A Walk Through Hell
It was supposed to be just a routine check of the surroundings. They had taken this route hundreds of times before and there had been no activity in the area in months. Winters was showing off his newborn daughter to Park, as he was driving the same old route, and as always Park was making some comment about how he should pray that she doesn’t look like him. Schultz was bitching about the heat as he sat up at the gun and Sergeant Reese was talking to the kid who sat next to him. He was only twenty. He hadn’t been there long and this was his first tour. Sergeant Reese had been there too many times, according to his family back home.
“So, kid, are you missing home yet?” Sergeant Reese asked.
“Yes, sir, do you miss home?” Holls asked.
“Yup. My eldest son is going to be graduating high school soon and my daughter is going to be a freshman. My wife is always complaining about me going on deployment but… well someone has to do it.”
“Have you ever thought of getting out Sergeant?”
“No. Crazy as it may sound I love my job. I can protect my family and my country. I can’t think of anything better than that.”
“Yeah you’re crazy alright Serg. No doubt there.” Park said, with a thundering laugh.
Sergeant Reese kicked the back of Park’s seat like he was mad, but the teeth he was showing said otherwise. He looked back to Holls and shook his head while he laughed, and at that moment the earth rose.
The world turned sideways and there was a ringing in his ears. It took a moment for him to collect his wits. The Humvee had hit an IED. His gaze was glossed over but he still looked around. What was the situation with the others? Three were gone and one was injured. He shook his head trying to clear the fog that had appeared.
“Sergeant, are you alright?” Private Holls asked. His arm was covered in blood.
“I’m good. Winters, Park, and Schultz are dead,” he replied.
“Shit. Sergeant, we need to get out and get to cover.”
“Can you move your arm?”
“Yes sir, but my leg is busted.”
Sergeant Reese pulled himself out of the wreckage first and while he was pulling Holls out a thundering sound cracked across the sky. Holls screamed but it was too late. The force of the shot threw Sergeant Reese to the ground and a pool of red formed on his shoulder. As Holls dropped to the ground a rain of fire began washing over them. Sergeant Reese crawled to take cover by the Humvee dragging Holls with him.
“In the debrief they said there’s some cave in the hills just over there. You head for it and I’ll cover you Sergeant.”
“We can both make it. They haven’t gotten on top of us yet.”
“I can’t go far with this leg, sir.”
“I’ll drag you if I have to, kid,” Sergeant Reese said, as he took out his radio to call for aid and report the situation. With their plan confirmed with the rescue team all they had to do was make it there.
Holls looked at his superior and with a determined nod he reached for his outstretched hand. Sergeant Reese pulled him up and shifted his weight to accommodate his subordinate. The language of the enemy being shouted from behind them was like ice on their backs, and the sounds of gunfire permeated into their souls. Still, they took off to find their refuge.
They hadn’t had the time to patch themselves up and now the air around them was like a fog of iron and salt. In this desolate place of rocks and dirt, where even the devil himself would complain of the heat, their pain and exhaustion was starting to get the better of them, but Sergeant Reese kept a firm grip and pulled Holls along with him. He urged him to keep going as the voices at their backs grew louder and metal was closer to piercing flesh.
The two men of arms had almost made it to the cave through a blanket of bullets, stopping every so often to return fire themselves, when Holls collapsed. The opening of salvation was only two-hundred yards away but the wild beasts that followed were closing in fast.
“Sergeant, go. Get to cover. I’m nothing but dead weight,” Holls said, slumped on the ground and heaving behind the temporary cover of a boulder.
“Not happening. We’re both getting out of here,” he said, as he crouched down to pick Holls up. He hauled him up and started dragging him toward the entrance with his weapon trained on the approaching hoard.
With slippery hands and waves of pain crashing through his body Sergeant Reese dragged Holls all the way to the entrance of the cave and dropped him inside. Holls had passed out and was in more danger of losing his life than he had been before. Reese didn’t know how much time had passed but it didn’t matter, now he needed to protect this little cutout until the rescue team arrived.
All too soon the crownies of hell were closing in on them and his bullets were starting to run low. Just as he was down to the last few rounds and felt the Grim Reaper’s hands around his neck, he heard the thwack, thwack, thwack of a blackbird’s wings. As the battle of demons and angels raged outside Reese went to Holls’ side, and dropped to the ground. The last thing he saw before passing out were the arms of his brothers reaching for him and as swift relief washed over him he left the calm of black take him with it.