Orange Haired Girl

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Young Adult  |  House: Booksie Classic
Somewhat of a misplaced romance amidst a war-stricken area. Remember to comment, like, or/and subscribe!

Submitted: August 04, 2012

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Submitted: August 04, 2012

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The handkerchief had her full name on it: Sarah Weizer. She left me that much. Intriguing girl with flames about her, radiant and striking, a goddess of fire. The whirling blades of the Blackhawk made her orange hair appear so; floodlights gave it its luminous red vibe. She squinted as the dirt around the evacuation site became a dust devil; she told me, "I go this way; you go that way." She and the rest of the woman and children boarded the hovering machine and were whisked away the F.O.B. and then, I assume, to the refugee camp. A squad of soldiers ran across the tarmac to another landing helicopter. This one emptied its passengers: soldiers, all clad in their ACUs. Green guys, wet ears, or most common, newbie. These men were off to save the day; I had a selfish objective: rendezvous with Sarah at the refugee camp. Army recruiters were desperate and often chose people on the spot. One soldier took a slug to the jaw, dead before he hit the ground; before that, his CO had already handed an M-4 Colt Commando to the closest civvie. I left as soon as the last chopper took off, women and children only. A funny thought occurred to me when I made eye contact with a pilot: they were all a bunch of Charons, but instead of just bringing people to the underworld, they also took them away from the land of the dead and dying; the tormentors and the tormented, roles shared on both sides. Over, they would fly, rivers of napalm, rivers of corpses, rivers of asphalt. No ying and yang here, not during war. You kill Charlie before Charlie kills you. No humanizing the enemy because Charlie has no wife or kids, because Charlie owns no dog because Charlie is a demon; Charlie is a demon with a faceless head, with hands of leather, with fatigues and no dog tags. Charlie doesn't mourn because the best thing about being Charlie is that there are so many to go around. It would be nonsense to attend your own funeral. It would be redundant for Charlie to mourn himself. I hated them all. The cycle of death, the cycle of life in reverse. Depressing as hell, I know. Today is Saint Patrick's day at rendezvous point Foxtrot. Everyone, including myself, is wearing green. Finding clean clothes is impossible so people pick whatever the G.I.s leave behind. Hours later, Foxtrot was empty, silent in the immediate vicinity; the rat-tat-tat of a machinegun echoed in the distance. Well, pretty much in every direction because they were always fighting. I picked up my backpack and headed towards the general direction of the forward operating base, silently hoping I won't get shot on the way there.
 
Freeways always proved to be a blessing. Covered in debris and charred cars, it was a graveyard in the broadest sense. A black station wagon seesawed on the edge of a barrier, after that, the ground veered into a straight 50 foot drop. I studied another car, a coupe, which was reduced to a chunk of charred metal. I could see where flames had licked at the car. It was cool to the touch as I ran my fingers along it from hood to trunk. Upon inspection, my fingertips were black with soot; twin trails ran the length of the car. There was something depressing about it. I was probably the last person to touch it; I was the last to walk beside it. All these cars were also coffins. Family-sized coffins with seating for eight. Don't worry about gas mileage because they don't need it to get where they are going. I continued walking past the trucks; a mortal in the land of the dead. I did not belong here. This place was reserved for members only. Attendance was perfect whenever they met; no one was even late. No one could skip a meeting. Where did I fall in the analogy? What role did I play and what was my motivation? If life is a movie then God is a horrible director. He stands, rolling the camera despite the confusion. Or is that intended? Wildlife photographers can never plead with an animal for the perfect shot. I guess God is patient. He rifles through the pictures, shakes His head at the bad ones, preserving the good ones. The ground beneath me gave out in a single deafening boom. The concrete snake unraveled and disintegrated into fine clouds of dust where the artillery fire landed. Moments later, the report echoed from the cannon it came from. I fell off the overpass onto the highway beneath it. Dodging falling chunks of concrete, I ran in every direction. The road I was on began to fall apart as well; it writhed and swayed until the stress cracked it at the center. All the while, mortar fire continued raining on my position. Devastating shockwaves ran through the air; I imagined I'd fall apart too. A shell detonated on the overpass, the concussive blast threw me straight into the ground. Debris showered from overhead. The overpass finally broke into two distinct sections, making a V shape. All the debris and rubble slid toward the center, along with me. By some miracle, nothing crushed me as I slid. Two cars nearly sandwiched me when I reached the vertex of the angle. I walked away bumped, bruised, and with metaphorical crap in my pants. Troops would be here soon to investigate their handy work. I had learned that mortar fire's only guarantee is that it will always hit the ground. The highway would have been the most direct route to the outskirts where the forward operating base was situated among the Papago hills.
 
