“Conley! Damnit man! Run!”
Explosions rocked the landscape as bullets came from all directions. The retreat had been called, and with the lines falling there was no turning back to face the enemy now.
Suddenly a bullet passed inches before the young man’s face, and he heard the loud “thud”, a sound he knew all too well now. He turned his head to see his best friend wounded severely in the chest. As his friend dropped to his knees, he looked up into Conley’s eyes, the light in his own fading fast.
Another explosion shook him to his bones to his right, causing such a cataclysmic movement of the ground beneath him that he too fell to his hands and knees to keep from falling face first into the mud and thick grass.
Picking his friend’s lifeless body up in his arms and in the same movement rising to his own feet, he looked ahead of him. In the distance he could see the helicopters on the bloody horizon. Always had he enjoyed the sunsets that turned the skies all shades of red and gold, but not today. Today it was only a symbol of the end.
Hearing the loud crash of yet another explosive to his right detonate, he began to run, snapped back into reality more in body than mind.
It is all a dream. He kept trying to tell himself. Nothing like this can be real, it has to be a dream…
Another explosion, this time so near he could feel the heat, the intense heat searing his face. He heard more than seen shrapnel fly all around him, yet he did not feel a wound. He began to wonder, in the unreality of it all, if he could feel anything anymore but the pounding in his heart and the numbing voice in his mind telling him to run.
Bullets flew past him; hit the ground around him. He heard the death cries of many men; young men, old men, it did not matter. In death, they were men all the same; neither rank nor color nor race nor creed could have saved them. He could hear the tanks. Rolling on and on, machines built to perform one action; kill without mercy or discrimination to the target.
Yet he had stopped hearing the explosions, the bone shattering, earth moving, and hope crushing explosions.
He could not look at his friend’s face, he could not fathom that his friend had died there in his arms while he ran. He could not believe in this unreality…
He was deafened, blinded, and knocked forward several yards by a titanic explosion behind him. The world was dark for a few moments, total silence followed, and then…
The sounds of battle once again raged about him. He looked around helplessly for his friend, his friend’s blood, his body, anything. Seeing it, crawled over and stood up on his knees. Then he tried to stand on his legs, and fell. Growling, roaring his pain. The shrapnel had hit him, he did not know where, but it hurt too much to stand, it hurt even to breathe, he realized.
This is the end. He thought. I am going to die here right beside my friend, thousands of miles away from home… The world went dark as he heard another explosive and he buried his face in the ground, covering his head. All in vain. He thought. All in vain…
Suddenly he could not feel anything, then he began to see something which seemed as though a memory, but he was sure he had never lived it…

His vision was dark, but he could see something in the darkness, as if the darkness itself moved.
You are not to die here, Friend, you are not done here yet. A voice spoke, old, young, and timeless.
I cannot move; all this fighting was in vain. What is freedom, when we must be slaves to make war for it?” he replied. You tell me what there is to live for now! My family is gone because of this damn war, killed and burned before my eyes. This battle is lost, and soon more will be. They overwhelm us ten to one. My best friend lies here, in my arms, dead. I have nothing else to live for!” He nearly screamed.
Suddenly out of the swirling shadows extended a giant talon, then a arm, and then the head of mighty Dragon. He froze, unable to be afraid for the awe he felt. The talon extended and lifting him in the Dragon’s palm, and he gazed then and there into the eyes of the Dragon.
A man with nothing to live for is a man with everything to fight for. The Dragon spoke the words calmly, but the meaning hit him like a bullet…

Suddenly the battle raged around him again. But this time, the cries of the dead and dying did not scare him. This time, the explosions did not come to his ears. This time, the pain only proved to be fuel to a newly burning fire.
Roaring a battle cry which seemed above even the loudest of explosions, he came to his knees, picking up his friend. Then, with another mighty yell, he came to his feet.
Follow me! Follow me! Retreat to the choppers! Don’t stop now!”
The solders around him did not question.
Running, as he never had before, the explosions seemed to come so near, only to fly away from him. The bullets seemed to bounce off of him. Once, twice, three times he was shot while running, and he never noticed. Shrapnel tore at and into his skin like a thousand knives, but his mad dash of pure hope, of pure life and pride and power raged on.
Explosions sent others to their knees, but seeing him at the lead of the retreat gave them heart to stand and go on. Onward he led them, past the burning landscape, over the fallen enemy and allied corpses alike. On he lead them, past the blood stained field they had fought on not hours ago. Soon, the helicopters were in sight. And more importantly, they were landing.
His mad dash ended as he nearly threw his friend’s body into one of the helicopters. The world spun as he tried in vain to regain his breath. The pilot was yelling something to him he could not hear. Then, the world was black again.
Waking seconds later, he found himself being pulled into the helicopter, it lifting off. He could not breathe, and his vision was stained red. The man above him was pressing something to his sides. He realized there were two of them, both yelling and trying to stop his bleeding.
His bleeding.
He finally realized where exactly he was, what was going on. He knew he was cold, and the world was getting darker. He was fading fast, and he knew it. He did not want to ask if he was a good solider, that was not for him to decide or if he was not for them to lie to him about in death.
Reaching up with his final strength, he pulled the man over him down to him so he could hear.
Tell the men to fight, tell them to fight till they cannot draw another breath, for such is the honorable death for anyone…” His voice fadded into quietness.
The man looked down and picked up the dog tags around his neck. His eyes widened at the sight of the name on the tag.

His hand let go of the man’s shirt, falling lifeless to the floor, his world fading to black…

Courtsey : Writing.com

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