Jason sat at his desk, looking at the clock across the room. It read five minutes until one thirty. The next class was about to come in five minutes. Jason looked at the things that decorated the wall around the room. Formulas, variable rules, and other things of the sort. Where there weren't posters, the wall was painted a bright white. A sign on the door said Mr. Birch: Algebra 1.
He smiled. He enjoyed his job, helping students get a good education. Jason knew not everyone appreciated their education like they should. And he understood, as he didn't when he was in high school. But he had had a life-changing experience that made him realize that you should always want to lead the best life possible. Because you never know when it can end, and you don't want to have regrets when you die. And if you get a good education, you have one less thing to worry about.
But that was a tiny thing compared to the regrets some people felt when they died. The ex-Navy SEAL had been close enough to death to know.
It was 2006 in Afghanistan, and our group had been diminished and there were only five of us left. I was the marksman of the group. I had deadly aim. But I remembered the day as if it were crystal clear. We were bedraggled, shaken, injured, but we kept going. We had done our job and we had to get out. But after we got the job done, everything had gone wrong. It was supposed to be a stealth mission, but somehow we had been spotted. This was a small town, but men were hiding everywhere. We had been given orders to pull out immediately. We had to go to the outskirts of the town.
We had been sneaking through alleys, where we were less vulnerable. But there were no more alley passages. Everyone in town knew we were there. Some fled, others tried to kill us. And when the alleys ended, we were forced into the open. We hit the main road and hit a full sprint, keeping low. Suddenly, a gunshot rang out, and my team turned and looked at me.
Yankee, the team's leader and strategist had flung me over his shoulder. I tried to get out of his grasp, but my movements, they felt slow and sluggish. I felt numb and really weird. I noticed blood dripping on the ground as I was being carried, and put my hand to my neck. I looked at my callused, dirty hand to see a large smear of blood mixing with the dirt to form a weird muddy liquid. It was once I pieced together what had happened the pain came. It was almost paralyzing. It was a pain I had never felt before. I had been shot in the neck and I knew I was dying. Everything was going in and out of focus; my breaths were becoming short and ragged.
"Leave me," I muttered weakly. I didn't want Yankee to die helping me. I was as good as dead anyway. Yankee laughed hoarsely.
"Nah, I'm not leaving you, Eagle" he declared without changing his pace at all. Eagle was my code name because I had unbelievably sharp eyesight. "'Cuz we're both gonna be fine. We're gonna get out of here alive. The both of us." We had been spotted. I was hearing what seemed to be endless gunfire. Then a large BOOM resonated, shaking the ground. It was the unmistakable sound of an RPG's missile finding its target. Although it landed a safe distance away, it was enough to make Yankee trip. He fell, and I had fallen on top of him. He was on his feet in the blink of an eye, and as he tried to pick me up again, seven consecutive gunshots rang out. In a spray of blood, Yankee fell to the ground next to me. All seven bullets had made a home inside of Yankee.
A sudden wave of desperation flooded me. I wasn't going to get this far and lose. But first I had to take out whoever was shooting. I didn't want to die now. I couldn't die now. There were too many things I hadn't said to my wife back at home. I hadn't told her how much I loved her. I hadn't responded to the letter where she told me that she had had our baby.
She didn't know I knew. And my son needed his father. I said a silent prayer to God to let me live.
With a shaky hand, I reached down to Yankee's belt and drew out his pistol. Somehow, adrenaline began pumping through my body. I moved slowly, aiming where I heard the bullets. Then I saw him. A man perched in a window. My vision blurred and I felt weak. I had to hold on. Just long enough to shoot this man. Long enough avenge Yankee.
Determination pumped clarity into my vision. I pulled the trigger once, and the shooter went down. It was sheer luck considering the condition I was in. I felt another team member begin dragging me then heft me over his shoulder. Suddenly, I heard helicopter blades beating. The helicopter was here. But would I survive the bullet wound? Would I live to see my son? Then everything went black.
I later woke up in a hospital bed. I was in the army hospital. I had been told I was going to live. I would be able to go home and help raise my son. They didn't want me to fight with an injury like the one I had. I was lucky to have survived. And I owed it all to Yankee. And God.
Jason was snapped out of the flashback as the first student entered the room. Lee Oliver, the smartest student in the class. The scrawny kid had dark hair and brown skin. He had wiry glasses and always sat in the front. "Hey Mr. Birch," he said cheerfully. Jason smiled and nodded in reply.
Jason did his job for everyone. And he knew that everyone was going to die someday. He knew what it was like to have to through that kind of thing with regrets. And he felt regret for every life he had taken. He'd be a hypocrite not to. But not everyone was as lucky as Jason was that fateful day. So it was his mission to help as many people as possible live satisfying lives. So when the time came, they could let go with a feeling of accomplishment.
That was Jason's mission. And he was completing it everyday.