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In the Flashes of Images

Updated on August 17, 2017


The war was upsetting enough as David Barker wanted to give up. Blood and flesh blowing sideways as explosions were planted nearby. He struggled to maintain his balance as the earth beneath him rocked and shook. Then he swore he wasn't going down without a fight.

He would not bargain with God for his life, because it was what he deserved for killing over a hundred men in battle. He saw flesh pop and explode as their blood sprayed all over the fresh greenery of the jungle forest. He sensed his death coming and the deal was sealed. He was told to fight in the name of Democracy, and he did. He was told that giving up ones life for liberty was a generous, godly thing to do. The word his captain used was Patriotic.

Barker's sanity was crashing down around him through the Vietnam jungle. He was a killing machine without remorse. His face was stone cold as he ripped a man's head off with his bare hands. He locked his teeth and swore he wouldn't vomit as the blood sprayed his face.

He didn't want to kill anymore, but he had to. They were crowding him and he had no choice but to defend himself.

A thunderclap just above him lit the sky and stunned David Barker. He prayed that death was just seconds away. He welcomed it with open arms. He felt a certain darkness attacking his soul. He closed his eyes and thought about his family, and he hoped their images would be the last thing he sees.

His heart was racing and his stomach was in his throat. The blasting stayed in his ears, but the images of his family stayed on his mind.

Something inside him made him take cover. It wasn't the will to survive, but the not going out without a fight that carried him through the conflict. In the jungle the trees swayed and the ground was pelted with shrapnel. He heard the tanks roaring toward him and plowing over everything that stood in its way. Blood from his brothers in arms shot up and came down in red sheets that cut visibility to almost six inches in front of him. He could barely see the greenery of the forest which was covered in dark red.


Barker was looking out his front door, and first seeing nothing. Then he saw a child's bike in the yard and three garbage cans knocked over by the wind. He listened for the tanks, but there were none. He listened for the bombings, and the yelling from both sides, but he heard nothing but sounds from the night. The voice in his mind lacked calmness in which he would have preferred. There was so many things going on inside his head. However, he still had the images of his family holding on tight.

David Barker was suddenly dizzy. The bike in the yard and the garbage cans suddenly blurred. The scene of Vietnam and his front yard came and went, and at moments stood side by side. His heart pounded and his breathing had almost stopped. He grabbed the door to steady himself as he walked onto his porch. His hands shook and his knees wobbled as he walked down into the yard and stood about four feet from the bike. Sweat popped out in almost neat rows on his forehead as he fell to his knees. Barker took in a deep breath as if he were trying to collect his thoughts.

Reality kept poking at him and he ignored it for a moment. His shirt was drenched with what he thought was sweat and it stuck to his chest. He looked at his hands and it was covered in blood. He looked at his chest and it too was covered in blood.

It was reality charging back and ringing the truth into his mind. A small crowd started to gather and he stared at them furiously, almost one at a time.

David Barker just experienced his first mental crash, and it was costly. Everything started coming back and he realized he slaughtered his entire family. His wife and two children in the upstairs bedroom. His brother in the basement in front of the television, and his in-laws in the kitchen. He killed everything that moved in that house. Everything that moved.

In the flash of images he saw his entire family floating by like ghosts. David Barker's body was soaking wet and he fell face first into his lawn and vomited. He screamed as loud as he could as the images of his entire family faded and left him with nothing but terror.

© 2016 Frank Atanacio

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    • Frank Atanacio profile image
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      Frank Atanacio 17 months ago from Shelton

      thank you Cam for visiting my page today :)

    • cam8510 profile image

      Chris Mills 17 months ago from Maple City, Michigan

      Frank, you brought every scene into horrific focus. The greenery of the forest and the blood of his brothers was an effective contrast that left a mental image. Good job on the story.

    • Frank Atanacio profile image
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      Frank Atanacio 18 months ago from Shelton

      wow, never thought about it that way winged.. but it takes a creative mind to spin it your way.. thanks for the comment..:)

    • wingedcentaur profile image

      William Thomas 18 months ago from That Great Primordial Smash UP of This and That Which Gave Rise To All Beings and All Things!

      I am awestruck. I don't know what to say, other than the fact that I agree with the first commenter, Ericdierker. I will say that the nice thing about this story is that one can interpret it more than one way.

      Either David Barker suffers from PSTD. Or, he would like to have killed for something noble, rather than his psychosis. That is to say, what if war were the fantasy, rather than the big house, with the yard and picket fence.

      That is to say, his ordinary life is the "hell"; and he killed his entire family for some unknown reason. But having done it and felt ashamed about it, his fantasy is to transform the act of killing into something patriotic.

      Anyway, powerful stuff! Well executed, if you will forgive the pun.

      W.T.

    • Frank Atanacio profile image
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      Frank Atanacio 18 months ago from Shelton

      Peggy W..thank you for stopping by and visiting my flashes..:) Frank

    • Peggy W profile image

      Peggy Woods 18 months ago from Houston, Texas

      War is hell. The havoc it causes in returning soldiers is a heavy burden to bear. Some do better than others but it probably all depends upon what they have experienced and what kind of support they get when returning to civilian life. Both of my brothers were in Vietnam and both are now deceased. They certainly were not treated well upon their return. The American Legion at the time did not welcome my one brother who wished to join. Very sad as is the character in your story. Sharing this. Those who send our young men and women into war should all read this!

