Plans and plans and plans, all discovered, grappled with and discarded. Orders, honor, friendship, other intangible words with weight so far beyond their base letters. You return to Mickey's room, quiet. He waits on the bed, looking worse for wear.
"I---." He'd never make it out. "You---." Even if you carried him on your back, he'd bleed out too much stuffing. "They---." Your orders are to leave him. He just stares at you. He's always looked optimistic, but now, now he just looks sad. You can't tell him. He trusts you, he needs this. He's-going-to-die-soon-anyway-just-a-few-hours-and-its-not-your-fault-and-you-have-orders-just-do-it-JUST-DO-IT---
"It's going to be OK," you lie. You don't have the heart. You just don't have the stuffed heart to tell him the truth.
Mickey smiles weakly, he looks out a window and slowly shakes his head. "Good," he says.
"I have to go," you hear yourself say. "Someone will be back for you."
Mickey shrugs. "OK."
"It'll be OK," you repeat, "you'll be OK."
Mickey shrugs again, such a small gesture, but it takes so much of his energy. "I heard you and the general," he mutters absently, "out in the hall." You freeze. "It's OK," Mickey says. "I don't blame you."
There's really nothing for you to do. You turn to leave. Turn back into the room. One last look. "I could... have stayed," you say. And you walk out. A harmonica wails from one of the rooms, the very sound of sadness. Other patients look at you from their rooms, from the litters and cots propped up in the halls. Their marble eyes plead with you, begging for good news, begging for you to say it's going to be OK, that they'll get out, that it'll all be OK, that they won't die here, that they'll see their parents again, their girlfriends again, their kids again. But you keep walking, out into the street, listening to the artillery fall like rain and the boots pound the pavement in retreat, frenzied retreat as the last minutes before the city is fully lost tick away.
You hope Mickey isn't watching. But he's a ghost, even then, even as you can still see his window. He'll follow you for the rest of your life, just one more regret to pass from bottle to bottle, to try to drown in wine or work. And as you leave, you fall in with another group, bison who don't know you, just scared kids, and one of them asks your name. You tell him it's Mickey. Mickey Bison. And when those poor dumb bison are cut down around you by artillery and ambush, you run and you keep running. But you keep the name. And the regret.
And then you wake up.>Resolve not to fail JET