I can still see their faces. Their screaming faces, fighting to hold back tears. I’ll never forget.
They say even the oldest among us don’t react too kindly to war. All I know is that we were too damn young, nothing more than boys. Hell, some of us could barely even read. We had no business being in that God-forsaken place, fighting for Lord knows what reason. We were nothing but bodies in their silly little game.
I remember Charlie. He was the bravest of us all. He was first to the frontlines, confident he could take down the enemy single-handedly. But before Charlie could get his wits about him, he’d been outnumbered three-to-one. A rash decision, a scream—and Charlie was down for the count. A headshot.
After Charlie went down, the rest of us barely had the will to keep going. We dodged, we scrambled, we took cover where we could find it. But the enemy was relentless. Wave after wave, until there were just two of us left: me and my old friend Jimmy. It felt like I’d known Jimmy since we were in diapers. He was a crafty bastard, with a sharpshooter’s eye and a knack for ducking fire at the exact right moment. But even Jimmy could make a mistake. Scurrying on the frontlines, he accidentally stepped into enemy territory; he had broken the one unspoken rule. The territory lines were clearly demarcated, and in that moment he had committed a cardinal sin. Jimmy was gone before I could say a word.
And so it was down to me, one naïve kid against a world of violence. In desperation, I managed to pick off a couple guys as I darted and dived, knowing full well that there was no victory to be had. They say a captain should go down with his ship, but whoever said that has never been to war. The only goal out there is to not get killed. So I gave up the fight, conceded, knowing full well that my friends had sacrificed themselves for nothing. Three months later, I still remember that day. It’ll never leave me, as long as I live. And looking back on it now, all I know is this: I’m never playing dodge ball with the fifth graders again.