He stared down the well groomed brick walk, his worn pack slipping from his shoulder to land with a metallic rattle. His torn, mud-stained uniform was a sore thumb against the impossibly manicured lawn and the milling people nearer the big house.
A woman in skintight pants, of all outlandish costumes, skirted around him with a sidelong glance. A little girl in garishly combined colors jumped up and down and pulled a man’s sleeve; he heard her ask as they passed why he was dressed in such weird clothes. He raised an eyebrow, locking eyes with the open-mouthed child until she lost interest and skipped on toothed road.
The road was all wrong, as well, and shining contraptions sat in neat rows near it on what should have been the cane fields. At least savory smells wafted from the big house. Maybe he could fill his empty stomach while he figured out what was going on.
If only his head didn’t feel so muzzy. He must have had fever; he really didn’t remember how he got back to the plantation. What had he been doing? He flushed with shame at the flash of memory. Cannonfire and screaming men, rivulets of blood polluting the rainwater churning under patched boots. A welcoming hollow in an ancient oak, just waiting at the edge of the field. Curling into a fetal ball with head wedged between his knees and hands locked white knuckles behind his head as battle faded into nothing. Then he was standing under the great oaks of home, only it wasn’t home. It was a nightmare.