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Him in the Dust - Part 1 - 8. Down, Out, Up & Away

August 5th 2006

I came around being rushed across the runway tarmac through a set of double doors and into a large room. I saw a sign that said ‘Trauma Wing’ just in time to know where my destination was. I was confused and dazed. What was going on?

“Hey, where… I mean, what’s happening?” I slurred out as four medics crowded around me. One of them turned around, and I heard a clattering of metal instruments. He returned to face me, holding a pair of scissors and begun cutting into my fatigues.

“Are you in any pain,” one of them asked? I just shook my head.

With the scissors now almost through, the medic clanked them back down on a stainless steel tray next to him before ripping open my uniform, exposing my chest. There was blood everywhere as he inspected me.

I saw him look at his colleague. “Can we get some spirit and a cloth?” He was duly given it, and he soaked the cloth in some kind of alcohol smelling liquid before gently wiping my chest area. “I need two bags of B plus here right away!”

I tried to look down at my chest, but everything was blurry and swaying. I could see blood weeping out of me; at least with what I could actually focus on, it looked like that.

“Am I gonna die?” I asked casually, not really putting much thought into what would happen if the answer was yes.

The main medic guy, who was doing and saying the most, suddenly stood up and looked again at his colleagues. I could have sworn a smile came over his face.

“Phew, That’s a lot of blood for a scratch,” he announced, shaking his head. “Maybe eight stitches?” he added. One of the other medics nodded, and he then walked away.

“Private Biden, can you understand me?” Said another medic, leaning over my face, adorned in a blue mask.

“Yes,” I said. “I’m a bit dizzy, though. What’s going on?

“You have a shallow wound on your chest, but you have lost a lot of blood. The bullet is probably lodged in your armour vest, you're very lucky. You require some stitches and a blood transfusion but will be good in no time. It was not as bad as the blood was leading us to believe. There may be a small scar left behind, but it will be barely notable. I know how you buff boys like to remain blemish-free.” he said, letting out a small chuckle. “I’m joking, but anyway you can relax, you’re going to be fine.”

“Erm, I can’t say I thought about it. Can I ask about Private Hans?”

“Thought about what, Private?”

“Huh? I dunno; what did I just say? Oh yeah, you said about blemish-free skin. I can’t say I’ve ever thought about it. But, hey, did I ask you about Private Hans? I think I did.”

“Who?” Asked another of the medics.

“He was with my company. He was hit in the back. What is his status?”

“I don’t know if we have anyone in this wing names Hans. But he may come in later.”

“No, that’s not possible; he should be here now; he is critical.”

“Try not to move too much, Private; We need to get you patched up. Does this soldier come from your company?”

“For fuck sake, what is this, some kind of conspiracy?” I yelled, irrationally.

The doctors didn’t seem fazed by my outbursts. Was I off my face?

Strange feeling!

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ 

It was the afternoon in the hospital wing, and I was lying on a bed with a table like object across my chest. I must have fallen asleep. My whole body felt tingly and itchy, and I was trying to concentrate as hard as I could on the TV that was stuck on the wall. I knew it was the news, and I could hear two people conversing, but whatever was being said was beyond me. I just couldn't take it in!

Worst of all, although I’d been here for some time now. I don’t remember much about how I got from that compound to this room.

“Nurse?” I called, surprising myself with the sluriness in my voice. A young lady came over to me.

“Yes, Private?”

“I feel odd.”

She looked at me inquisitively. “Are you in any pain?”

“No, I itch everywhere.”

“You have been administered morphine; this is a side effect.”

“Right, okay. Hey, I need to ask. My friend…”

“Yes, Private, Lukas Hans, you have asked several times. I’m sorry, but I don’t have any news for you.”

“I haven't asked before, have I?”

“Try and stay calm Private, you have lost quite a bit of blood and need to rest!”

“My wound, is it gonna be okay?”

“The small operation went fine.”

“Will I be out of here soon?”

“Eventually, but right now, you need to try and get some sleep.”

She went to walk away. “But I need to know about Lukas. And where is my unit?... And sleeping is what I have just done! Grrrrr!”

“I’m sorry Private; I don’t have that much information.”

I slapped my hands down on the bed and huffed, “It’s always a secret, ain’t it.”

“Private, the morphine will….”

“Yeah, yeah, I know! I’m probably talking bollocks, but my questions about my comrades are clear in my head. And can you turn that damn TV off?”

