The mortar hits about 8 feet from where I am standing. I do not see it coming or see the carnage that it has inevitably wreaked. I only hear the loud ringing in my ears that blots out every sound, even almost drowning out the voice in my head affirming what had just happened. I feel myself getting flung through the air like a ragdoll, I feel the heat and the pain wash upon me like a tidal wave. I wait for my life to flash before my eyes like in the movies. But this is not a movie, this is real life war, this is bloodshed and bullets, shells and shrapnel, this is people dying.
We were told we had a cause, that we were fighting to protect the lives of our wives and husbands, parents and children. It all sounded very valiant in a military encampment, coming from a man that would not be joining us in the hell we now lived in. A hell with no respect for justifications or righteousness, there was no right or wrong in this hell, just death, thick and humid, saturating the very air that we breathe. I try to imagine the images that would play out if my life did flash before my eyes. Home. The word hung heavy in my mind. There I was a father and a husband and a friend, here I am just another number brainwashed by my superiors, nothing but a mere statistic.
In between my thoughts, I realise something. I’m still alive. By some miracle, I have survived an almost direct hit by a mortar, I should be dead but I’m not. I try to stand, I cannot. I cannot feel my legs. It is probably part of the effects of the blast, I am still disoriented. I should wait a bit for the feeling to return.
From somewhere above my head as I lie on the muddy ground, I hear a voice. It speaks in the language of the enemy. I try to slow my breathing so that my chest would not visibly rise. Footsteps walk around my body and stop right above me.
“Open your eyes, I know you’re alive” the voice says in perfect English barring a few accented anomalies.
Slowly I open my eyes and try to raise my arms up. They obey me, but only just. The man stands above me with his pistol pointed straight at my head.
Don’t kill me.
I try to get the words out but instead I gurgle blood, almost choking on the coppery taste.
I hear another set of footprints and watch as another man joins the one already there.
“I should kill him” the first man says “it will be more merciful”. He cocks his pistol and steadies his hand. I see something in the expression on his face, it looks like… pity?
Don’t kill me.
“Bullets are precious my friend” the second man replies. He pats his friend in the back and turns to leave “use them on a man that is still alive”.
I breathe a sigh of relief that sends a mouthful of blood rushing out of my throat. I won’t die here. The man slowly turns and starts to walk away, pity still written over his face.
I remember my legs,I should be able to feel them now. But I don’t. I will my legs to move, they do not obey me. But I can feel my arms. With much effort, I manage to raise myself on my elbows to see what has happened to my legs.
Then I see them. Five feet away.
Horror envelopes me. I feel for my stomach, for my waist, for where my legs should be. All my hands feel is cold, damp dirt and my guts barely connected to my chest. I frantically search for the man with the gun.
Please kill me.
More blood gushes from my mouth.
I see the man walking away, obviously considering what he had done or not done.
Tears roll down my face.