Kendall awoke to the sound of dripping water, the slow splash of small drips in the distance. His lips were so dry they had started to crack. He laid on a stone floor and the sound of the water was both, the most exciting sound in the world and the most torturous one. He licked his dry lips and his brain told him how much he needed to find the dripping he could hear.
Kendall dragged himself from the floor and looked around his room, there was really nothing there. Stone walls without even a sliver of a window for light and a heavy steel door, A small opening grate at the top of the door, allowing a small amount of light to pour in from the poorly lit halls outside. He walked to the door and looked down the hall, nobody was there, but he could still hear the quiet drip of water not far in the distance. It was a sound most wouldn’t even notice but his brain was acutely aware of it. The joy finding the source of that sound could bring him. He couldn’t remember the last time he had a drink of water, but he also couldn’t remember which day he was in the middle of. Really the only way to mark the passing of time was to run his hands through is grungy hair and beard as they grew longer.
Not what Kendall had expected when he had joined the army as a way to pay for school. Truth was Kendall wasn’t really big on war, but he came from a poor background and he wanted to change his life. He had studied hard to get a shot at University but his parents had told him they couldn’t afford it. A family friend had pointed towards the military and the trade-off of service time for education. At first Kendall laughed, he was 5’10” and 165 lbs on a good day. As a kid he had often been the victim of bullying because he was weaker than the other kids. He once went to play paintball with a bunch of other kids, it hadn’t ended well. He spent most of his time hiding and hoping not to get shot, he used less paint than the other kids because he wasn’t worried about shooting back. In fact his clearest “kill” on the paintball field came in an embarrassing way. While hiding in a small wooden structure he had brought his finger too close to the sensitive trigger and shot himself in the foot. He could have escaped the embarrassment of it, but for the fact it put him in tears with the close range impact. That didn’t help him not get bullied. As a young adult he ran over a Rabbit on the highway and was horrified as he watched its limp body spin off the road in his rearview mirror. He wasn’t really your standard army prospect.
First he explored the air force as an option but he found quickly he wasn’t going to have the aptitude for flight rules. He found this out by repeatedly crashing his planes on a flight sim game. Didn’t make him feel great. His parents suggested the Navy, boats are away from the front and he lived in a country advanced enough it would be relatively safe if he was sent to combat zone. One huge problem, Kendall was hydrophobic. He laughed at this thought now. The fear of water, had determined he wasn’t going to look at the navy and now the only thing he wanted to see was water. He was so thirsty he imagined himself in the middle of a giant lake with a straw. He now craved one of his fears more than anything else in life.
So the army it was. Turns out he was actually cut out for it. He spent his time training and going to school. He was doing great in both, but he found himself as an elite shooter, something he definitely didn’t expect. That incredible patience from paintball turned out to be a great trait in the army. He could hide and wait for the perfect shot. He was smart, and was able to understand how to create advantages on the field of battle. His situational awareness was above that of his peers. Soon he found himself teamed with another shooter in a sniper team. They trained hard and both advanced quickly through the ranks. Kendall graduated from University with a business degree and realized he was actually in no rush to leave the Army. That was until he was sent a conflict zone in the hot desert. He and his partner were assigned to an elite fighting team and sent out into the desert to await orders on strategic targets.
Things started well, and for the first time Kendall enjoyed the camaraderie of being part of a team. They got some easy wins early on and grew closer as a group as their confidence grew. They grew closer yet as they lost their first team member in a raid of a small village. They were able to oust the bad guys but one of their team members was killed instantly when he was hit with some shrapnel from an explosion. It was awful but they mortality of it reminded them they counted on each other for survival. Kendall and his partner setup on the perimeter of each attack and took out targets on heavy guns and anyone else they could to help the team. They supplied strategic info from the outside to those inside the fighting. Kendall had lost count of the number of kills he was credited with. His partner kept the stat but Kendall didn’t like it being a game and they had an agreement not to talk about it.
As his team sat in their camp one night, Kendall considered a career in the military. Maybe move up the ranks and retire in a cushy officers role. That is when everything changed. A surprise attack from an enemy took them by surprise. Of the 12 of them in that camp, 3 would be captured, the others would be bodies left in the desert for the vultures. Kendall and his partner would be captured, as would be the newest member of the team, the private shipped out to fill in for the team member they had lost.
Kendall doesn’t know much about how things transpired from there. They were separated into cells throughout the hallways of the jail he now stood in. The private did not last long, maybe a week. He sobbed each and every night. When he was interrogated he continued to cry, Kendall could hear him all day every day. Finally in one interrogation, Kendall listened to the sobbing and then heard the distinct sound of a hand gun being fired once. They never heard from the private again.
Kendall was close to his partner, but he couldn’t bring himself to say his name again. He had watched his partner through the small door window, belligerent as ever. Refusing to do anything they said. If they told him to eat, he refused until they stopped asking. Everything was like that. Eventually he fell ill, the coughing was sharp and violent. Kendall doesn’t know how long his partner was sick, because he no longer had a way to mark time, but it was long and sounded painful. Then one day the sounds stopped, and Kendall knew he was the last one standing.
Kendall slumped back to the floor against the door, he had little energy, the dehydration had taken over. He knew he had been here for a long time, so long he didn’t dare try to figure out how long. He guessed his family was either losing hope he would be found or had already had a memorial for him and were moving on with their life. A part of him hoped they had moved on, that would be easier for them. If by some chance he did get home, it would be an amazing surprise for them. If they were holding out hope, not finding him would just ruin their lives as they waited.
Kendall listened to the water and forced his brain to try to concentrate on positive thoughts. He had never been this thirsty before. Certainly their captors had starved and dehydrated them in the past, but not ever this far. They did it for their own entertainment, Kendall assumed. The interrogations had stopped long ago. The only thing Kendall could think of, is at one point the voices of his captors seemed agitated. He could feel the rumble of heavy machinery outside, tanks or whatever else. But that wasn’t actually that unusual so he hadn’t really thought about it. But now with his captors having not watered or fed him in a while, he realized maybe they had been chased out. Left him behind, man what a depressing thought. Kendall realized he wouldn’t be able to own a dog again if he survived this. A dog sits in its crate waiting for food and water all the time too. Kendall wasn’t enjoying it, so he assumed neither would a dog.
Kendall was running short on energy and knew he was nearing the end of his body’s ability to fight. He had tried to claw and dig his way out of the cell before. He couldn’t find any weakness and the captors had let him try, smirks on their face. He didn’t want to be found with his fingers bloody in a hopeless attempt at escaping. He would just have to accept the end. The water dripped some more, he would do anything to have it, he would cry if he could but he was much to dehydrated for that. As he sat there, he thought back to his contemplation of his future in the military as a lifer. Now he realized he was going to be a lifer, but that was only because his life was drawing to a close in front of him.
He decided to focus on the sound of water and dream of a wonderful drink with his last thoughts. It was too painful to think of the loss of his family and his own future. The torture of the sound of water was significantly easier to take. As he listened to the slow dropping of water, he felt himself slipping into sleep, probably for the last time. He started to dream, the dream was of his old team in the desert, working together as friends. He dreamt he could hear their boots and their voices. It was a calming dream. He felt the wonderful flow of warm water over his lips all of sudden, it was a beautiful feeling.