Rain plummeted from the sky that night in the most miserable of places we have lived to see. We didn’t quite know why we were there, only that this was our duty. There were only two of us left. The remains of a convoy ransacked and left for dead. I found it hard to believe that at this point what we were doing was right and afraid that following the next command would mean certain death for both of us. The only thing that kept me going was knowing that if I can complete this one last mission I may have a chance to escape this life. Except you cant think like that, not at a time like this. Any loss of concentration could mean your life or the lives of others. It was time to get my wits about me. This was happening.
The coordinates didn’t lie, even after we computed the destination twice. I think we both didn’t want to believe what lied ahead for us. The rain was getting heavier now, making it hard to see but a few paces in front of me. It was useless to try and wipe the droplets away from my brows as the last brinks of peace poured down our faces. I felt a hand on my right shoulder and looked in that direction. I could barely make him out, but I knew it was my comrade next to me. His mouth was moving, but all I could hear was the sound of rain and the voices of loved ones who pleaded and begged for me not to leave what felt like years before this day. I tried to focus my eyes on what he was saying but all I saw was a mouth moving, telling me what I thought was, “Go home, get out of here.” Suddenly, lightening blinded me and thunder slammed into the back of my skull. In an instant I awoke. I must have misinterpreted the words, because what I then heard amidst the terror in the sky was, “Are you ready? This is it! This is why we’re here!” I subconsciously nodded my head that I would follow.
We moved on the position quickly, but cautiously. There were civilians everywhere and through the heavy rain you couldn’t tell who was with you or against you. Maybe they were all against us and we should just waste everyone. My heart began to pound the closer we got to the compound and I could feel my socks wring water out into my shoes as we inched closer to the main gates. Posted up outside we were forced to make a difficult situation of whether we should take it straight to them, up the gut of the front entrance, or try to find another way in. Then I heard a ringing in my ear. I thought to myself that the pulse of thunder may have damaged something and maybe it wasn’t rain, but blood that I was feeling drip down the side of my face. Shaking from panic, I lifted my hand to my head but instantly became distracted when I saw my comrade pull a phone from his field bag. “Who was it?” I thought to myself. “Who the hell could it be!” I waited, teeth clenched so tightly I began to taste the enamel as it chipped off my teeth. It seemed to take the entire duration of my life up to this point for someone to utter something and then I heard, “Hello.” “That’s all?” I thought to myself. I’ve waited my whole life for a, “hello?” I tried desperately to jump for the phone and would have ripped this man apart to find out who was on the other line, but I couldn’t move. My feet were cemented to the ground, frozen in fear. I lost almost all feeling and not from the cold or the rain, but because my mind and body had projected itself elsewhere. The fear of the unknown caused everything I once knew well and good to leave so swiftly. If I just got up and rod this place of, what would keep the others from staying? Before I totally lost a grip on things I heard a voice calling out from beyond the sound field of rain drops smacking on the concrete. “Don’t worry we’ll be there,” is what I thought I heard muffled behind the sounds of God’s holy wrath being unleashed upon us sinners. A wave of the hand and I was corralled to the right, around the building. The voice on the other side of the phone was the man-inside giving us the green light. There was a breach in the side wall where we could enter and he would be there waiting for us. What lied next I could have never conjured up in a million nightmares.
It was an ambush – low ceiling and bogies everywhere. Our vision remained distorted, but this time not from the rain or sweat, but from the fog that lay perfectly in front of us. All I could see were feet and faces as I tried to duck out of view. We huddled for a moment and tried to survey the situation. Each of us were discombobulated, left without a clue of what our first move would be. We could see the epicenter from here, just yards from our ultimate goal and finally accomplishing our mission. “Duck,” was all I heard before I hit the floor. Fragments of shrapnel nearly missed my head by a few inches. I looked around and we were still together, but haven’t moved an inch. We couldn’t stay in this position for long. We decided our only chance was to take it right to them, straight through the gut. We fell into an “I formation” and proceeded to make our way. I held up the rear, my comrade in arms in front of me and our guide taking the point. We crept in low and tried to keep our motions and vibrations silent from our enemies. It wouldn’t be hard to do in this atmosphere. Bombs violently rocking the floor sent vibrations through my whole body and I couldn’t hear anything, but my heart still pound through my chest, reminding I was still alive. We pushed and battled our way through the turbulent and violent crowd. I did my best to maintain my footing and ground on the others, but these were no ordinary people. They leaped around like savages, clothes shredded everywhere, drooling salaciously as they searched for their next victim. You could see them breathing heavily, their eyes mad with desire. Bodily fluids and liquid matter were flung everywhere and the ceiling was just as wet as the floor. They didn’t seem to care, but reveled in this paradise they built for themselves, and they would give it up to no one. With each booming explosion they became more and more restless. Before long there would be nothing we could do to combat them, we were slowly being overrun. As I watched, horrified by what I saw, I was suddenly pulled up to the front of the pack. “Stay on my side!” I was told not to break formation for we were making our last push on the compound. This was it, our Bull Run. I saw American flags waving in my head, the bombs, the trumpets, a fallen soldier overrun by Indians on a desperate plain. I couldn’t bear to see the calamity that awaited us so I bore my head down and swung my left arm wildly into the crowd. If I connected with anything, I pushed it to the side and out of my way. I figured if and when I opened my eyes I would either be standing heroically atop the bodies we’d left in our wake or pleading in front of the pearly gates. I felt something in front of me and for the first time I could hear the noise settling behind and not in front of me. “It’s safe now,” I heard. This didn’t come from the people in my party, but a woman who stood before me. It took a moment to realize it wasn’t an angel and I wasn’t in heaven, or hell. She might not have been an angel from heaven, but she was a heavenly angel to me. She promised me it was going to alright from here.
I took a somber pause…then ordered a beer, and a shot of Jack.