Cold. That's all I felt surrounding me on the floor of the camp barracks. A cold so chilling there was a moment I swore I felt nothing at all. This is what dying must be fading into nothing. I closed my eyes, oblivious to the world. I coughed once, the feeling stinging my raw throat as I curled up. Nothing, I thought again, staring into the blackness behind closed eyes. That's all there'll be nothing.
But there was something. Rising up from beside me, I heard a gentle humming, a song that once was familiar. Memories stirred within my head, and upon the blackness that shrouded my vision, light began to swirl. I heard laugher ringing out through the fields and saw her face. Her smiling, happy face. It was before the madness and the violence, before the blood and before the tears. And it was before the stars stitched to not only the fabric, but to our very flesh, marking us forever. If only I could see her smile again, make her smile
that was all I needed.
The humming soon turned into words, and my eyes flickered open steadily, after the scenes stopped playing. At first, I saw nothing, but when I turned my head to the side where the gentle voice was coming from, I saw her. She may not have been the smiling and happy young woman she was at the start, but she was still beautiful
at least to me. I outstretched my shaking hand to her, trying to muster a smile. Once my fingertips reached her hand, her singing stopped, and she quickly turned in surprise to look at me.
"Please," I whispered to her weakly, "don't stop."
Her once bright eyes were filled with tears and her hair hung in mussed strands into her face. This wasn't the face I remembered. Yet, through the dirt and bruises and blood, I saw something more than that girl I met so long ago. How she had grown. She was brave now, and strong. Through the hell we had endured, I knew that we both had grown, but Sarah the most. I smiled steadily up at her, and she nodded in return, moving closer to me and singing quietly again.
"I'll never smile again
until I smile at you...
I'll never laugh again
What good would it do
I felt her fingers run through my hair for some time, and again I dozed off into sleep. At least, it felt like sleep. The cold stirred around me, and once more my body fell numb. But this time, it wasn't nothingness that surrounded me. It was Sarah. Sarah, the one who kept me going this whole time. Though I never openly admitted it, it was she who kept me alive, kept me fighting. She was my reason for going on. And as I lie there, the cold seemed to fade away from her warmth, and I know I smiled somewhat as she pulled me into her arms and fell asleep. Only then did I part my trembling lips and whisper.
Life never promised to be wonderful. Even before my dying breaths I knew that was certain. But, in life, as in death, there are things that we are to cherish and to help light our way through the darkness. Sarah was my light. While I never woke the next day, no matter how hard she cried or pounded her fists to me in attempts to revive me, I made a vow to her in my final breath. As I swore to her long ago, when the horrors first began, I would never leave her.
The camp was liberated the next day by Allied troops. Sarah clung to Daniel, sobbing unbearably as she was checked over and her wounds were healed. At least her external ones. I knew she would forever be scarred by the events that happened here. We all would
even in our death. But, that didn't stop me from keeping my promise.
I still see her now, walking down the path to her home with her grandchildren tagging close behind. Dusk is on the way, but in the distance, her porch light still flickers. Though people swear it went out long ago, she knows it still burns, faintly, but it's there. And as she steps into that light, I know she stops and smiles from the warmth it brings. For that was the smile that once saved me, even in my final hours, and for that, each night I'll wait, and keep my promise. I'll still stand guard and keep my soul flickering, guiding her safely home, until it is time for her to be guided to her final home. And when that time comes, I'll be waiting.