Walking took a lot out of me. I was dead tired by the time I reached the suburbs. This neighborhood was practically untouched by the warring factions. So I picked out a nice two story house to camp in for the night. The door easily yielded as I turned the knob. Once inside, I led myself to the pantry; rich people always have a basement full of food for some strange reason. This family wasn't an exception, but an example. The basement was a wonderland of canned food, a bevy of bottled water. I held a feast for the great people we have lost and will lose. After the gluttonous feast, the next place I invaded was the master bedroom which was spacious, and best of all, my new happy place.
 
I woke up when I heard brakes screech. Headlights temporarily glared through the windows before they were shut off. The low rumble of an engine was also present: a Hummer perhaps. I asked myself whether or not they were hostile or friendly forces. Better yet, what would they assume when they found me? An individual like me would more than likely be shot on sight. I needed a hiding spot. Soldiers can move like ghosts when they enter a building so when I saw a shadow at my feet, my heart skipped a beat. Fortunately, the shadow was mine. No place in the bedroom looked ideal for hiding so I desperately contemplated going outside and surrendering myself. Luck was on my side as the soldiers went into the backyard. I followed them from my upstairs vantage point, spying on them through the shutters. A pilot was hanging from a light post by his parachute. One soldier walked up to the pilot with his rifle trained on him.
He demanded, "Identify yourself now or we will shoot."
The pilot didn't respond.
Again the soldier demanded, "Identify yourself. We will shoot."
"I'm an enemy, you stupid patriot."
With that, the soldier shot the pilot. The rest of the squad released the pilot; I supposed they were looking for munitions or intel.
"Get an ID on the pilot."
Another soldier inspected the body, "He was a friendly, corporal."
The corporal shook his head, he looked annoyed rather than shocked, "How is that possible?"
"Tape recorder, sir."
"Damn it."
"Your orders?"
"Get his tags, take him there and put some dirt on him," the corporal gestured towards a flower garden. Two men lifted the dead pilot and placed him in the garden, arms crossed over his chest.
"Any idea where he came from, sir?"
"Must have abandoned ship after getting knocked out of the sky. The rocketeers and the rest of the helicopter must be somewhere out there."
My heart sank when I heard the possibility that Sarah might be dead. In a single filed line, the soldiers exited through a gate and into the darkness, their flashlights the only thing visible. For a second, I felt relieved that the soldiers had come along without noticing me. Should've knocked on wood because as soon as I stepped back I found myself in someone's arms.
"Shh. Calm down, friend."
He had his hand over my mouth and his other arm draped loosely around my neck. I tried to move away but he brought his arms together and shut my windpipe before loosening again. Not knowing what to do next, I stood perfectly straight. From the shadows, people materialized. They had been hiding behind me the whole time.
"We will be leaving now and we will not harm you. Just stay quiet. You can do that, right?" Slowly, I nodded. He let me go and I turned to look at him leave. As soon as I did this, he jumped up and kicked me in the chest with both feet. It sent me back with enough force to crack the glass behind me. He reared up and kicked me once more, sending me out the window in an impressive feat of skill and strength. As I fell, the glass caught the light, twinkling like a constellation. I wondered if the fall would kill me. I didn't wonder for too long before I hit the ground.
 
