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I stumbled as a bullet rushed past my ear, throwing me off balance. It didn’t take me long to right myself, and I ran harder, needing to get to the shelter of the bunkers before I was ready to shoot back. If I turned around now and tried to attack, then it would mean almost certain death. Ahead of me, a bomb landed on an innocent man who was running for safety much like I was, except he wouldn’t have to go back into the middle of the conflict as I would. Well, he wouldn’t be going anywhere now. I swung my gun out behind me and let off a couple of blind shots, hoping to delay my pursuers. I heard someone scream, but I didn’t have to look back and see if it was a civilian or one of my actual targets. Just kept running. A missile flew over my head, landing on a nearby house. Another came, landing about five metres in front of me. The shock waves and flames threw me backwards into a wall and the impact on my head caused black dots to appear in my vision. I tried blinking frantically, but they wouldn’t go away. My eyes wouldn’t focus either. In the distance I could make out the outlines of two figures holding their guns. I pulled myself up and lifted my gun, fumbling around for the trigger. The plant pot next to me blew up, sending debris and dust all around me. Feeling faint, I started to sway a little, my eyes fluttered and I felt my body, almost as if in slow motion, fall towards the ground. But before touching the ground, someone came up, slid an arm under my shoulders and supported me.
“C’mon, let’s get you out of here.”
I staggered a little, but my vision was a bit better and my balance was returning. I’d stood up too quickly after being hit by the blast earlier. As I looked around, though, I couldn’t see the two men I’d noticed earlier. My saviour took me into a nearby abandoned house that looked as if the owners had left in a hurry. The man shone a torch in each of my eyes, and then sat me down on a bed. He sat next to me.
“Thank you,” I said, my eyes slowly came back into focus. “But we need to get back out there.”
“No. Wait till you’re fully recovered. Then we go.”
Silence fell, if you could call it silence. Outside I could hear the sound of more bombs and gunshots. People were screaming for their lives, our troops were shouting out orders. We hadn’t expected an attack. They’d come during the night and raided our bases. Too many to count were dead. Reinforcements had been called in, but I didn’t think we had a chance. Their plan was too well mapped out, and we hadn’t been able to gather our men together properly since last night. Small groups of us had planned out strategies, but we couldn’t coordinate our forces like they had. It was likely most of us would die today or tomorrow, but we would keep on fighting. We would never give up.
On the other side of the wall of the house, I could hear a vehicle moving slowly and didn’t even need to look to know what it was. A tank. My heart sank. The battle was now pretty much lost before it had even begun. We couldn’t get tanks to this part of the area, so it would be one of the enemy’s. I heard some soldiers on foot come after it, and I reached for my gun, but they ran straight past, likely going to shoot from the tank.
I looked down and noticed the guy’s hands next to me were shaking. I looked back down immediately, pretending I hadn’t seen. It was a tough life and this guy looked young. He hadn’t been in the forces as long as I had.
“I’ve never killed a person before,” he said. Maybe he had seen me looking after all. “Let alone two. They were only doing what they were told to do. They probably hadn’t got a choice. I could have saved you without killing them; I could have just shot near then so they would get distracted for a few seconds. I could have. . . .” He trailed off, and bowed his head.
I patted his shoulder and stood up. “You did what you had to. Let’s go.”
He stood up next to me and nodded. Outside were more shouts, but they were shouts in our language and we jogged out. There we found a large group of other soldiers, all heading for the main battle ground. I exchanged glances with the guy who had saved me, then we went our separate ways. Moving stealthily, the group rounded a corner and were met by fighting everywhere and bodies, hoards of bodies on the ground. There was a small truck off to the side of the central fight. I darted behind it, as did a couple others, and stayed crouched there. I’m not sure how much time passed, but I kept firing, kept going. Until next to me, a man went down. Then the next fell beside him. I stopped shooting and looked over them. Both had a clean shot to the head, and both were dead. Their eyes were staring up, glazed over, unfocused. I followed their line of sight up, to the top of the house behind us. Just as he shot me.