Lost in the Sand

January 6, 2009
By Peter Machtiger, Bronxville, NY

It didn’t hurt as bad as it looked in the movies. It was actually sort of a relief. A strange calmness rushed over him and everything started to move in slow motion. The seconds felt like hours, the minutes like years. And during these minutes, he saw everything, yet thought of nothing. The thoughts would have been too painful, too horrifying. Why did he have to see these things? Why did anyone have to see these things? The minutes that passed were the calmest of his life. But then everything snapped back into focus as Moribo looked down at his white t-shirt, now red with blood from the bullet that pierced his left shoulder.

The sounds were deafening. Moribo tried to ignore the sounds of those dying and searching for their families. He did not have to do the same, as he had no family. Not anymore. He was sure he did at one point, but he had forgotten them, just as he was told to do. He didn’t need a family anymore; the army was his family. His commander was now his father. Sylvester Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger were his role-models. No one was his friend. Friends could betray you; friends could hurt you; friends could kill you. And Moribo did not want to be killed. That was one thing he was sure of. But Moribo didn’t have to worry about that; he was invincible. It was true. His commander had told him that it is impossible to die if you sniff brown-brown. Moribo didn’t know that brown-brown was a mixture of cocaine and gunpowder; he just knew that it made him invincible.

Moribo picked up the AK-47 that he had dropped when he got shot. It no longer felt as heavy as it use to; in fact, Moribo now felt incomplete without it. He stood up and began to walk out of the fields and towards the village, paying no attention to the bullets whizzing past him or the gunshot wound on his shoulder. When he finally reached the town, he tied a bandanna around the wound to try to control the bleeding. The village was unfamiliar to him. Moribo was very far from his home village and considered this a foreign land. He had no relatives here and did not speak the language of the people. However, as he was walking past a seemingly abandoned house, Moribo heard a sound that he did understand: a baby crying. Sure enough, Moribo saw a baby sitting in the doorway of the house all alone. For a split second, Moribo felt a stab of sadness; but only for a split second. He did not recognize the feeling, as he had learned that having emotion was a weakness, but he knew that he did not like it.

Moribo walked a few more yards until he found what he was looking for. He cut the coconut open with his bayonet and drank the cold liquid inside. His thirst quenched, Moribo followed the sound of machine gun and RPG fire back to the battle field. He saw his commander crouching alone behind a Jeep. Moribo sprinted, low to the ground, behind the Jeep. His commander cursed, screaming at him to shoot the enemy. Moribo did as he was told and as he had done many times before. He inserted a magazine into his gun and prepared to stand and fire. “Just like Rambo,” he told himself. He peeked over the Jeep to see where the soldiers were, but it was useless. The air was filled with smoke, almost like a hazy dream, and it was impossible to see. The sounds of gunshots were getting louder, the screams piercing. They were distracting Moribo, but not as much as they should have.

Moribo quickly stood up to fire and, just as quickly, fell to the ground. As he lay in the Liberian dirt, clutching his chest, Moribo wished himself a happy 10th birthday.

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