Perception - A Short Story

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: War and Military  |  House: Booksie Classic
Standing on the edge, the leader of a group of men watch as his men hover on the brink of possible death. Can they save them selves? A short story with a bit of a twist.

*all my own work*

Submitted: March 01, 2012

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Submitted: March 01, 2012





The early morning sun made long shadows behind the tall, green, trees and the fine mist hovered close to the valley floor. The green blanket of treetops quivered with activity, yet the sound did not reach us. The jungle was silent; holding its breath. From my position on top of the northern most hill I could see all around for miles. Every dip in the rolling valley, every hilltop, could be seen from here. It was a strategic location; we had the tactical advantage. That didn’t stop them though. It never would.

The enemy came again and again, with a seemingly endless supply of ammunition. They had hit us hard, but we had hit them too. The attacks came less frequently now, but with more force than ever before. There was hope for us though; back up was coming. The Chinook would be bringing extra troops. When exactly, we did not know. We just had to hold them off until then. I looked around at my team who were trying to relax for the first time in days. They looked shaken, almost lost in the stress, torment and fear of being attacked at any moment. Shadows in the night will forever haunt them. We had lost many brave men to their cold bullets. The enemy had crept up on us and mercilessly torn my team apart. Sleeping men. Helpless men. We got those heartless bastards though. As they were retreating we avenged our brothers. They still lay there, where they fell. But not us. I had dug a grave for each of my men; they were family. They had deserved a more honourable death.

By now my comrades and I felt nothing but hate for these elusive killers. Everything was riding on the Chinook bringing in backup. The men aboard were specially trained, they would hit the ground running and take out any opposition in their way. My men and I felt nothing for these men. We did not know them. They were nothing but more pawns in this ‘game’ of war. I know the terror, the pain, the nights we sat up unable to sleep from fear. My team and I, we had started out as just a number of men, doing what we believed was right for our country. Now, we fight against an enemy that appears unstoppable. We fight for our lives. We fight so our children grow up with a family. We fight because we must.

Soft thuds bounced off the steep valley walls. I turned my head towards the distant sound and strained my eyes into the afternoon sun. The slow, bulky Chinook was just visible travelling down the valley. It seemed impossible that it was able to fly with such heavy mass. My team and I had been on high alert all day, expecting a final attack from the enemy before the backup arrived. None had come thankfully and for now we were safe. But once that Chinook dropped those soldiers, there would be a surprise attack; I was sure of it. ‘Surprise’ in the fact that we didn’t know when or where they’d come from, but we did know they were coming. They were coming for one last blow. 

I closed my eyes and felt the explosion resonate throughout my body. One moment, the sky was clear and blue, the next, smoke and flame. The Chinook was a ball of fire, reaching up toward the heavens. The RPG must have hit the fuel tank, those men instantly killed. More smoke and flame. Screams. The Chinook dropping; falling. The screech of metal on rock. The smell of burning fuel. Of bodies. The taste of the smoke and ash on my lips. The wave of heat. The final crash of the Chinook hitting the hard dirt-packed valley floor, making it shudder. And then nothing.

The silence was so loud. My body tingled and my ears screamed. We did not move, letting the forest come back to life. Only once the birds started singing and the jungle creatures started going about their usual business did we move our shaken bodies. I had not expected the explosion to be so furious, so devastating. I had not expected the silence after.

I had not expected the guilt.

They had only come out here to help. We were the reason they had died, because if we weren’t here and if we had just finished off those murderers, if there was no conflict, those helpless men would not have died. But sometimes, there is no choice. We were here, and so is the enemy, and as long as we co-exist, this dangerous dance will forever continue.

My men still stood in shock, watching the crumpled mess for signs of life. There would be none. Fragments of hoarse whispers reached my ringing ears.

“…explosion….the fire…fell so fast…their screams…”

I couldn’t concentrate on the conversation; I couldn’t focus enough to warn them to be quite, that the enemy was still out there. I could only catch words like stones to my chest, beating me down.

What was this guilt? We had done what we must. Innocent men were killed in the process. Those men though, they were nothing to us; so why did I feel this way? It had to be done; we couldn’t allow them to land. They were so highly trained. We were but men fighting for our lives. It was a quick death, better than coming out here to fight us, just to die at our hands. My men, my family. I couldn’t allow anymore of them to die. This was the only way. I turned around, away from the wreckage, toward Abidin who was kneeling in a clearing, still clutching the RPG and staring at the devastated Chinook. He was mouthing an old Muslim prayer, asking for forgiveness. I walked over with tentative legs. We fought for our lives by taking theirs. He was trained to do just that. His shot was better than I could have hoped for. Reaching forward, I grasped his shoulder strongly. He dropped his head, grateful for some comfort. My throat was dry and my tongue stuck to the roof of my mouth, yet I managed to speak.

“It’s over now mate. Nice shot.”

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