It's everywhere - on the ground, the trees, the gooks, the sky, the-
It's all over me.
I can feel it. It's pushing it's way up, through my veins, through my skin, through the holes in my body. It's warm and it's wet. My clothes stick to me, the same way my shirt would after a hard running day in the summer...
Who knew being shot could hurt so much? It's a pain like no other - worse than the time I tore my leg up riding, more than the time I got hit with a chain in the head. For a minute, while I was laying there in the mud, squeezing my stomach to stop the blood, I think of Woodrow. Is this how he felt, two years ago, crumbling underneath the streetlight in the lot? He had four bullets in him, they said - I've only got two.
And it hurts like hell.
I can't move my head. I can't see anything but the thick branches of the jungle trees and the sky. It's blue, soft and happy. I wish it would stop.
There's noise. Everyone's screaming, swearing - the Viet Cong and American's alike. Bullets shriek through the air, and somewhere, a grenade tears in the air with a roar. I feel the ground rumble.
Steve's beside me, like he's always been. He's firing, machine gun against his shoulder, and I think, for a minute, that he's too young to know how to use it. But he's using it, viciously. His helmet's fallen off, and his hair is in his eyes. He's crying as he shoots, his body jerking and shaking almost uncontrollably. He's moving too much, maybe to make up for the fact that I'm not moving at all.
The pain is worse. There's more blood, but I can't see it. My head won't move.All I can do is lie on my back and watch the sky smile and Stevie cry and feel myself die.
Oh, God, I'm dying.
Reality hits me harder than the bullets did. I'm dying. Panic sets in. My chest hurts suddenly and everything blurs. It takes me a minute to realize I'm crying.
Steve suddenly throws down his rifle, even though the battle is still screaming on. He falls to his knees next to me. He's still crying and that scares me. I've only seen him cry twice in 11 years - when my parents died and when Woodrow died.
What does that mean for me?
I wasn’t going to answer I'm thinking of Woodrow again, how he must have felt that night. And I don't mean the pain - how did it set with him, knowing he was going to die? I know he wanted to, but wasn't he nervous at all? Wasn't he scared? Shit, I'm scared.
Steve's got his hands on my shoulders, then my face. His fingers are in my hair, short as it is, pulling at it softtly.
"Roth! Please!" he wispered
“I can’t,I just can’t” I thought. My throat's too dry - everything's too dry. I feel drained, stiff, cold.I couldn't move even if my life depended on it.
Steve's trembling now. His hands are shaking in my hair. His tears run down his cheeks to his chin, down his neck, inside his shirt collar. A few slide down the side of his nose and fall off the tip of it, onto my face. I wish more would.
"Roth, please," He gasps. His whole body is moving with the force of his fear; I feel my heart pick up its pace with it, until it's moving as fast as machine gun bullets in my chest. "God, no, not you. Anyone but you…"
I can't think it. I can't think like this - I'll make it. That's what Steve's telling me. His forhead's pressed against mine, his tears sliding off of his face onto my skin. His lips move against my cheek; I can feel what he's saying, more than I can hear it.
You'll make it, man.Roth- c'mon. Don't. Don't do this to me. Don't. I fuckin' need you-
I wish I could talk. I wish everything would stop spinning, stop fading, stop hurting. Just for a minute, so I can tell him that I'm sorry, he's the best friend I ever had, that I remember the time in second grade we got into a fist fight over the last cookie at the Christmas Party and how it still makes me laugh.
I wish I could tell him to talk to Mom or Dad for me,ask him to be the one to deliver the news, instead of some cold professional Army dispatcher. No one would be able to say what Steve can say, that I'll miss them more than I'll miss anyone else, that I love them, I want Steve to tell him- Steve, tell him, please, that I love them so much, that it's killing me to think of them living without me. I never wanted to leave.It hurts like hell, knowing I'm going to miss it all.
I wish I could say it all, but I can't. Life's not like the movies - you don't die with your last words on your lips, you die with them in your head. All your unspoken vows and regrets and confessions remain just that: unspoken. Yours, to cradle for all eternity.
My throats closing up. I can feel my breathing, heavy and thick and strained, in my chest. It's fighting to get past my throat, but it dies before it hits my lips. I'm going cold; it doesn't hurt anymore, my body. It's numb; it doesn't do anything.
My vision's fading. I can't see anything except Stevie's face, nose to nose with mine. It's red and angry and tight, all squished together and hurt, wet with his tears and my blood - and now it's grey. It's drifting farther and farther away, and all I can feel of him are his fingers in my hair, pressing lightly against my scalp-
I can't die. I haven't fucking lived.
The war was exhilarating at first, but quickly turned into a living hell. There was blood everywhere, and the Pentagon kept insisting on a bloodbath. Recently, rumors of the soldiers being forced acid were being spread. Woodrow had noticed the change in some of the men’s attitudes, and had highly suspected that the drug problem was true, especially with how Steve was acting.
Steve continued laughing to himself, and wrapped his arms around his knees. “Sometimes I wonder if we’re still alive, or if we’re dead and being punished,” He whispered. Woodrow sighed, wondering if they really were in hell. Steve continued, “If we are still alive, do you think we’ll make it back home soon? Or is this going to last utill we’re old and gray?”
Woodrow bit his lip, then looked into Steve’s eyes. “We’ll make it back home, surely Uncle Sam wouldn’t make us stay out here that long.” He reassured him, silently praying that they would actually survive. He smiled weakly, then playfully punched Steve in the shoulder.
A big blast erupted less than a mile away, and gunfire pelted around them. Steve and Woodrow picked up their weapons and crouched behind the log, shaking. Another blast followed, as did another series of bombs. Woodrow coughed at the smoke surrounding him, and shielded his eyes. Steve burst into another fit of giggles, and then fell over. Woodrow tried to calm down, and then felt dizziness take over. The smoke around him seemed to grow hands, reaching to grab them. Woodrow shuddered and buried his head in his hands, trying to escape the horrifying images filling his mind. The smoke seemed to take shape of many different images, all threatening and greatly disturbing. “No!” Woodrow screamed out in protest repeatedly. Steve turned to face him, still grinning. “Can you see now, W ? I knew it, we’re in hell!” He exclaimed, then started laughing.
Woodrow gasped for air, lifting his head to observe his surroundings. People around him seemed to be running in slow motion, their guns slung over their shoulders. The horrible scent of death seemed to slowly fill the area, growing stronger each moment.
He turned his head to a man lying on the ground, sobbing and laughing at the same time. Tears poured from his eyes, while he seemed to be experiencing similar visions to Woodrow’s. Someone shouted from a couple meters away, and then gunshot echoed through his ears.