The nurse walked over to the wall, switched the device off, and went back to her little makeshift office. I was stuck here and feeling out of sorts. The fucking itching was now getting inside my head. It felt like ants crawling all over me. I closed my eyes briefly before a familiar voice caused me to open them again.

“Hey, Sicknote, how you feeling?”

It was Tank.

“I’ve been better. But, what’s happening? No one is telling me anything.”

Tank pulled up a chair. “I need to tell you something, Seb.”

“He’s dead, ain’t he?” I asked, feeling emotional all of a sudden.

“No, Seb, he made it, just.”

“Talk to me, Tank; I need to know where he is. What happened to him?”

Tank threw his head back and blew out a breath.

“He, uh...he's been in theatre for 8 hours, and he’s now in Intensive Care. They are flying him back to the UK in a few days. He was shot in the back and bled out. His heart stopped four times, but they managed to get it started again and gave him six blood transfusions.”

“Is he awake?”

“No, he’s in a coma, Seb, and….”

“Just say it!”

“They erm...uh, they don’t know if he’s got brain damage.”

I tried to sit up but failed. “What? What do you mean they don’t know?!”

“They need to get him back for a scan. We don’t have the equipment here, so they need to see what's going on in his head. You see….”

“Yes?” I said, waiting for more information impatiently.

“His heart stopped several times, and they don’t know how much oxygen was still in his body when they got it started again. They said that his brain might have been starved of air for longer than it can be.”

“So this scan, will that say if he’ll wake up again?”

“Seb, you’re asking the wrong person. I just got told the basics of his condition. So I think you’re gonna have to wait and see.”

“Fuck sake. When I get out of here, I’m gonna find that fuck who did this and piss over his pathetic corpse and strap an IED to him and watch him disintegrate!”

“I’ve been told you’re done here, is that right?

“Well, I’m no fucking good to any of you like this, am I?” I barked. “I’m sorry, I don’t mean to be like this. I just fucking itch, and I’m worried about Spinner. I’m also as angry as fuck!”

“We all are, mate. Hopefully, things will work out, yeah?”

“I’m sorry I forgot to ask... how are you and Jack doing?”

“I’m okay. Jack is pretty shaken up. It was a shit show in there. We got all of them, but it was poorly executed.”

“It was that fucking Yank. Where was Sgt Bennet?”

“He’s been reassigned to the north with half our regiment.”

“What the fuck? Why don't we ever get told anything?”

“I think the war is going badly, but no one want's to say it. We need more troops on the ground, and we have lost six Vikings due to IEDs. And we have a C-17 out of action on the runway, which got hit on the tail as it was coming in. We’ve got to borrow another one from the Americans to get some of you home. America is also lending us five C-130’s to help the supply chain. We also have 3 Harrier's out of action needing parts waiting to be shipped from home. I think things will improve once we get more equipment and troops.”

“What the fuck is this, we're the fifth richest country in the world, not Sudan! I don’t want to hear any more. But, listen, can you see if you can get me out of here to see Lukas. I need to see him.”

“I dunno if that's possible; I don't have any contacts. But I can ask Jack?”

“Yeah, yeah, please do, and ask him if he can get me to see Lukas.”

Tank looked at me strangely "Uh, Pal?"

"What?"

"Never mind," Tank replied, not continuing. I hate it when people do that.

"Tank?" I whispered, looking over to my right. "I need to tell you something." Tank leaned in to my face. "I swear that nurse over there hates me. She keeps putting that TV on and then turning it off. Don't say anything to her will you. I don't want to let on I know what she's up to."

Tank got up from “Cool, well, I'll leave you to it, I have a briefing at eleven, and I wanna get some food.”

“Tank, I love you, man. Take it easy, yeah?”

“Okay, morphine head. I love you too. Get well; I’ll swing by as soon as I can with Jack.”

August 8th 2006

Three days had passed, and I got told Lukas had been flown back home. I hadn’t been allowed to see him and was told virtually nothing. Apparently, only those who had partner’s injured or killed in the country were allowed ‘extra’ information, as they called it. Since Lukas and I were not together, I got treated like any other stranger, which really upset me.

