Blood looks different on snow. They don’t tell you that in training – well, not in so many words. Sure, you can get a lecture from a pathologist, or some thick-ass textbook telling you the consistency of the platelets and how the refraction of light changes things, but nobody ever just says to you, “Hey, just so you know? Blood looks different on snow.”
There was certainly a lot of it today, and it did look different. Thinner, with more of a gloss. It was all over the grass where it poked through, red staining the green shoots. In the late spring or the summer it’s an entirely different look. For some reason it was catching my eyes today.
Willie cried his normal shite: “How come I gotta carry the bodies?”
“‘Cause you’re a fucking ox, that’s why,” Sarge yelled at him.
“I’m sick of being the one who carries.”
“So drag ’em if you want. Nobody cares. Just get ’em to the pile.”
I laughed and Scarlet winced.
“Sorry,” I said. “It’s just –”
“Willie,” she said, with a grin of her own.
I finished packing the wound and wrapped it. She was tough as hell, I’ll give her that. Four bullet holes and she was still talking. I tagged her for evac and moved on. Down the line I could see Lawrence at work. The little bastard was good. Set up a triage line like nobody’s business. Made my life a lot easier.
It’s never easy to work on your friends, and it’s even harder when fingers are stiff from cold. I was blowing on them to keep them warm. Flexing them. Hector saw it and tried to smile. I think he saw it. He was marked as having been given a full tap of painkiller, so he could as easily have been counting airplanes flying under the Jandean Oceans or some such impossibility.
Whoever worked him in the field had done a good job. I wrote my notes on the triage card he wore and told him he was going to be fine. I hope he believed me.
“I’m cold, brother,” I heard as I came to the next patient. He had burns on one arm, and his jacket was gone. I asked why and he told me it had caught fire. I flagged one of the runners and ordered him to bring a blanket.
A month ago he would have already succumbed to hypothermia. The plasma loss and the lack of warm clothing would have doomed him. I guess I shouldn’t harp too badly about the changing of the seasons.
Still, I thought as I took another step down the line, blood looks different on snow. Maybe one day I’ll start telling new medics that in training.
I could hear the approaching trucks. Prisoner transports, for one, but more importantly the flame units were coming. Burn off the stinking toothies before their diseases spread. Standing rule. That, and my patients will roll out on their truck. For that I am doubly glad.
Today went well, but only because someone spotted the approaching rats in time to set up an ambush. As a result, we only lost three. A dozen more on the injured list and twice that many with minor shite that they would deal with later. Scratches and bruises. I heard someone bragging about the new scars they would have soon.
I paused long enough to reload my pockets from my duffel before swinging it back over my shoulder. I hate having to fumble for bandages and things. There’s an order I keep everything in.
The Sarge was yelling a warning at Willie again, one I’m sure he ignored as always. Then the air shattered with a shock wave. I wound up flat on my back with the duffel pressed into me and I didn’t know how I got there. I couldn’t hear anything at all. I struggled to my feet to see the massive crater where the bodies were being piled and I realized there had been a boobytrap on at least one of them.
Bits of Willie began to fall on us, mixed with dirt and rat puree. All I had in my hearing was a constant tone, but I knew there were soldiers screaming for my aid. I looked around for them and noticed it again. Fresh and wet and drizzling down.
Blood looks different on snow.