My hand was resting on the door handle as I hovered outside the room. I concentrated on the cool metal of the door handle as I prepared myself for the worst.
Dad had been in hospital for five weeks since he tripped over at the park and hit his head on the concrete. He had been carried away in an ambulance because when you’re nearing ninety a hit in the head can be fatal.

I took a deep breath and opened the door.

I was greeted by the soft beep of the heart monitor and the gentle light of the morning sunshine streaming through the small window behind the bed.

Dad was lying on the hospital bed with the light blue sheets pulled up to his neck. There was a newspaper resting on the bedside table. The headline was 70 YEARS SINCE THE WAR ENDED. Dad looked like he was tangled in seaweed, with wires running from his nose, arm and chest connecting up to a to a clunky machine and a drip filled with some kind of medicine.

I walked over to the chair beside his bed, stepping as quietly as I could, trying not to wake him. My attempts were futile though, as soon as I sank down into the chair his eyes fluttered open. He had always been a light sleeper, from his days in the war I suppose.

His eyes turned to face me, they were still a piercing blue, despite his age. I stood up and walked over to him.
“Hi Dad”, I said, my voice was a whisper as I embraced him.
“Hello Sam”, he said, his voice as strong as ever. “I wasn’t expecting to see you until tomorrow?” He sounded surprised.

“My flight was moved back a day, and I didn’t want to miss seeing you.” He smiled but then his face turned serious. “There’s something I need to tell you”, he murmured, staring at the wall, “You…” His sentence was interrupted as he was taken over by a coughing fit, I placed a hand on his shoulder until he had calmed down. “You know I was in the Army”, he continued. “Yes”, I replied, sensing something important. “Something happened to me on my first day of fighting. An experience I’ll never forget.”

His eyes were grave and distant. “I haven’t told anyone this, not even your mother.” I waited as he took a deep, rattling breath and he launched into the story.

“The sound of guns and the cries of wounded filled my ears. I was crouched behind the thick trunk of a tree, breathing hard. The lush jungle surrounding me would have been beautiful if it weren’t for the destruction going on around me. I took three deep calming breaths to steady myself and then ran as fast as I could into denser part of the jungle. I kept on running until the sound of gunfire were just muffled pops in the distance.

I knew I was a coward, but I just couldn’t stand the horror of it all. I lay there for a while concentrating on the uneven ground, the leaves tickling my face. Eventually I stood and took in my surroundings. The tall trees made it hard to see further than ten metres in either direction. I knew I was lost, but anything was better than being amidst the fighting.

There was something strange about the area I was in. It was almost as if it had been planted. There were rows of bushes, stripped of their fruit and trees all lined up like soldiers. But it was the smell that alerted me to the presence of humans, smoke. A smell that wasn’t natural in any forest. The most obvious conclusion was that the area was inhabited by natives.

I followed the smoke a small way until I ended up at the edge of a clearing. I jerked back as a man in a German uniform walked by and then I watched, confused, as an English soldier followed behind. My confusion vanished as the realisation hit me, we didn’t need to fight, right was a perfect example of what this world could be like. I surveyed the whole camp. There were around a dozen tents with people from both sides milling around.

That day changed the whole war for me.” Dad said. I had been completely enveloped in the story and it was like waking up from a dream.

“Both sides working together, laughing chatting, playing games. That’s how the war should have been”, he murmured. “I have relented from telling until now as me leaving you will provide with enough insight to what it was like in the war.”

He had a wistful far away look in his eyes. It was then that I knew his time had come, I could see him slipping away.

“Dad, dad”.

I gently shook his shoulder, he turned to face me one final time. He said something softly that I couldn’t make out.

I put my ear to his mouth and he whispered, “I love you son.” “I love you too, Dad.”
I felt tears spilling down my cheeks as he gently closed his eyes and slumped back into his bed.