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Special Unit

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“Push! Push! You call yourselves men? You are not men until you can push yourself to the limit, and beyond! Keep running!”
The commanders yelled in our ears. I now wished I had not signed up for being in the army, not having to fight enemies who wanted to kill me, God knows why. All the commanders keep yelling at me, and all I can do is keep going.
My family is proud of me for being in this army—I am the first of our family to make it outside of our little town. My family expects great things out of me. But my family cannot get me to stop wishing I were dead at this moment. At least if I were dead, I would be in Heaven with God. Now here, it is like living Hell. And I mean that.
The worst part of it is the one we call Commander A****** to his face and worse behind his back. Every time I am assigned to be with him for any task the army needs, I try to get out any way possible—I play sick, I get a friend to do it, I say I have urgent business, anything. On the outside, you would never know he was bad. On the first day, when all of the other Commanders were yelling, Commander A****** was smiling. He talked to everyone, made friends with them. He continued like this for two weeks. We felt we could trust him, and often acted on that. We told him everything, for what had we to fear from the man we called Smiles. And then, after two weeks, something happened. We were never told what exactly was done—we were pretty sure it had to do with sabotage by a man in my unit. When we showed up for punishment, we saw Smiles there. We all started smiling too—Smiles would help us pretend that we had been punished. We were supposed to dig latrines. Then, we would run fifty miles with packs on our backs, and do 1,000 pushups. We were supposed to do all of this within 14 hours, or there would be more punishment. We dug the latrines happily—we all thought that we would be able to get out of the running and pushups. So it surprised us to have Smiles to tell us to start running, and when we joked with him, to pull out a gun. He drove a car alongside of us the whole time, and kept that gun pointed at us. He did the same with the pushups. The punishment was hard, but even worse was the knowledge that Smiles had betrayed us. We called him Commander A****** from that moment on, and he never seemed to mind. He had always been our enemy—he had become close to break us.
Now, they tell us to run to the weapons field to practice aiming. We run with them yelling at us, trying desperately not to fall behind. The weapons ground is 5 miles from where we were, on the hill-running course, important for fighting in the hills of Afghanistan. Most of the caves are on hills, and we need to be able to get to them well, or we will be killed. But now we are at the firing range, and take our rifles and fire. Most of us hit our targets, but one man does not. He shoots again and misses. The commanders go over to him. He is so tired that he cannot hold the rifle steady. The commanders will not allow him to waste bullets, and instead will make him do pushups. His training will either be delayed so he can work on his conditioning, or he will be dropped from the force. No one wants to be dropped from the force.
Now is the easy part of our day. 1,000 crunches, two obstacle course runs, and we are done with conditioning. After that, all we have to do is study the design of bombs. Many do not understand why this is necessary, but it is important to have as much knowledge as possible in the field.
Now we are back in our barracks. However, the Commander has called me to his office. I fear that he will drop me from the force. Instead, he tells me, I have a mission. It is very secret—I cannot tell my friends about it. All I can say is that it involves a bomb threat in downtown Kabul on the 20th. It is the 18th. I am to travel to Kabul and carry out my mission. I start that night.


* * *


The road to Kabul is filled with problems. There are numerous security checkpoints that delay my progress. I have to prove to their satisfaction that I am not a terrorist, and this usually takes about 30 minutes. I am stopped 12 times, and this makes me waste six hours. The roads are poor, and even though I have a hummer with great traction, I still am unable to get above 64 kilometers per hour, and that is rare. I have to go 240-some kilometers, which means four hours spent on the road if I were able to keep that up. However, I usually must go slower. It takes me 18 hours to get to Kabul. I have traveled from 10:00 PM on the 18th to 8:00 PM on the 19th. Tomorrow, I must deal with the bomb threat.


* * *



Now I am in Kabul, and it is the morning of the 20th. I travel out to a restaurant to feel out the mood. I ask if anyone has heard anything about a bomb, and many say yes. It is rumored that there will be a bombing at Kabul City Center. More people have decided to go to the bazaars in order to try and shop while escaping from the bombing. I go out and drive in my car to both places. The mall is still crowded—many people could die if it were bombed. But the bazaar is packed. I have no way of knowing which place the orchestrator will pick. Suddenly, after driving around both areas for two hours, I realize I do not have my cell phone. I am expecting a call about where the bomb will go off. I rush back to my hotel room, only to find that my phone is not there. In a panic, I remember it is at the restaurant, two miles away. I sprint in the direction. But there is an anti-war demonstration going on. I worm my way through the crowd, but when I come out, I find that there has been a roadblock set up. The line is far too long, so I dash through. Shots are fired at me, but none hit, and I am able to run away.
I finally make it inside the restaurant, only to find that my cell phone is not there. Frantically, I ask the waiters. One of them says that he found it, and that he gave it to his manager. I ask where the manager is. The waiter says he will go get him. It takes ten minutes, and the waiter comes back, telling me the manager has gone home. These setbacks are driving me to madness. I must find my cell phone. The waiter tells me that the manager lives not far from the restaurant. I run after him and find his apartment. He is not home. I hear a cell phone ringing inside. Could it be mine? I should not break in… but if I do not? I will be just as clueless about the site as the people there. I would be taken out of the force, a failure, and sent home to live in disgrace. I slump down against the door, defeated. Then, the manager comes back, and I rush inside. I see that I have missed a call. There is no number to call, and no message. I raise the cell phone in order to smash it, when it starts to ring again. I frantically answer, and a deep voice comes on the line.
It says, “Kabul City Center, 30 minutes.”
I go out to the car and drive to the Center. It is filled with people. Many of them might die today, depending on the success of the bomber.
“I hope that no one actually bombs this place today,” I hear someone say.
“Yeah,” his companion says, “Those bombings are messing up the whole city. No one’s coming and looking at anything in the city any more. I’m just sick and tired of all of these bombs going off.”
“Maybe those rumors were fake,” another man says, “maybe the bomb is actually at the bazaar, and they were trying to scare everyone away from here.”
It is now 2 minutes before the bomb is supposed to go off. I go back to my car. I drive around, looking for any suspicious activity. I see none, and drive to the entrance, then get out. I walk into the mall, and go into a crowded store. In my hand, I hold a remote that will detonate the explosives strapped to my body. I press the button.





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