This the first text I've written and published here. I'm updating this story as I write so it may be a little raw and unrefined for now. All comments, observations and suggestions are more than welcome!
9.3.2016 Mark Stenbäck
This is me, dying. The pain... is not too bad, not anymore. It feels distant yet undeniably present: the unbearable heat from a shrapnel that found its way into me through my side; the wet feeling from my jacket that is soaked in my blood; the drowsiness that follows the severe blood loss; constant fight for breath that follows from having just one functioning lung left; Doc's persistent shouting to focus on him as he's trying to patch me up and platoon buddies calling to me as they are covering us both. I wish they would all just shut the fuck up.
But they wouldn't. Doc's pushing needles and coagulants and God knows what else in me. The platoon's commander losing his patience with HQ that tells him that med-evac is not currently available. The snapping and popping sounds of bullets flying just over our heads and hitting the crumbling concrete walls among which we were trying to find cover. Except the whole place was already mined and booby-trapped so the cover they provide is debatable.
I try to keep my eyes open but it is hard to keep them focused on anything. Couldn't I just sleep just a bit? "No!", says Doc and hits me a shot of adrenaline. That mother fucker! I gasp for breath and curse, but at least I can focus again. Doc says he's stopped the bleeding for now but we can't stay where we are; we are about to be run over and must relocate post-haste!
I can still feel the shrapnel inside me. I cough blood and gasp for breath, but I grab my rifle and stumble onward with Doc's help. There's a sound and something warm splashes over me. I look behind me and see one of my buddies fallen on his knees chest against a broken wall; I guess the missing part of his head is now covering me and Doc. We scramble on.
We did not get far. Perhaps fifty meters, probably less. The enemy spotter who called for mortar strike on us knew what he was doing. Most of the guys who were ahead of me and Doc got the worst of it whereas we two were just knocked down on our asses. Right after the strike there was a moment's silence apart from sound of falling debris. No one was shooting, no one was shouting; the silence did not last long.
Among the broken bodies someone came to and started howling. He was beyond the use of words and could only convey the raw agony, horror and shock of someone who has just lost couple of limbs. Someone else started groaning and coughing but everybody else were just sad, silent heaps of broken meat. I knew them all once, but now some of them I might not be able to identify.
Doc places me down in a somewhat covered position in a corner of two walls next to a pile of rubble. He puts my rifle on my lap, says he would be right back and tells me to hang on tight. I watch as he grabs his backpack and runs towards the guy who is shouting loudest. I watch the stream of bullets chasing after him and hitting the ground before they start to hit him from behind. His momentum carries him forward for a few more steps and whoever is shooting at him keeps on shooting until he falls to ground. Or the shooter might have just emptied his clip. It makes no different to Doc.
I feel so tired. Beyond tired. I should be angry, sad, afraid or something, but I just don't. I don't care anymore. All my buddies are dead or dying. I'm sure I'm bleeding again and it's getting harder to breath. I'm going to die but I'm all out of fucks to give.
The guy who had been screaming just a little while ago is now silent. Doc hasn't moved from where he fell. The wall I'm leaning against blocks my view but I can hear one of my guys coughing and cursing quietly, but I think I hear something else too. The sound of gravel under someone's boots. A few softly spoken words that I cannot understand so I guess there are at least two of them approaching. Probably more. I check my rifle. The magazine is 2/3 full and the under barrel grenade launcher is loaded. Might as well go loudly.
A single shot goes off just behind the wall. I guess I'm alone now. Someone says something and two others laugh. Whatever they are seeing is making them relaxed so they might be feeling that their position is secure: opposition's dead and they are in control.
A man walks in front of me and stops. My eyes are closed, covered (mostly) in my own blood, I'm pale from blood loss and I'm barely breathing so one might forgive him for thinking I'm dead. He's almost right. He moves on and as I open my eyes I see him and two others standing next to Doc's body. One of them kicks him over and makes an obvious remark about Doc's bullet torn condition. At that moment I'm filled with sadness and regret that someone who had cared for me and others ended up like that. I think somebody should do something about it.
My rifle has never felt so heavy as I turn it towards the three men standing next to Doc's body. Never mind aiming, I'm feeling confident that even in my current condition I can still hit the wall few meters from the men with my 40 mm grenade. One of them notices my movement and shouts as I pull the trigger.
I felt the explosion but the three men felt it worse. The fragmentation grenade and the concussive pressure in partially confined space had the expected effect. I think at least one of them has to be dead by the looks of him. I should go and check them but hey, I'm dying so excuse me if I don't get up.
It's surprisingly quiet. Sounds like the fighting is over for now. The question "who won" doesn't seem important to me and in any case, who ever wins in these things anyway? It's a never ending game of King of the Hill where men kill and die over piles of rubble that in normal world would be considered worthless. You're on top of it all on one day and the next someone else comes along and kicks you off. Then you go at it again. Rinse and repeat. If everybody else are dead then I guess that makes me the king of this hill.
Except I'm not alone after all. One of the three gets up on his knees coughing and looks around for his rifle. Now that won't do, I earned my place as the king of this hill the hard way so I level my rifle towards the man. The first shot is way off but the sudden, loud unexpected bang was probably enough to scare the shit out of him. The next shot is also a miss, but I'm getting closer. The man finally spots me and takes aim as I fire the third round. I miss, but he doesn't; the fucker hits me at the side of my helmet which was enough to deflect the bullet. My ears are ringing and I feel disoriented. Why am I not dead? He should have shot me more than just once! Ah, his assault rifle failed to eject. Shit happens, buddy!
I pull my trigger repeatedly and after couple of near misses I finally get him. Two in the stomach and one in the chest drops him on his ass. He sits upright and we look at each other. There's that look of surprise and pain in his eyes that most men get in situations such as this. I'm sure I had it too not too long ago. His mouth is moving but I can't get what he is trying to say. His final words go unwitnessed and he slumps forward; dead, but still sitting.
That's it. I think I'm about done, too. My breathing is shallow, difficult and painful. I feel cold and everything feels so heavy. My eyes close and I feel like I am at peace.
Somewhere in deep, comfortable darkness I feel like I'm getting lifted up. I hear distant voices and imagine a woman being there on my side. Mother? I hope not! I think I'm owed someone hot and single. As last thoughts go that's probably not one of the worse ones.
Working on it...