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Walking on Wounds
The clouds over head and the debris in the air seemed to block out any color. The world was in grey scale. Nothing more vibrant than a faded hue of red in the sand, the world was spinning, the ringing in my ear was so loud it engulfed me. My mind had shut down unable to conduct any function other than comprehending the pain I was in, and there was a lot of it. Every inch seemed to ache, the pulsating pain throughout my body let me know my heart was still beating, and although my heart was still working my lungs were not.
I felt as though I had been lying on a pile of rubble for what seemed like an eternity. It was as if time and the world had just stopped. I remembered the mortar that landed in the building opposite me which had sent a chunk of the exterior wall flying across the street colliding with my chest, knocking the precious air out of me, and landing me flat on my a**. I could feel the pool of blood running out of my head; my helmet must have been knocked off when I was struck. The rapid succession of events had left me in a stupor. Suddenly there was a wave of urgency that washed over me, and a singular thought brought me sharply back to reality.
My lungs expanded, and all at once, as if the hands of God clapped, the world started spinning again. Stabbing pains shot up and down my right side. The ringing that so strongly resonated in my head was gone, replaced by a series of distant gun shots, and explosions. The far off shouting of a man began to grow louder. I could hear what the words were, but the messages behind them fell short. Then abruptly a shadow fell over me; the view of the grey sky was blocked out by a silhouette, my vision was still blurred. The silhouette came into focus I saw it was a face, speckled with dirt which hung to the gruff stubble on an unshaven face. He was young his blue eyes darkened with intensity. He was no older than late 20's, but his young face seemed to have been aged, deep wrinkles in the brow indicated that this was the face of a battle hardened soldier. As my eyes began to focus on the face; my ears began to focus on the words, and the shouts became clear, comprehensible, and dangerous.
"Strenowski, you need to move now!" barked Sgt. Phillips
There was a sense of dire urgency in his voice that sent a shiver of energy down my spine and into my legs, which now were under me as Sgt. Phillips pulled me up. Once he let go I took a wobbly step, but he caught me before I fell, and before I could mutter a thank you he yelled another command.
"C'mon, get going damn it!"
Bullets sped past us, we had crouched down in a narrow street, facing the building that had been struck by the rouge mortar, and adjacent to that was an alleyway that covered our squad. They were doing their best to give sufficient cover fire. The bullets seemed to pour down like a hell storm of steel. Guerrilla warfare was what we were facing; hostiles crept in the dark windows of the now abandoned windows and doorways of old shops and homes, revealed only by the deadly flash of their rifles. We were stumbling to safety, our eyes watered from the sand and dust roused by the impact of the multitude of bullets slamming into the sandy terrain. The refuge of the alleyway was only about 15 feet from our current position, but it seemed like it was a mile away. We were moving fast now, 12 feet, 8 feet now; we were only about five feet from the alley when a thought crept into my mind.
"Maybe we will make it through this unharmed"
I was never a superstitious man, not even very religious, but I was sure I had just jinxed myself, and sure enough just as the thought finished maturing, a bullet sank into my partner’s left calf, sending small fine chunks of meaty red flesh bursting out as the bullet left his leg. A deep howl radiated from my right side and suddenly there was a great weight pulling me down, bringing me to my knees. There was a white flash followed by searing pains, Bam! Bam! Two consecutive bullets dug themselves into my shoulder and my left thigh. Terror and pain added to the weight of the injured soldier. My world was rocked; his pain-filled grunts swirled around in my head. Shouts from our allies, and the burning of my eyes, the constant buzz of the bullets as they flew over head had made this already dire situation even grimmer. it took all my strength not to crumple under the pressure.
Time slowed down I could almost see the bullets that were passing, everything was in slow motion. Images flooded my mind like a slide show of my life I saw the mental pictures I’ve taken over the years. My two older brothers, my sister, my mother who fought so hard against my choice to enlist, I missed them all. My thoughts passed to Jill. She was beautiful; I thought of all the times back in high school that I tried to muster up the courage to ask her out. Why I waited till the week before being shipped off to ask her is beyond me. I closed my eyes and instantly I imagined the day that we spent, sitting on the park bench, the warm spring weather brought the birds out that orchestrated beautiful medleys. Feeling the cool breeze scented with the sweet smell of fresh spring leaves and flowers in bloom, I would've given anything to be back there.
I snapped out of it, and the cinders of an internal flame that had long been put out roared back to life. My mind was shooting out thoughts a mile a minute, emotions oozed over me. I had a great desire to feel the sun on my back, the warm hug of a loved one, to feel the relief of having a cool drink on a hot summer day, to simply live again. The flame burned brighter and more intensely now. I no longer felt fear, pain or exhaustion. One thought shouted out clear and poignantly in my mind.
The blood sliding down my neck from my head, the cracked ribs, and the two searing bullets perforating my shoulder and leg, none of this seemed to faze me now. My legs automatically shot forward, the weight of Sgt. Phillips felt like it was next to nothing now. Adrenaline fueled by the will to live kept me moving through a haze of sand and bullets that were just inches from hitting their mark. Shouts of encouragement overtook the booming crack of rifles, and before I realized it I was grasped in the protection of the dark alley. The helping hand of our brothers in arms alleviated the weight of Sgt. Phillips, and rested me against an old brick wall.
"Are you okay, soldier?" asked a fellow comrade.
My adrenaline rush was wearing off, and the creeping pain began to rise. With a calm but shaken voice I managed to mutter out, "I'm fine". The soldier patted my unhurt shoulder, and walked off shouting for a medic. I leaned my head on the wall, and looked up at the grey sky, and as if signaled by some greater force that I was safe, the clouds began to part allowing a patch of blue sky to shine through. I took a deep breath, and my mind drowned out the noise, and although it was slight I enjoyed the color that had returned to the world.