The Afghani desert, pinned down by machine-gun fire, is no place to day dream. At the bottom of a hill behind a bunker, six men fight a nearly immoveable force. The Taliban have made a bunker out of a cave. They also have six men pinned down, fearing for their lives. These six men want nothing more than to be home. Home is what’s on everyone’s mind, particularly for Specialist York. Specialist York has always been in the moment and has always had his head on straight and never off in the clouds. However, amidst moments of high stress, monotony, or on the edge of sleep, a person can be transported to somewhere else without even closing an eye. Day dreams can become realities in between moments of desperation and high stress.
York stared into the ground, as if trying to look through it. He looked deeper and deeper into the sand and dirt. Through the rocks and the machine gun fire. Through the pebbles and mortars. Corporal James Peterson grabbed his arm and said, “You thinking? If you’re jus’ lookin’ for rocks, then look around you, man! They’re flyin’ over your head.”
York, considering what Peterson had said, looked up. He shook off some of the debris left on his shoulders and helmet from the mortars. “Sorry, James, I was thinking about home. I just wanna go back.”
“Look, Yorkie, we all what to go home. Now snap outta it. The boys think you’ve done lost your mind.” Corporal Peterson yelled a bit louder than he should’ve.
York glanced around to the troops, at the four men that were left. He managed a smile and put out his hand ushering them down, closer to the ground and out of sight of the gunners on top of the hill.
“I’m good!” yelled York as Corporal Peterson inched closer.
“To hell with this!” yelled Private Carheart, as he stood up and cocked his gun.
“Sit down, Private!” yelled the Corporal. “We’ve got a plan, and it doesn’t involve you dying.”
“To hell with you too then. Now I’m taking this goddamned hill. No sense sitting here!”
With that Private Carheart took off around the dune that was giving the men cover. The machine gun zeroed in on Carheart, as if they knew what he was going to do. Their group now consisted of three privates, Corporal Peterson, and Specialist York.
“Ok, here’s the plan Yorkie,” said Corporal Peterson as if unfazed with what just went on. “I’m gonna need some cover fire. You see that big rock to the left of us about four meters out? I’m gonna make a run for it.”
“But why, James?”
“Don’t interrupt me, boy. Then after a moment – and I hope they don’t see me – I’m gonna make a run for that damned machine gun. When you see me give the signal I’ll start runnin’ for the post. I’m gonna need grenades and heavy cover fire.”
York considers this is a suicide mission. “But does Peterson know that, or is he just being ballsy?” York asked himself. York decided that it was Peterson’s decision. “Weapons check!” York shouted. He startled the men, but they shouted off.
“Two and a half magazines!” shouted Thomas, with an M-4 Carbine.
“One mag and a few left in this mag, two grenades!” yelled Miller, who also had an M-4 Carbine.
“About two drums left, and two grenades also, sir!” said Bamber, in a gruff voice that matched his equally gruff M249 Saw.
“Alright, James,” said York. “We can cover you, but not for long, so be quick!”
York shook hands with probably the only man who could take an entire army head on, with nothing more than a pistol and a KA-BAR, and win. Corporal James Peterson saluted him and the other three, and prepared to run.
“OK, listen up! I want three round bursts, I need two grenades thrown to cut the machine gunner off for a moment. The Corporal is gonna make a run for it.”
The men patted Peterson as he went by them to the edge of the dune. York counted to three on his fingers to the men. 1…2…3, and all hell broke loose. Miller and Bamber were over the top with the grenades and Thomas started firing about the same time York did. When Bamber and Miller, dodging bullets, rose up and started shooting, York gave a glance back to the Corporal. He watched him clumsily fall behind the appointed rock, nearly missing every bullet that came hurling towards him.
“Down!” yelled York.
All at once, the men sat down and cowered in the spots that shielded them before. The Taliban let loose an angry array of lead, rocks, and mortars. York, who was just as scared of death as the next man, cowered down and looked at the men, who were grinding their teeth harder and harder with every close impact of shelling. Then he looked towards Peterson. York thrust his hand forward, and a few seconds later Peterson gave a thumbs up.
“Ok, now we wait, wait until theres-a lull,” York said to himself quietly. He’d hoped that the other men had heard him, though.
“What!” screamed Miller.
“We wait!” shouted York.
He saw the terror in their eyes, he had it too. Finally, he’d had it with seeing terror, so he hunkered down and stared back into the dirt. He wanted to be elsewhere, anywhere else, just not in a place where he was pinned down. All he could think of was home. All he saw was brown. Brown dirt, brown rocks, even brown dust that had caked itself to his boots. He saw brown, and he remembered Jenna’s red velvet skirt with a splotch of brown mud on it from rolling around in the grass on his lawn. He remembered the blue polka dots on her white blouse. He remembered pale skin and white teeth… red lips that tasted of cream soda. From that day forward he felt that velvet would taste like cream soda. He then remembered the words that came from her red lipped cream soda mouth. “Please don’t go.”
He needed to go. Every time someone asked him to stay it made him claustrophobic, and he needed to breathe. Friends, family, girlfriend, all of them wanted him to stay, and still he chose to leave.
Blue Eyes was his name for Jenna. He felt suave saying it, like no one in the history of the world had ever called someone that before. He remembered her above average blue eyes under locks of above average golden hair. Bright golden hair that shone like the rays of the sun, but the rays of the sun were clouded with debris all around him, when Miller shook him out of his day dream.
