Complete darkness… and then light.
This wasn’t Heaven, and this wasn’t Hell. This was… something else. He tried to move, but couldn’t.
He was strapped to a table, and two men in lab coats were staring at him. A nurse offers a plastic bottle with a straw. Parched, he takes a sip.
Slowly, memories start to return: at first, like a trickle, then a flood. He’s not in the war, it ended years ago. He’s alive, safe and sound, back in San Francisco.
The techs loosen the restraints and help him to his feet, as they’ve done every week for the last eight years. Usually, these memory insertion joints stick in a vacation you can’t afford to go in on, or a seminar for education. But they had to write something special for him.
Is that what it’s like to die in battle? They don’t know. But his squad found out on that day so many autumns ago.
He pulls out a photo of him and eight of the best men he’s ever known. He says a small prayer for them.
Then, the only survivor of the Battle of Cha Ribara walks home.