This was a piece I wrote in college, as part of a creative writing assessment. I’ve adjusted it slightly for this post but otherwise it’s the same as when I wrote it 2 years ago. I hope you enjoy it.
Why I write about this, dear reader, I will never know. This is not a story I enjoy telling, nor is it one I wish you to pass on. I suppose I only write these words because I cannot bear the pain of carrying these memories inside; bottled up, like a fizzy drink, waiting to explode out of me, should the lid ever be opened.
So dear reader, shall we begin?
It was late spring, what month? I couldn’t tell; the days just seem to merge into a long stream now, forever running, never ending and always going further downhill. The only way I can tell the seasons, is by the change in weather and the flowers that begin to grow around me.
I have become a shell of my former self; I have been left scarred and broken, but I guess that’s what war does to people. It breaks them.
I’ve never really thought much about life before I became a soldier but now, after seeing the horrors of the battlefield, seeing your most trusted friends fall and die at your feet, I never think about anything else.
When I came back home, I was given a hero’s welcome. I didn’t deserve it. It makes no sense. Nothing does anymore.
I was diagnosed with Post-traumatic stress disorder not long after getting back. I had a flashback of an explosion that killed two of my fellow men. Apparently I just snapped and broke some kids arm; I don’t remember much, but I remember the pain in his face and the 16th birthday badge he wore on his chest. It was after that I decided not to leave the house anymore. I couldn’t risk it. Next time, I might’ve killed someone.
While I was in active duty, I was deployed on the frontlines. I was fucking terrified; anyone who comes back and says they weren’t scared is either lying or is fucking insane. There is no way in hell, that you can go there, see all the shit that happened; the flash of the barrel of a machine gun, hear those fucking mortars landing nearer and nearer, leaving you petrified, all night, every night!
And if they say that they didn’t piss themselves when they felt a bullet, whistle past their heads, if they say they didn’t experience that level of fear that paralyzes you, leaves you frozen in the middle of the battlefield, then fuck them for lying to themselves!
But I felt that fear, I was frozen; it was my first and my only conflict, bullets were flying everywhere, I couldn’t move. My commanding officer was screaming at me to get up and move, but I couldn’t even turn my head to look at him or open my mouth to shout that I just couldn’t… I couldn’t, I ju-…
See people just don’t realise how bad it is there. There are no second chances. There’s no time for mistakes or else… or else you get shot. And that’s exactly what happened; a 50. Calibre bullet, from a Barrett sniper rifle, went straight through my left kneecap and completely shattered it.
The pain I felt in that one moment was excruciating, but it brought me back to my senses. I knew I had to get to cover, before the enemy sniper could take another shot but how could I? I couldn’t even stand and these snipers are trained to be calm, precise killers; they don’t miss. Which begs the question, ‘Why did he shoot me in the knee?’ Why not go straight for the kill? There were two possible reasons, either I got incredibly lucky or the other reason was, he was toying with me. Like a child playing with his food; he wanted to see me squirm first, writhing in the sand, in absolutely agonising pain, no chance of escape. I was done for…
And then I heard it. The boom of that sniper rifle, the bullet whistling and I braced myself. But the death that I had expected never came. Instead I felt two hands grab me under my arms, begin pulling back and all around I could hear orders being given over the sound of that terrifying gunfire. I blacked out.
Next thing I remember is waking up in the medical tent at base, my leg being bandaged up at the speed of light. I owe my life to those medics. If they hadn’t treated me, that leg would’ve got infected and I’d been dead for sure. But there was one other person I owed my life to, the Sgt.
It turns out the sniper I heard was his and he took out the enemy, so they could get me out of there. He was stood at the entrance of the tent, a bandage around his upper right arm, looks like no-one got out of there unscathed. It was all my fault, if I hadn’t fucked up so bad then things would’ve been different, no-one would’ve had to waste their time saving an arsehole like me and maybe some lives could’ve been spared. It was then I had the realisation that I was going home, there was no way I could stay here and fight, not in my condition. And sure enough about a month later, once the medics thought it was safe for me to travel, I was being shipped back home; I was dreading it more than ever. Just before I left base, word came in that the Sgt. had been killed in action, him and his men were ambushed and he spent every second of that conflict trying to get them out alive.
He was the only casualty.
He was a fucking hero and they couldn’t even find his body. How is that fair? The man who died for his friends, not even able to be returned home, where he belongs, while me, a good for nothing Private, who couldn’t make it through one fight, was on his way home; to a hero’s welcome he didn’t deserve.
Why couldn’t I have just died? Why was it me who lived? WHY WON’T THIS FUCKING PAIN END?! GOD!
But it’s okay dear reader, because I’m going to make it right, I still have a USP.45 pistol. Even as I write this now I’m putting it to my head and every man I watched die is flooding back in my memory and like so many before me… yeah, like those before me, I’ll die without a name.