My comrades and I place explosives around a massive cave and blow it open.  There is nothing but darkness in front of our faces as we slowly creep into the cavern.  Ten slow steps forward and a fleet of enemy men look at us straight in the face.  A bullet buzzes past my ear and I dive to the ground.  My partner David and I scurry out of the cave as the enemy lobs hand-grenades in our direction. The blasts vibrate through my body and I look myself over to make sure everything is still in tact.

On our feet we run toward our platoon and dive over the trench wall that was so carefully prepared.  Our troops provide cover as the enemy sprints from the cave so intent on ending our lives.  David fired a shot and I saw the scalp peel back and explode from the side of one of the enemy’s head.  I cringed at the sight as this was my first experience of war.  I fired, our platoon fired, and one by one the enemies dropped to their knees and then landed face down in the dust of the desert.

The goal of this steamy afternoon is to rescue the hostages that are being held in a cave and that’s exactly what we accomplished.  I look at the people my comrades rescued prior to David and me retreating from the cave. With thankful expressions on their faces, they looked at me and smiled thankfully.  Their expressions were highlighted by the sun, exposing their creased rough skin, which made even the youth appear older than they were.  I reached forward to shake each of their hands and they eagerly reached back.  I only remember how bony and dry each hand felt, some of them deformed from lack of nutrition and health care.

I received word to vacate my position and head back to our truck to prepare to move to another hostile environment in the area.  Our mission, to make our way through the territory and secure it from the enemy.  Our truck sped through the small village as various groups lined the street.  Some spat at us for invading their village, others cheered and reached for us as we passed by.  I waved proudly as our commander turned right and rounded the corner to our destination.  Once making the turn, the vision of the people vanished.  We are alone in an alley between two run-down multi-story brick buildings.  In front of us is a dead end, and on the side of us were seven children looking at us with big dark eyes and tattered clothing.  They waited until we came to a complete stop and all of us noticed them.  They stared intensely at us and began counting down from five.

I appeared to be the only one that was aware of what was about to happen; the ambush that so instantly sat in our future. I crawled to the top of our truck and then jumped to the front, holding on for my life.  “Two, one,” the children chanted.  Barrels of high-powered weapons protruded from the buildings around us, and bullets sprayed our truck full of holes.  I jumped from the truck and hid between a fence and an abandoned vehicle nearby. I curled my knees to my chest and watched as the enemy appeared on the other side of the fence.  His black eyes focused on our truck, his dirty black hair whipped in the wind as dirt ran down his broad cheeks from the sweat of war. His brow wrinkled as he squinted and pulled the trigger on his weapon.  I looked over my right shoulder to see my commanders body shred by glass exploding from the windshield of our truck.  The stench of gun powder filled the air, the screams of children echoed in the streets, and my eyes kept stinging from the swirling dust.

The enemy turned his head and focused his eyes on my, squinting.  We watch each other from our sides of the fence.  Silence surrounded my head as all the noise of war faded away.  We were studying each other for what seemed like several minutes but was in fact only seconds.  The barrel of his high-powered weapon swiftly moved to his right and was pointed directly at my face.  He fired one round and I started to crawl for my life. My ears were ringing and becoming more numb with each blast from his weapon.  I heard a click and I turned to see that he was out of ammo and frantically trying to reload.  Scurrying to my feel I dart through the small neighborhood and into a skinny rock-filled alley that ran between the back of the building and the fence.

I saw my enemy start running in my direction.  Unsure if he had successfully reloaded, I ran until I reached the dead end of the alley.  Surrounding me was a fence at least eight feet tall, topped with three electric wires and wrapped with poison ivy all the way back as far as I could see. Fearing for my life I grip the fence and begin to climb.  Getting as close as I could to the top without being electrocuted and swing my legs over, jump, and fall to ground on my back. The wind being knocked out of me, I gasp for air and stagger to my feet.  I reached to my side, grabbed my weapon and fired three shots in the direction of my chasing enemy. His knee exploded as one of my bullets penetrated his muscular leg.  He fell to the ground screaming in pain and reaching for his now missing knee. His comrades rushed to aid doing the best they could to help him, and completely forgot about me as I vanished into a neighborhood of small homes.

I made my way through backyards and across streets. Just as I was noticed in my American war gear, a group of patrolling SUV’s headed in my direction. I rounded the corner of a single-floor brick apartment building. Two small children, probably six years old, spun around and looked at me with wide, startled eyes.  They ran into their home and slammed the door as I started in their direction.  I smashed through their front door as the enemy officers appeared out of the corner of my eye.  The children screamed and their mother did the same.  I told them, “I won’t hurt you,” but they didn’t understand my American English.  The frail woman held her children to her bosoms, one arm around each of them. She slid down the wall into a seated position, taking her children with her.  She looked at me with eyes full of tears and a heart overwhelmed with terror. I put a new clip of ammo into my weapon and cautiously hid in the small kitchen of the apartment.

In my fear of the battle about the take place, I glanced around and took in my surroundings.  An ant all by itself, like me, scurried across the kitchen floor.  My first instinct was to kill it just as I’m sure was the instinct of my enemy standing right outside of the apartment.

The pounding of a fist against the weak wooden door brought me out of my distracting thoughts and into reality. The door splintered and exploded off the hinges as a tall black man stormed into the apartment. He presented a gold badge on his right breast and lower ranking officers followed on his tail. He yelled something in a foreign language but I stayed hidden in the kitchen as I heard his men start searching the place.

I saw his gun slowly appear as he walked towards where I hid.  I jumped from the kitchen, grabbing him and slamming his large framed body into a wall. We fell to the tattered, carpeted floor.  I struck him with my bloody elbow and then smashed his arm to the ground.  Still holding his weapon, he struggled to free his pinned limb. I ripped the gun from his hand, jumped off of him, staggered to my feet, and pointed his own weapon at him.  I watched as he slowly began to stand up.  His comrades sprinted from the rear of the apartment in our direction and halted as they saw their commander looking down the barrel of his own gun. I pulled the trigger and his gun clicked. My eyes widened and I opened the magazine to see that it was empty of bullets.  I looked back up to see him aiming another gun at me.

Knowing the enemy standing in front of me had tricked me, he fired one shot.  The bullet penetrated my chest and lodged in my lungs.  I felt the heat of the foreign object that entered my body. Thick red blood ran down my military gear.  My arms and legs tingled as I rapidly lost blood from my body.  My enemy and his comrades watched me as I dropped to my knees, holding my wound to try and stop the bleeding.

I crawled toward the commander and fell on my stomach as my strength vanished like a storm in the night. I turned my head, the room spun and blurred together.  Everything became foggy, my body felt light, and I slowly shut my eyes.

Right before death overtook my human shell, I woke up in my bedroom looking at my ceiling.  With my heart pounding and my body sweating, I sat up in bed. A dream apparently, with vivid clarity and realism unlike anything I have ever experienced.  I was alive, the same simple man I was before I crawled into bed that night.  I let out a sigh of relief and leaned back down on my bed, bringing the covers snugly around my chin.