I woke some time later. The sun breached the horizon, throwing its rays like arms, looking for a hold to hoist itself higher. My entire back pulsed with pain. Shadows grew as the sun began its ardorous climb. With all my willpower, I forced myself up, nearly falling in the process. The spot where I had lain was a silhouette of blood, like a snow angel or a chalk outline. I felt slow, disencouraged, unmotivated. Depression assassinated my optimism, slitting its throat, pouring out of it were my hopes of ever tracking Sarah. The smudge became an icon of crestfallen dreams. Three were present: the bloody angel, the shadow, the man. I felt sorry for Sarah, she got the raw deal when it came down to heroes. Luck brought me this far and just barely. Was I making this journey in vain; did she need me? The other two offered answers: the bloody angel represented the sufferings that I have endured; the shadow represented the fact that I was still alive. No matter how I looked at it I still had to make it to the F.O.B. or stay here where it is unsafe. Confidence returned as a zombie and destroyed my depression
 
The base was located 5 miles, roughly, from the city limit. Between us stood a clearing, more than fortified with tactical snipermen. Stuck again. The universe loves to spite me. With no way to advance, I sought refuge in one of the few buildings there. Snipers had to be placed in the hills to eliminate any land troops. Hopeless from every angle. Tired and unmotivated, my head rested in the nook of my elbow, I slept in the kitchen of a diner.
 
I woke from my slumber when I heard a spectacular pounding in the streets. A crowd, no, a legion seems to have assembled in the street. As they marched, they stomped the street in unison without so much as a hint of hesitation. I slid behind the the counter, observing them from afar. The defiant demonstrators were walking into the sights of the snipers. Geysers of blood erupted as bullets hit multiple targets. On they marched, oblivious of the massacre. This sight reminded me of the Buddhist monks of Vietnam. When one would light himself aflame, he would sit idly as he burned. Despite its deminishing numbers, the crowd persisted, leaving a trail of carnage. The last of them fell several yards from where the first were hit. I looked down at my hands. They bled because I had my fists clenched so tightly that my nails had dug into my flesh. I was at a dead end. Sarah is out of my reach. Unless she had died on the helicopter. It's over.
 
I couldn't stay forever at the diner. The only thing I could do was backtrack into the city, at least to put distance between me and the infernal carnage outside. The diner's pantry was also running close to being empty and there wasn't another one nearby. I packed my belongings into my backpack, planning a new treck.
 
Night arrived as the stech of rotting carcass became unbearable. Miles of blacktop pointed me back to the city, promising a tedious journey. I wasn't alone as I walked. The shadow, the angel, and the man shared the same path, the same footfalls, the same person. Along the horizon, the purple backdrop of the Maricopas dominated the horizon before relenting to a faint blue sky. The buildings of downtown Phoenix began to come into view. There was nothing better for me to do than wander the city streets until they disappeared in a mushroom cloud of vaporizing atomic energy. Was my country above nuking itself? I shuddered at the thought, refusing to entertain it further. A black billow of smoke disrupted the otherwise static view. Where there is smoke there usually is a person behind the fire. I headed in the general direction, cautiously optimistic.
 
My optimism was justified when I arrived. A Humvee lay wheels up and, along with its passengers, burning in a column of fire. I had the feeling that the vehicle belonged to the enemy forces. Whoever did this was still here. My second knack also held truth. Someone shot me with a net cannon. The shooter dragged me into an underground parking lot.
He asked, "Who're you?"
"Clay Kilker."
"What are you doing here?"
"I'm lost."
"You know I can't believe you that easily."
"I don't expect you to."
A second voice, a woman's, intervened, "Let him up, Bob. I know him."
"What makes you say that?"
"He has my handkercheif."


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