“Sir, the Corporal’s been givin’ you a signal for a few minutes now. You alright?” asked Miller with sincere concern in his voice.
York thought it was only concern for himself, though. Miller didn’t want to die. York couldn’t blame him, he had the same concern. He looked at Peterson who was waving the signal madly with his hands from behind his rock.
“Why’s he rushing things? They haven’t stopped firing yet,” York asked himself. “Alright, boys, same plan as last time. Grenades first, then open up on ’em.”
The men locked and loaded. York threw up the “go” sign to Peterson and the men poked their heads up over the dune, threw the last of their grenades, and opened up on the machine gun outpost. Peterson took off like a shot zigging and zagging his way up the hill. About midway up, the machine gun caught sight of him and changed their direction, but the mortars continued shelling the disheveled men who were quickly running out of ammunition. About that time York run dry on ammunition and focused on Peterson, who was still hauling it up the hill. He wished that the firing would just stop. He wanted so badly to go home. He wished he could go back in time and kill the men atop the hill as they arrived at it. He would go back in time to when they were younger men and kill them all, assuming they were about his age and not teens or children. Even still, at this point, he would’ve gone back to murder their mothers before his opposition could even be born. He thought that it wasn’t right to want their mothers dead. York needed to get out of there, and to just go home. He saw his mother, with wide open arms, ready to embrace him. He saw his father standing next to her smiling and his sister and best friend, Jason. He saw Jenna on the other side of his mother crying. She mouthed the words, “Don’t go.” And he could almost hear her.
“I’m still here!” he yelled as she, the rest of his family, and the wooden porch of the two story house he grew up in, in Illinois, all moved away from him more and more rapidly as black closed in.
“Wake up!” he heard from a very loud voice. It was Miller pulling on his arm. “What’s the plan now, sir?”
“What’s going on?” York asked bewildered as he sat down from standing and looking over the dune.
“They just stopped firin’, all the sudden. Strangest thing is that none of us saw the Corporal make it to the top, he just kinda disappeared, an’ they stopped firin’. But we didn’t hear nothin’. I mean I figure we’da heard from the Corporal or heard him blow them up or sometin’. Right?” asked Miller who was scratching his head.
York considered the facts and came up with two conclusions: one, it’s a trap and they just want them to step out in the open so they could mow them down; or two, something else happened. After waiting a few minutes, the men got fidgety, and York knew he needed to make a decision. They couldn’t turn and run for a couple of reasons. First, they were put there to do a job and secondly, they’d surely be shot down if they hightailed it back, it was open land and they had a lot of it to cover. He decided that they too would rush the hill.
“Ok, Miller and Thomas, you two will take the same route that the Corporal did. How ya sitting on ammo?”
“Empty,” said Thomas.
“I got a few left,” said Miller.
“Ok, use ’em if you have to. Other than that, fix bayonets,” said York as he pulled out his own. “Bamber, you’re coming with me. How’re you for ammo?”
“I got a bit left in this drum,” he said very shaky.
“We’ll try to sneak up in the front. Stay low and don’t fire unless you have to. Save what you’ve got.” York felt that he was back to himself. He felt that his courage would influence the men. He would not look any one of them in the eye. In case one of them was scared and in case it rubbed off on him. “We’ll meet at the top and take this outpost together. Then we’ll go home! Wait for my signal, then go!”
He’d said it, “home” And it gave him a great feeling. He counted 1..2..3 on his fingers and made a fist. Like lightening, the men took off. They met with no resistance on their rather short journey up the hill. When they reached the top, they, all four men, turned into York, standing alone on the edge of his home town. He’d no gun in his hand, and was garbed in civilian clothes. Snow was falling and he could see people rushing to get indoors. It was late and cold, lights were out in the houses he passed on his way to his own. He walked, bewildered, for some time. He almost caught a glimpse of his parents as they escaped around a corner. He almost saw his sister and his best friend throwing snowballs and having a good time, but when he got to the yard they were playing in, there was no one there. The snow got heavier and he grew cold, so he pressed on to his house. “It was good to be home,” he thought. In the back of his mind there was an eerie kind of peace. No one was around, no lights in houses, and no animals barking as he passed fence line after fence line. He stood for a moment outside of his house that was looming dark and quiet. After some time, he noticed red velvet at his front door, and he smiled. He started to feel warm again. He ran up, fully expecting cream soda kisses and warm longing hugs. However, when he reached the door, the red skirt was gone, inside the house was his best guess. So he followed her in. It was cold in the house, no lights were on, but they worked. He ran up and down the stairs and into every room calling for Jenna. With no luck in finding her, he went and sat on the curb in front of his house. He felt cold again. He laid back and watched the snow as it fell into his face. Big downy flakes stuck to his eyelashes and goatee and he considered that being home and alone wasn’t so bad. In fact, it was very pleasant.
Miller pulled on Specialist York’s arm after he decided that too much time had passed for the Corporal’s mission to be successful. He saw a stray bullet had found its way into the forehead of Specialist York. Three men are left alive, behind a dune, in the middle of the Afghani desert. One by one they will meet their deaths. Man can build and jump into the imaginary, part of that fifth dimension. York finally got away from the stress, the monotony and went home. He escaped and left three good men behind. Only, one by one they can escape, but will they escape? Can they, like Specialist York, find another place to go to get away from the imminent death? Even if it is inside their own minds?