"Don't make me go back. I can't take it—don't want to see them." The beeps of Lyle's vitals were elevated and sweat pulled his hair into slick clumps at his neck. He tried to grab the wires on his head but movement reminded him he was restrained.

"Were done today, Un-hook him," said the doctor. The man-nurse with his two-red lips came up beside Lyle to yank at the wires; pulling hair from his head and at least a layer of skin. Lyle could not get out of the chair fast enough, when the arm restraints lifted there may as well have been springs in his seat. He was left alone to re-dress, though why he had to change into a gown so they could screw with his head, he had no idea. After each procedure Lyle had a hard time staying in reality. The doctor's theory was to force a soldier's mind into seeing his past, before the war began, and before so many families had died. It was supposed to give them something to fight for; to defeat the enemy and then rebuild the world, but his head was too full of his past shame for the procedure to be productive. It wasn't supposed to make him hallucinate during the day; during battle, when he needed to focus on defeating said enemy.

He slid his legs into his camouflage BDU pants, or were they Grubs?; it was a word his wife had used when he came home filthy from training. "Get out of those Grubs, you're getting filth everywhere," she'd say. He saw her; another hallucination, in front of him in the procedure room, her hand on her waist, then it fell again because she hadn't wanted to look like 'that' kind of wife. He heard her sigh; his ear hairs twitched, and he felt her brush past in a huff. Lyle snarled.

"Get out of my damn head." When her image lingered he aimed to punch her, but he hit the mirrored wall behind. She was gone.

"Damn bitch, see what you made me do." Lyle ripped the door open and slammed into the returning man-nurse. The nurse eyed Lyle closely from head to combat boot. His focus was on Lyle's red, but not bleeding knuckles, and then in the room at the cracked mirror.

"Sir, are experiencing hallucinations? If so, the doctor needs to…"

"What? No. Look, I've got watch in ten." Lyle stormed down the hall before anyone could call him back.

Lyle left the hospital. It was called Old Madigan; it hadn't been used much before the first attacks. It was only one level unlike the newer hospital with its five levels, and a tall patient tower that had been blown to hell in the first battle. Old Madigan had suddenly become active. Before that there were a few small clinics there, but mostly the many winding halls were eerily empty. He knew because it housed the WIC clinic where he had taken his wife and daughter for many appointments. He always thought it a creepy place to have a clinic for kids.

Many years later, the brain doctors used it to conduct their crap experiments. Lyle wove his way down the crumbling street and shook his head to clear it again. Images of his wife kept distracting him. It was intolerable. He hated those memories, the disgusting smiles, his daughters pig tails, the sprinkler on the front lawn; because, for Lyle, those good memories always turned into the same nightmare. He wished he was born after the war began, like private Capri so there'd be no knowledge of before. Capri, barely seventeen, didn't even know what a side walk was until Lyle unburied part of one to show him.

Lyle knew the way back to his post so well he could walk it blind folded. Down what was left of Agate St, cross Stryker Ave, take the short cut through the holes in the Red Cross building walls, and walk strait three cliques to his old house. He saw Capri scratching is rear as he walked up.

"Hey Sergeant, you're back already?" said Capri, "Did it go alright; I sure wish I had memories from before to remember."

"No you don't Capri. I told you already, there is nothing good from back then because it's all gone."

"Yeah, you told me, I just don't agree, this place, it's a dead world."

"It's a real world Capri; the docs have no right to force us into the past if we don't want to go. What do they know anyway? We're lab rats to them now; but no matter, I ain't going back."

The building they used for a look-out was once the home where his wife raised their kid. He had lived there too, but was never home, which his wife liked to remind him of. Having been ordered here for look-out had to be a coincidence, but he wouldn't put anything past the doctors. It was like they wanted him to hallucinate. Their home had been filled with so many lies; now it was filled with rats.

His vision blurred while he loaded his M-16, then he was back a few months before the war. He had been at the barracks in an abandoned bathroom because all the toilettes were "out of order." It was perfect for a moment of privacy.

"I'm ordered to be here, Susie, I can't come home til all the men check their gear in, then we have to drive back to the barracks; could take hours." Lyle said. His fingers were rolling a small silver cylinder back and forth. He clenched his teeth at her silence. She knew he was lying again, he could tell by the way the silence hung between them, or maybe it was just his guilt.

"Lyle, I think Katie is stealing. I can't find my wedding stockings, my large hoop clip-ons, and my new lipstick you bought me." Lyle's stomach turned.

"She wouldn't steel, she's a good girl," he said.

"I know she is, but she's five and sometimes-"

"It wasn't her."

"…Lyle, how do you know, you're never here-"

"It wasn't…because…damn it woman, I just know." He fiddled with the lipstick until it dropped in the sink and its metallic roundness rolled back and forth. He forced a slow breath and felt as if she could see him through the phone. He glanced in the mirror. His lips burned with the lie. He wore a subtle shade of mauve gloss; whatever the hell mauve was. His wife had picked it out for the All-Ranks Christmas Ball. He sighed in defeat. She had to suspect and it killed him to hold it in. Maybe she would understand. "Susie, we need to talk."

"Uh sir, we got movement, should I call it in?

Lyle shook his hallucination free from him again and re-focused on the street below them.

"Let me see." Lyle checked the monitor and the codes. It was a med unit heading right for them. "Damn it. What do they want now? Radio them, Capri, check it out."

"Sir they says you're to report in again-" Capri looked up at Lyle, confused.

Lyle grabbed the radio from him. He waited a moment to think. Did they know about the hallucinations? He would not go back, not for anything. He thought about routs to escape at the back of the house. There was a hole in the roof he could jump through; not an ideal way to go, but it would do in a pinch."

"Screw off boys." Throwing the radio back he picked up his weapon and aimed. He let out one warning shot just over their heads. The unit raised their own weapons, but Capri, shocked look on his face, blasted Lyle from behind with a stunner. "What the hell? Why did you do that? Capri…" Lyle heard Capri saying sorry before he passed out.

Even in his shock induced sleep Lyle couldn't find relief from his past. He was taken back, always to the same time.

"Susie…say something, please." Lyle held the lipstick between them, she didn't seem surprised but she looked to be sick. He waited until she dared to meet his eyes. Her disgusted expression deflated him and any hope that it would be ok. All of this pain because of his lying and deceit; for what? So he could enjoy the feeling of silky feminine clothes on his skin and to wear lipstick? He never wanted it to be out in the open. It was just a simple secret pleasure. He should have told her years ago when they were first married, before the lies. She may have found a way to accept it then; he loved her more then he loved his secret. He felt vile. Susie would not speak to him; her arms crossed over her chest like a shield against him. Katie came into the room and run up them; she saw the lipstick. "Ooo, can I play dress-up too daddy?

Then the bombs hit. Why did he have to be the one who survived?