    • Frank Atanacio profile image
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      Frank Atanacio 19 months ago from Shelton

      thank you savvy for checking out my flash

    • savvydating profile image

      Yves 19 months ago

      I couldn't take my eyes off the page. Painful, gruesome, compelling. All of these adjectives describe the reality of PTSD. As someone said, War is hell. No two ways about it. And then to add insult to injury, these Vietnam vets experienced the humiliation of having US citizens spit in their faces.

      The irony here is that the killing never ended for David Barker. Another powerful story, Frank.

    • Frank Atanacio profile image
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      Frank Atanacio 19 months ago from Shelton

      thank you so much for your comment aviannovice :)

    • aviannovice profile image

      Deb Hirt 19 months ago from Stillwater, OK

      Very intense, Frank. I have never experienced any flashbacks, but this is probably as close as I will come. You did this well, as though you had researched it well by speaking to people that were in the war, or had perhaps been there yourself. I will never fully understand the metamorphosis that PTSD causes, but I have a slight glimpse into what the surrealism must feel like.

    • Frank Atanacio profile image
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      Frank Atanacio 19 months ago from Shelton

      thank you MartieCoetser for checking out my flashes.....:)

    • MartieCoetser profile image

      Martie Coetser 19 months ago from South Africa

      Oh, my! What a tragedy! The devastating results of war. I feel like crying :(

      A well-written, powerful short story. Thank you, Frank!

    • Frank Atanacio profile image
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      Frank Atanacio 19 months ago from Shelton

      war can leave scars Kirk... Thanks again for visiting :) Frank

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      Kirk Cadran 19 months ago

      wow, terrible pain from a war flashback to staring into his yard seeing to realities side by side, amazing piece

    • Frank Atanacio profile image
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      Frank Atanacio 19 months ago from Shelton

      thank you so much mckbirdbks

    • mckbirdbks profile image

      mckbirdbks 19 months ago from Emerald Wells, Just off the crossroads,Texas

      Hello Frank - You poured a lot of emotion into this story. Also a couple of gallons of blood. I actually thought you were going in one direction, and you went in a different direction altogether. I saw your protagonist visiting home for just a moment before he meet his end. Powerful stuff.

    • Frank Atanacio profile image
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      Frank Atanacio 19 months ago from Shelton

      billybuc thanks for the kind words..:)

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      Bill Holland 19 months ago from Olympia, WA

      At the risk of offending other writers on HP, you are the best flash-fiction writer on this site. You are the standard others need to shoot for, Frank.

    • Frank Atanacio profile image
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      Frank Atanacio 19 months ago from Shelton

      wow, thank you so much for this powerful feedback and your input about the Vietnam, et al situations.. bless you my friend :)

    • ahorseback profile image

      ahorseback 19 months ago

      Thank you for this story , Today I will speak for the Viet -Nam vets that I know and love , for most vets and for all wars , This story no doubt has happened too many times . But the truth above and beyond this brilliant story is far more painful , far more real , far more horrific. In truth these great warriors came home to a public humility , shame and forgotten sense of civilian responsibility ! They were shunned one and all ! Either in public , in the mass media , and in their own families . They were ignored by all .......because of a collective public shame ! The popular immature and naïve collective public culture ignored them out of anger , the families ignored them out of shame for country , the corporate system may very well have been their only salvation that many of these fine men and women had to run to ! Why ,? Because what else did these misunderstood heroes have to go to , mental health counseling ....No. A caring ,concerned V.A. system No. A Loving public hero's reception ....No ! The understanding of family , friends and society .....No. There were no parades . Another public misconception , no blame here , for this is just a story ! Is that they have also been tagged as somehow deranged - way too much by Hollywood !

      Most of them simply went to work ! They swallowed their pain , they ate their nightmares and bright light horrors every single day . Many ,many of them became work-a-holics to ease their re-entry into life . My brother Al has told and expressed to me many times that corporate America was probably the only entity that recognized the values of true hero's . " Put them to work , they know how to get things done " was perhaps the only salvation of the day . Even today as I talk to these great men and even women , I realize the pained looks on their faces when I say thank you . A lot of them are even still somewhat bitter of course , and yet , they all deserve to hear that ! I have made it a point in my life to say " thank you for your service " and I also look for their reaction to it .

      We owe these great men dearly America ,pay up !

      Thank you Frank for sharing this !

    • Frank Atanacio profile image
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      Frank Atanacio 19 months ago from Shelton

      Shyron and Faith the Reaper.. thank you so much guys for sharing a little of your past.. I'm sorry and my heart goes out to you guys... I hate to strike fiction with reality.. but sometimes that how it comes out.. God bless you both... :)

      @ Faith.... thank you for your constant support.. you are constant.. and I respect you so much for that...:) Frank

    • Frank Atanacio profile image
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      Frank Atanacio 19 months ago from Shelton

      Flourish, Cat on a soap b ox, and MsDora thank you so much for commenting on my flashes.. bless you guys...:) Frank

    • Shyron E Shenko profile image

      Shyron E Shenko 19 months ago from Texas

      Oh my gosh, this is too real not to be real. What the horror of war causes men to do, it is so sad, both my brothers were in the Vietnam War and neither of them will talk about what hell they must have gone through.

