All Breathing Stopped

(Published under my pen name)

The gray sky, filled with the smoke of our own. The dry, desert sand, choking everything that might breathe. Huddled with five others, within a covered bunker, not tall enough in which to fully stand. The aroma of six men's waste, filling our sand-filled nostrils, yet again. The hope of a release from this lonely, hot, miserable existence.

Having spent the last month and a half, awaiting the familiar tap on one's shoulder... that unspoken sign of "Go!" The comms guy forever with his headset on, awaiting that coded signal from men with stars, having first received it from those creating politics in the bedroom. Six long weeks of waiting and not a single time, even flinching. Trained sights, eager fingers, slow breaths, waiting and watching.

That night, as the desert darkness took even the light of our souls, a quiet voice trickled into the bunker from without. Not a voice familiar to one soul, within. Foreign tongue, desperately close. All breathing stopped. The roar of tanks heard in the distance, growing ever closer. The voice becoming easier, joined by another. Small beams of light, breaking into our darkness, as congregating enemy forces all but surrounded our only refuge. Closer they came, blocking sight, blocking sound, blocking light. Dangerously close!

Hours drifted by, total silence from the highly trained, incredibly fearful personnel within. Hours seemed days. How much longer? How can they not smell our waste?

Clutching 9mm and a "treat" from the "candymen" awaiting our certain unveiling. More hours pass. Tension of knife-cutting thickness, building in waves in each man.

Sudden movement, as night becomes day. Enemy forces called away. Breaths audible to all, as each one gasps for a full breath of morning air. Voices becoming fainter, thundering tanks all but causing our demise, far from home, wondering if we'll all be the next listed as "Lost in training exercise."

As day slowly turns back to night, the comms guy starts to let out uncontrolled cries of joy. Word UP! We are out of this hellhole. Coordinates passed, covernames exchanged, codes redefined. Our time has come and gone.

As we are lifted skyward, we silently let out that breath of soulful release. In unison, as has been the case for far too long, we all find a smile that comes from the deepest part of our human souls. Though our mission over and no "steps" taken, a success, nonetheless. As all souls onboard, no one lost.

Remembering times when the missions were completed. Listed as successes, yet losses to the team. Mission accomplished, man down. Oxymorons fill the mind, in military rhetoric. This mission, over, not to be repeated. A marked man lives to fight another day... six grateful souls, return to family and friends. Not MUCH the worse for wear.

Two more weeks, getting the stench of human feces to leave our olfactory nerves alone. Two more weeks, to shed all the sand from every nook and cranny of body, clothes and equipment. Two more weeks, to get the fear of near discovery out of our conscience, yet, storing it carefully as lessons learned, for future missions. Two more weeks, to cradle loved ones in our arms, hold them so closely, nearly breaking them. Two more weeks, to sort out the family finances, fix the brakes on the 4X4, see a soccer game or two. Two more weeks, debriefings at every level... Two more weeks... again, we are gone.

Out to nowhere, to do nothing, to utter not a sound. To gaze upon a lucky soul, to bond with five other lonely ones. Mission begets mission. Success begets success. Life goes on, self-reflection and soul searching become a regular routine.

Question not your raison d'Ítre, for we are all here for the same reason. To survive, long enough to propagate the continuance of the human species. To go to any higher level is to force one to believe we each have a divine reasoning. We are not gods, but men. We shed blood red and warm. We honor those gone before, and those who'll undoubtedly tread where we once tread.

Softly, the bugle blows... echoing in the night. Gently the lips of the bugler, control each and every note. The music of the night to a weary soldier. Taps signals the end of one more day, or the end of one more life. Each day a life, in and of itself. Each day passing, as each life will, in time. Survive, living each day as a lifetime. Fill it as completely as you can.

Desert sands, still linger in boots unworn. Passing days, still bring back smells long since gone from flaring nostrils. Torturous feelings of hunched over frames, fill the dreams of six young soldiers.

Lust for the light, leave the darkness well behind. Forget it not, but know the light doth come.

To be published in May, 2000. If you wish to receive a copy of the anthology, contact me around June or July of 2000 and I'll do what I can to get you a copy. - Jared

This page created: 19 February, 2000. All content copyrighted, 1999, 2000.