The Gathering Place
He stood in a misty haze trying to adjust his eyes. There was nothing to see, nothing to fix his eyes on and he wondered where he was and how he had gotten there.
"Hello?!" he called out, his voice seeming to echo off of nothing. "Hello?! Is anybody there?" he pleaded.
From a distance he could hear footsteps approaching. Through the mist he could just make out a figure taking shape. As it drew closer he could see that the figure was wearing OD fatigues and a helmet like his own.
"Who's there?" he asked apprehensively, now beginning to regret that he had called out.
"Is that you, Wade?" a voice emanated from the figure, a voice he recognized.
"Caparzo?" he gasped in astonishment.
Private Adrian Caparzo marched up to him and smiled down. Gone was any look of pain or sadness. From his face radiated joy. "T-4 Medic Irwin Wade," Caparzo chuckled, delighted to see him. "I am surprised to see you so soon. I was actually hoping not to see you for another fifty or sixty years."
Wade looked at him in disbelief, wide eyed and slack jawed. "Caparzo, I watched you die! A sniper shot you through the chest and you bled to death in the rain!"
"I did?" Caparzo puzzled for a moment. "Oh yeah, now I remember," he nodded. "I had that little French girl in my arms and Captain Miller snatched her out seconds before the bullet struck me. I'm glad he did. I would have hated for her to die," he hesitated thoughtfully for a moment before continuing. "So, tell me what happened to you. How did you die?"
"Our squad came across a German radar nest and we took it. That's when ... wait a minute," he stopped for a moment, his hands moving over his chest as though trying to find something. "There's no bullet holes!" he looked up in amazement. "I'm not bleeding! I got hit three ..., no wait ... four times in the chest. One of the bullets severed my spine in my lower back and another split my liver. I asked for morphine," he told Caparzo. "I asked for morphine three times. Those poor guys," he shook his head sadly. "They didn't realize they were giving me an overdose."
"You knew three doses would kill you, didn't you?"
"Yes, I did," he admitted. "I simply fell asleep and stopped breathing," he stopped for a moment, his memory returning clearly. "I wasn't any good to anyone paralyzed. They would have had to carry me back. I was paralyzed and a hindrance to our objective," he explained. "God, those poor guys had to watch me die," as he lowered his eyes he sighed sadly.
"And now you're here," Caparzo told him as he grinned.
"Yes, and now I'm here," Wade replied. "But where exactly is here?" he asked, confusion on his face as he searched Caparzo's face for an answer. "There's nothing here, at least nothing that I can see."
"There's something here," Caparzo grinned knowingly. "It's just not meant for you to see it just yet."
"What's that supposed to mean?" Wade asked him, puzzled at the man's vagueness.
"You'll see," he mused. "Come. Walk with me." Motioning with his head, he turned to leave.
The two soldiers quietly walked abreast. As they moved forward, Wade began to make out something ahead. The gray mist thinned and parted, revealing several soldiers around a body. Wade watched on curiously.
"What's this?" he frowned.
"Your death," Caparzo explained. "See how much they cared for you? How much Captain Miller cared for you?"
As though in a strange time warp, the scenes unfolded before them. The men wept around his body, and then the German prisoner dug his grave. As they argued, the blindfolded enemy soldier slowly walked away. And now Captain Miller wept into his hands. Wade felt genuine concern for the man and, reaching out, gently touched him on his shoulder.
Miller turned in his direction and began to speak. He could have sworn the Captain looked into his eyes. "I'm sorry, Wade," Miller wept. "You were the best damned medic I ever knew. I should have made you stay back with Upham. Damn," he cursed, wiping the tears away to gather himself.
Startled, Wade jerked back and looked up at Caparzo. "Did he see me?"
"No, just sensed you. It's quite common for the spirit to hover around the body for a short time after death. Look what they're doing now," he pointed. Wade watched as they laid his shrouded body into the ground and covered it over with dirt. "There's nothing more for us to do now but wait," he told him as the gray mist engulfed them again.
"Wait for what?" Wade asked him.
"For the rest of the squad."
"How long will we wait?"
"Who knows," Caparzo shrugged. "Hopefully decades. Then they can tell us about their families when they get here."
Wade snickered at the thought. "I'll look forward to that," he smiled as he walked with his friend.
Chuckling, Caparzo patted Wade's shoulder as they moved forward. "Me too."
In eternity there is no comprehension of time so Wade had no idea how long it had been when he heard another voice.
"Hello?!" the voice called out. "Is anybody here?"
"Let's go find out, shall we?" Caparzo grinned.
"Oh Lord, you said You would never forsake me but I feel forsaken. Is anybody here?"
"Now that sounds like Jackson," Wade said to Caparzo.
"It is. Let's go greet him."
From the mist Jackson saw two figures approaching and morph into shape, wearing OD fatigues and helmets like his own.
"Wait! Who's there? Who are you?" alerted, he asked the figures.
"You're not alone," Caparzo answered his query. "And you're not forsaken."
"Private Daniel Boone Jackson," Wade looked up at his puzzled face as a grin spread across his own face. "I was hoping I wouldn't see you for another fifty or sixty years.