      War is the hell that creates lost souls.

      Blessings and Peace always

    • Faith Reaper profile image

      Faith Reaper 19 months ago from southern USA

      Frank, this piece is brilliant as to the horrors of war and veterans suffering from PTSD! Sadly, this hits home with me, for my dad suffered with PTSD after coming home from Vietnam. Obviously, he did not suffer the same fate as your poor soul here did, thankfully for us too, but nonetheless, did suffer with a battle-scarred mind. As a child I could hear him reliving his "flashes" in the middle of the night, and trust me, I suffered too just hearing him suffer and I felt as though I was there with him in battle. When reading this amazing flash fiction, I felt, too, I was on that battlefield.

      Your stories on war are always excellent. You are one of the best flash fiction writers here on HubPages, if not the best.

      This may be your best flash fiction yet.

      Blessings always

    • MsDora profile image

      Dora Weithers 19 months ago from The Caribbean

      Who should be charged with David Barker's crime? The horrors of war follow the soldiers home and their family suffers sometimes in as extreme cases like this.

    • cat on a soapbox profile image

      Catherine Tally 19 months ago from Los Angeles

      An unfortunate reality for many- here I feel like I'm inside the head of a very troubled man because you have created a very real portrayal of the blurred lines of reality that come w/ the horrors of war. Well done, Frank!

    • FlourishAnyway profile image

      FlourishAnyway 19 months ago from USA

      How can we expect people to be killing machines on the battlefield, brutal bloody warriors and then just return to life as they knew it without some kind of impact? A gripping tale you have written here.

    • Frank Atanacio profile image
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      Frank Atanacio 19 months ago from Shelton

      thanks manatita

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      manatita44 19 months ago from london

      The perils of war. They do leave sediments! You weaved that story well. Thanks Bro.

    • Frank Atanacio profile image
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      Frank Atanacio 19 months ago from Shelton

      thank you so much Missy, and I so agree with you.. bless you Frank :)

    • Missy Smith profile image

      Missy Smith 19 months ago from Florida

      Gripping and agonizing story here, Frank. Unfortunately, one that has happened in real life I'm sure. A lot of guys came back tortured with memories and hallucinations from that war.

      I've always been interested in movies about Vietnam. I've watched several, some were really disturbing. It's weird, because I can't say that I liked those movies. However, I can say they kept my attention with much respect for the soldiers who had to fight.

      I really felt sorry for this character. I couldn't help but think if he would have only died in battle. I hate to say it, but some that's come home from wars like Vietnam would have been better off I think. Sad. Good story as always!

    • Frank Atanacio profile image
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      Frank Atanacio 19 months ago from Shelton

      thanks Clive for reading my flash :)

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      Clive Williams 19 months ago from Nibiru

      You go to war sane and come back a psychopath. Then the govt says good job soldier and pats you on the back while your mind plays roller coaster and you pocket plays desert. It was a well written and graphic piece that many war vets and government needs to read.

    • Frank Atanacio profile image
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      Frank Atanacio 19 months ago from Shelton

      thank you Mr. V for stopping by and reading my flashes.. :)

    • Venkatachari M profile image

      Venkatachari M 19 months ago from Hyderabad, India

      It's too much horrific and horrible. You presented the story so much realistic. The killings carried out by him on the battlefield have burst out his mental balance. He couldn't realise that he is killing his family members also.

    • Frank Atanacio profile image
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      Frank Atanacio 19 months ago from Shelton

      thank you so much tsmog :)

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      Tim Mitchell 19 months ago from Escondido, CA

      Hair raising, gripping, a mind twister. Without oddity I was left with swirling thoughts buzzing like bees. The development of plot left me hanging with contemplation and mixed feelings. Great work Frank!

    • Frank Atanacio profile image
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      Frank Atanacio 19 months ago from Shelton

      Thank you Harish... for stopping by...:)

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      Harish Mamgain 19 months ago from India

      What a vivid portryal of a war and the post war wreck that meets the psyche of a soldier ! Frank, it's a fantastic work.

    • Frank Atanacio profile image
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      Frank Atanacio 19 months ago from Shelton

      thank you for Always exploring my hubs.. and always stopping by.. bless you

    • always exploring profile image

      Ruby Jean Fuller 19 months ago from Southern Illinois

      OMG, this is so horrifying and so real. PDST suffers are many. Thank goodness they mostly have flashbacks and nightmares. I had a friend who could relate to this story, so well written!

    • Frank Atanacio profile image
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      Frank Atanacio 19 months ago from Shelton

      thank you Eric for being the first here..:)

    • Ericdierker profile image

      Eric Dierker 19 months ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

      Powerful. This leaves me feeling burdened. What hell has war brought.