Please read the beginning of this story as shown within the “Afghanistan Story” tab above.
Afghanistan, July 2010, Camp Delaram
I am on patrol, carrying multiple weapons and two backpacks. Sgt P and I come to a corner and stack on the edge before proceeding around it with purpose and intent to kill. There’s a crowd of civilians in the street and they turn to us as we round the corner. Their faces are filled with hatred and they swarm us with malice in their eyes. I raise my weapon and point it at an a man who morphs into a small child before me who starts to run at me. Horrified, I continue to aim at the child. “We can’t shoot!” Is the voice Sgt P? I look around. I don’t see him anymore. I am alone but surrounded by an angry crowd of dirty and laughing children and spitting men and women in brightly colored robes, all massed around me, pressing in on me, pushing me down. I can’t raise my weapon anymore. I waited too long to act. They crowd above me. Angry and laughing at my pain, they press down onto me. There’s a Marine taking pictures of my terror “This is so cool!” I feel like they are sitting on me, on my chest, restricting my breathing, and I struggle to inhale. I feel my chest try to rise but the weight is too much. I try to breathe. I try. With the strangled breath that I could muster, I start to scream…
I bolt upright in my bed, the nightmare reverberating in my mind, and instantly realize that something is seriously wrong. I actually can’t breathe. I’m drenched in sweat and the air around me is thick and so hot that my vision seems wavy. I struggle to sit up and find that my bed is wet with sweat. I swing my feet out to the edge of the bed and try to stand. When my feet hit the floor, I instantly yank them back with a yelp of pain.
The floor must be 110 degrees!
I look at the tube that the AC normally runs out of. It hangs limply. I was inside of the can without air conditioning for god knows how long. I was being baked in the Afghanistan sun.
How long was I asleep?
I swallow hard and realize that my throat is cracked.
I must have actually screamed to wake up.
I try to breathe and still can’t. Almost passing out, I put on my flip flops, grab my rifle, and limp to the tent flap two feet from my bed. I struggle to lift the zipper and fall out of the can into the blazing sun.
The 120 degree air felt like cool water pouring down my throat as my lungs were filled. I realized the camp was silent when I couldn’t hear the usual drone of the generators. I look around and no one is in sight.
They must be all working. Only night shift would be in the tents right now. What the fuck happened? Why aren’t the generators running?
I walked to a bunker and collapsed in the shade. I felt drained of everything. Looking at my watch, I realized it was 1400 and I had five more hours until my shift started.
Shit. I can’t go back to that oven.
I laid down in the sand and closed my eyes. The nightmare came flooding back to me and I bolted upright again.
Nah. I’m good. I don’t need sleep.
I entered the can and dressed quickly before heading in to work five hours early.