingered, as did the shock they had felt when the grenade had fallen into their pit.

Face often compared it to a recorded of emotions: their feelings were so strong that they had implanted themselves upon his soul.

He rubbed a hand across his eyes, emitting a groan. This was stupid: he knew that thought led nowhere. They were dead, he could not bring them back - he had killed them. Somehow, it was easier to kill at a distance, to pretend that it was not him who was doing the killing.


He froze.

"Face, I know you're awake."

Still he did not answer.

"Face, did you dream again?"

He felt his stomach tighten. How did Murdock know that he dreamed? He had never mentioned it to anyone.

As if to answer the unasked question, Murdock went on, "A lot of the guys in the VA dream. Those that just come in for a few days - it gets them all in the end." He paused, waiting for a reply. None came. Face was holding his breath; maybe if he didn't answer, Murdock would think he really was asleep. "There's not one person who was in 'Nam who has not been warped in some way." Murdock went on. "It may not show, but still the pain is there: the feeling of being let down, of betrayal."

"It's not that," Face found himself answering.

"No?" Questioned Murdock, sitting up in bed.

Face looked over at him: he was intense, ready and willing to help if he could.

"You can't help. Murdock. I've got to sort this out myself." So saying, he turned on his side, away from his friend.

Murdock had known about Face's nightmares for a long time; they all had, but this was the closest any one of them had got to finding out what they might be about. Murdock only knew that it was slowly destroying his friend, Faces dreams had been bad lately - his eyes had begun to hold that hunted expression Murdock had seen many times in the VA. The man who got that look did not usually survive.

Murdock stood up and moved to get his dressing gown, then he sat down upon Face's bed.

"I felt sick when I flew my first mission behind enemy lines," He began, his own voice tight. He did not talk about this, not even to the docs at the VA. Face, realising that Murdock was hurting himself to tell him that, turned back to face him. In the semi-darkness he could clearly see strain upon the thin face. Murdock went on. "I flew it well, got in and out." He gave a short bitter laugh. "I saw half the soldiers I had dropped off shot down before they could reach cover, but I flew it well. I knew they wouldn't make it, but still I kept taking them. I was a good pilot, skilled. I got in and out fast - that's how I kept alive: flew low, kept to cover, but I knew that I was still taking half of them to their deaths." He stopped his throat tight. God, it still hurt, but now that he had started, he could not stop. He saw the shocked expression on his friend's face, but went on. "Do you know they cheered the chopper when we came in to fetch them, they thought they were safe. They would come running back to the chopper, so pleased with themselves that they had survived… some never make it and others…" He stopped.

"Murdock, you don't need to…" Face began.

"Yes I do. Damn it, Face…" Murdock bit back the rest of his sentence. "Face, I don't know what's destroying you, but if you let it, it will kill you. I've seen it happen and…"

"Hay," Face began, sitting up straighter, grabbing hold of Murdock. "You're starting to sound sane," he tried to joke.

Murdock tried to smile: funny how smiling was sometimes the hardest thing to do. Face leant forward and, placing a hand upon Murdock's shoulder, he finally asked, "What happen to the others, the ones you had… you had to leave behind?"

"The others…" Murdock knew what he was asking about; they were the ones that had not been able to reach the chopper before the ground fire got too heavy for the helicopters to remain. Murdock looked into Face's eyes for a long time. "They died," he finally admitted.

Face's eyes filled with tears and he pushed back his covers and scrambled out of the bed. Spinning round to face his friend, he gasped in anguish, "How do you live with that? How can you?" It was an accusation.

Murdock swallowed hard. In a way, he wished that he had not started this; he was not qualified to handle this kind of emotional situation. How did he handle it? The truth was, he didn't - yet he just did. If he stopped to think about it, he would crack up - this he knew was what was happening to Face: he had begun to act, as he own judge, jury and, finally, executioner.

"I was never given a choice. I have no answers, only tomorrows - if I'm willing to take them. I lost many friends: they died out there and if I give up then, in a way, I'm wasting their lives as well, why should I have lived if I'm going to throw it all away by living in the past?"

He paused for breath and Face asked, "Did you ever kill a Charlie close up?" He had begun to pace the room. He paused in his pacing. "I mean, real, real close."

Murdock thought about it: Yes, he had been close to the enemy a few times but never to kill. At those times, it had been in his best interests to stay hidden.

"No, I just flew the planes."

"I did." It was whispered, torn from his friend. "They were dug in and a chopper was coming, so I grenaded them. I was so close to them that I could smell them. I saw the grenade blow them to bits: they were human beings, just the same as us." His voice had risen and his eyes became feverish as it began to spill from him. "They were young; they had mothers who loved them, maybe sisters who cried for them. I… I felt the torn bits of their… their" he was unable to go on, his breathing was coming fast and unsteady, Murdock realised he was going into shock; he had to bring him out and fast. He moved swiftly and with a resounding clash, he struck the shaking man hard about the face, snapping his head back, rocking Face back onto his heels. He began to crumple, crying helplessly, utterly, his whole body was behind the sobs. Murdock grabbed him and followed him down to the floor. Holding him tight, he cradled him as he would a child, rocking him slowly, gently rubbing his back, murmuring comforting words that he never would remember. After a while, the body-wrenching sobs subsided to be replaced by the healing cry: even the soul can't stay separate from the heart for long.

Murdock held Face for a long time, just being there: a person to hold, who cared, that was what Face needed now. The pain and knowledge of what he did would never go, but the comprehension that he could still live with it would begin.

Murdock had begun to realise that, for many of the men who made it back from 'Nam, all had left a very important part of themselves there and, in most cases, it was not the aftershock that destroyed them, it was the dreams - and to heal the man you had to start with the dreams.

For Face, his dream had begun to be healed twelve years after the war but Murdock knew that out there, there were innumerable men and women who still awoke in the middle of the night, crying.


A-TEAM      *      HOME PAGE

This website is maintained by Donna and Wyvern
email Donna