The Total Price

by Boyd Burke


Sergeant Dorsey

by John Boors


Broken Life, the Restoration

by Scott Sjostrand


My Vietnam Story

by Albert Hernandez


Hurry Up and Wait

by Carl Palmer


Forever in Flight

by Norma Rowe


Passage of Solitude

By James Camera, Army

Writing Type: Array

By James Camera

The shaft of flickering light extends several feet in front of him; the ceiling of earth and rock looms six inches above his head. As he twists and contorts his body to retrace his sluggish progression along the narrow passage, the illumination from his lighter plays tricks on his senses. His projected profile against the gnarled walls reveals a disfigured rendition of his remembered self. His misshapen head reflected in a disproportioned version of normality, he shuts his eyes and forces the haunting likenesses into the distant corners of his imagination.

“Focus,” he utters into the stagnant air as the metallic click of his lighter returns everything to darkness, a putrid odor from its fluid stinging his nostrils. Digging the tips of his boots into the hardened earth, his hamstrings strain with the effort of belly crawling backward until a suggestion of light appears at the opening of the tunnel.

He backs up against this openness until he is free of the enclosure and sucks the air as though it is a rare offering that will be withdrawn before he has had enough to satisfy his hunger. The accessibility of the openness around him nearly overwhelms his senses, and he contemplates returning to the darkness of the tunnel. But only for an instant as he recalls the murkiness within. The sunlight is blinding, the vastness startling as he waits for his heartbeat to rediscover its natural rhythm.

He awakens from the dream. This one felt so real, the sensation of being in the tunnel so absolute. He contemplates the possible reasons for his distress about the recurring dream, this feeling of impending doom that hangs over him. What was the last thing he did before sleep overtook him? Watched the late news with its images of the masked populous traversing the urban landscape amid calls for social distancing. And still they gather, fearful of the solitude that is suggested for the upcoming holiday season.

“Plan to have your Thanksgiving dinner solely with those you live with,” the broadcaster says, regurgitating the warnings of the Center for Disease Control. More admonitions talk about limited dinner parties, disposable tableware, open windows and kitchen exhaust fans. Shelter in place in order to minimize your outdoor movements, the warnings add. Stay connected but avoid close contact. Be of affable holiday cheer but keep your face covered so no one can know your temperament. Be kind and open-hearted but aware of the proximity of others.

The world has become a labyrinth of tunnels as the rats scamper about and return to their respective dwellings. The contradictions abound as he burrows into the warmth of his bed. The morning sunlight plays across the spread as he turns his head from the light. He excavates deeper under the covers to shield his eyes from the shimmering brightness when all at once he realizes that this bed, this room, this house have become the tunnels of his torment, though now he seeks their protection to isolate himself from the rest of the universe.

He considers this paradox: is it possible to find safety in the thing that he has feared the most for more years than he had been alive when it began? Could the suffocating confinement of the tunnels take him into its clutches and offer comfort and calm as the world experiences disorder all around him? Logic tells him that this cannot be possible, and yet, he yearns for enclosure and containment to breathe uncluttered air in his cavern of solitude. Has his survival of the tunnels in his dreams given him the strength to distance himself and maintain detachment?  Envisioning them now, he considers the safety of their isolation.

He listens to stories of the many who have grown tired of the restrictions imposed by the pandemic. Those who have become weary of behaving for the better good. Those unaccustomed to compromising their freedom and unwilling or unable to comply with suggestions of seclusion. But he can because he has.

The tunnels have served him well. Now he examines a way to know them in a new light. One that offers restitution. A giving back of his fearlessness. The virus and the tunnels have offered a silver lining, and he is shaken by this new reality.

He closes his eyes beneath the cover of his bedding and whispers “Make my weakness work for me” as he ponders the concept of claustrophobia. Has the virus given him strength?  Can he outlast the pandemic?  He dares not to open his eyes, for the perimeter may be closing in on him.



Cross on Calvary

by Lawrence Rahn


Anna and the Boys

by Larry Connelly


1692 Salem

by Larry Connelly


Keep a Grip

by James Janssen


The Power of Color

by James Camera


Dark Horse

by William Snead