| Time flew on laggard wings as Konak and I made our way through the dense forests surrounding our platoon’s last known position. In our hatred for our enemy, we had vowed to exact revenge on a sniper who had killed Jon, and in our chase we had strayed far from the group. We had been thoroughly lost for over four hours then, and the lonely sadness of despair had begun to take us in its painful grip. From the bushes came strange noises, the source of which we could not determine, and an oppressive feeling of paranoia began to take form in our minds as we jumped at any sound that reached our ears. I could hear my own heart thumping, as it quickly stuttered from nervousness and fatigue, and my lungs gasped for air as if I were at the top of the highest mountain peak, where the atmosphere was thin, yet where gravity still pulled me with a force I could not resist down to the planet I so longed to leave. We wandered on.
Suddenly, almost before we heard a sound, we were surrounded. I quickly lifted my eyes, only to see the muzzles of ten rifles and a pistol staring back at us. Both of us dropped our weapons and held our hands in the air. In the back of my mind, I wondered why the muzzle of a gun looked so much like the eye of a rabid dog. It’s probably just the fatigue getting to me, I thought.
The man standing behind the pistol stepped forward, coming into the light where I could make him out better. He was a large, yet somehow graceful figure, with large hands and bulging biceps. His chin and scalp were sprinkled with stubble, and his bright eyes stared sharply over the sight of the gun. Konak and I simply stared at him with interest and fear. The man with the pistol, who appeared to be the leader of the group, barked a command in a language I couldn’t recognize. Our feet and hands were tied, and our mouths and eyes taped closed, so that we could neither see nor yell. Even in an open space, blindness can bring a sort of claustrophobia. In the forest, it was much worse. All the sounds of the forest around us became sharper, more pronounced, and echoed in my ears. Everything seemed closer. I could smell the sweat of our captors, and their sharp breathing sounded if they were blowing air directly into my ear.
We walked for what seemed like hours, and finally we reached their camp. I felt myself being pushed along, and now a chaos of voices could be heard, from both near and far away.
I felt my blindfold being torn off. My skin felt as if it were being ripped apart. I wanted to bring my hands up to protect myself, but the rope still held them firmly behind my back. And suddenly I could see again. The area around my eyes burned with pain. I looked around at the camp. All around us were soldiers, gathered around small fires, laughing and joking. Some of them were staring at us, but I looked away.
They interrogated us. For four hours we were interviewed, as we simply gave short answers. They asked where our platoon was headed. We told them we didn't know, as we had lost track of the group. We told them the last place we were with them was next to the river on the East side of the forest. No matter the answer we gave, they never seemed to be satisfied. Finally, the interrogation stopped. Konak and I were shoved into a tent, and the opening flap was closed and zipped behind us, and guards were stationed outside the tent to keep us from escaping. Konak looked at me. Then he shrugged, laid himself down, and went to sleep. Following his example, I laid myself down to sleep on the firm soil, closed my eyes, and rested my tension-filled body. This was all in vain, however. My mind was in chaos, but I wasn’t thinking about anything in particular. In my mind flashed a multitude of images. My mother called to me from across the river near my home, but the river only swelled, and expanded, and my mother and I retreated farther and farther away from each other until my mother was just barely a speck dotting the flat landscape of the grain fields in which she stood. I felt myself smiling, although nothing amused me.
“Konak,” I said softly, though I knew he was sleeping. I felt my body tense up as I drew in a deep breath, and then relax again as I exhaled. Finally, slowly, I drifted to sleep.
I woke early in the morning, before daybreak. Konak awoke a few minutes later, still half asleep. He stared at me. His eyes looked very tired. But not the kind of tired that puts you to sleep. He looked like a man that was tired of living life. I stared back at him. And then he smiled at me boyishly.
Suddenly, a high-pitched whistle reached our ears, followed by a large crash. We heard yelling from outside the tent, and we saw the shadows of soldiers running this way and that through the fabric walls of the tent. We both stood up, and burst through the opening flaps of the tent. Our guards were gone. More crashes sounded, as artillery shells rained down upon the camp. Bullets whizzed through the air in both directions.
We watched as hundreds of soldiers droned past us, scuttling like tiny ants away toward the great beast that threatened to take the camp. Shouts rang out across the streets as officers directed troops this way and that, and trucks revved their engines with loud groans that created a fierce undertone to the din and excitement. Men stumbled past us, not even glancing our way, as they followed the endless stream of people running for their lives. Konak and I began to run with them, our enemy, and the chaos of the battle surrounded us.
My mind was no longer on the battlefield. I was back at home, and my father counted the seconds it took me to run a lap around the roundabout near our house. “Four, five, six, seven,” my father counted, in his loud, yet somehow gentle voice. “Ten, eleven, twelve, thirteen,” his voice grew quieter, and I began to hear a whirring sound in the back of my mind. The whirring turned to whistling, and the sound became louder and louder, until it sounded like a giant sheet of paper in the sky was being ripped apart. I heard the beginning of a loud crash, and then everything fell absolutely, and utterly, silent. I felt myself fall to the ground, my knees scraping on the rocky ground and my nose crumbling as I fell face first, but I felt no pain. The whole world felt like it had sped up to the limit, just to be stopped abruptly in a sudden and aggressive peace. I rolled over and glimpsed my leg. The flesh of my calf looked as if it were melting away from my bones in a sliming mass of red and black and white. And finally, the pain came, and then just as quickly disappeared, to be replaced by darkness.