I wanted to lie and say we were a couple, but my pride… no, not pride... my reluctance to admit, or suggest I was gay was just not an option. I felt weak, selfish and angry at myself for that. So no, we were not a couple, but we did have something here in Afghanistan. I don’t know what lies ahead in the UK. I’m scared to think about it because I’m worried that back home, the feelings I had, well, won’t be the same. After all, they’ll be playing out in a different environment.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~

August 17th 2006

I seemed to find myself in the mess hall quite a lot lately. I was eating far more than my body needed. Jack said I was comfort eating, but the good thing is I was sticking to salads and coffee. Not suitable to fill up on calories when you’re so incapacitated because of a fucking Taliban asshole. I wanted to exercise so bad. It was a way for me to release tension and anger. Anger was now building daily, and there didn’t seem to be an outlet.

The mess hall was also an excellent place to be away from my bunk. Yeah, I mean, I had Tank and Jack there, but seeing Lukas’s empty bed each day just reminded me how bad things were for him. I wished he had never gotten under my skin as he did. I resisted him so much. I fucking hated the fact I had to bother about him. I hated the fact I had someone that was on my mind all the time. I fucking hated my life so bad right now!

With daily Physio, I was now able to move my arms properly without screaming out in pain. Apparently, all the muscles connect, and my movements earlier were irritating the wound. I did have the option of a wheelchair, which I tried not to rely on too much. But it was great to be up and about. Unfortunately, tank and Jack had been sent back out on patrols, and I worried like crazy each time.

I was beginning to hate it here. My motivation seemed gone, and I struggled with being a soldier in a war I thought was going nowhere. My life had been turned upside down by a person I loved to hate!

Actually, do I mean that?


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

It was eight o’clock, and I was lying on Jack’s bunk. He has offered to swap for apparent reasons. I was trying my best to read. But what with the throbbing pain in my chest and the damn thoughts of Lukas invading my head, I put the thing down and threw a pen I'd found at Tank, who was laying down listening to music.

He jumped up, taking his earbuds out. “What?” He asked, mildly annoyed.

“Where’s your shadow?”

“Playing football with a few of the lads.”

“And you’re here because?”

“Looking after you.”

“Liar! What's up?”

Tank got up and sat on Lukas’s bed, opposite me.”

“My Nan died today. She passed while I was out on patrol. I only found out when I got back.”

“Fuck Tank, I’m so sorry. Why didn’t you say?”

He waved his hand at me. “I didn’t want a fuss. And besides. Worse things are going on right now. She’d lived a long life. I just wish I had been with her.”

“Man, that sucks. Here, come sit with me.”

Tank came over and sat next to me on the bottom bunk, and I put my arm around him. Tank was a hard shell, but I knew this would have hit his mushy interior.”

“Anyway, Don’t make too much fuss,”

“You can cry, you know, if that's what you need. You might be a soldier, but it’s okay!”

“I just have something in my eye. Anyway, how are you doing? You’ve been really pissed off these last few days. Jack says he feels like he’s treading on eggshells around you.”

“Can I tell you something?”

“Of course, anything.”

“Me and Lukas were...I mean are, well….”

“Well?”

“Sort of involved.”

Tank’s eyes seemed to expand outwards, and a wry smile came over his face.

“You boning each other? Get the fuck out of here!”

“No, it’s not like that. It’s nothing like that at all.”

“Well, what then? What are you actually saying?”

I took a deep breath and sighed. “I don’t know what we are, but I needed to tell you.”

“So what are you saying then? He’s your boyfriend?”

“No, not even that. I just think we connected deeply, and maybe the best way to explain it is halfway between friends and something more.”

“Sounds intense.”

“Do you mind?”

“Why, what have I done?”

“No, stupid, I mean, do you mind me telling you. And do you mind what I told you?”

“No, why should I?”

“No, it’s just...ah forget it. But anyway, that's the reason I’ve been pissed off. I’m apprehensive about him. That and this fucking chest wound.”

“He’s a good guy and strong. He’ll pull through. Just you see.”

Just then, there was a shuffling of footsteps outside the door. Jack came bundling in and Corporal Maddox popped his head in our tent.

“Lads, how goes it?”

“Fine. But do you think I could get another fan in here? I’m sweating so bad at night,” I asked, wiping my forehead.

“No need, Seb, that’s why I’m here. You’re on a C-17 tomorrow at Six am. Get an early night.

“Really, Do you know why? I’m healing fine and....”

My Corporal dipped his chin and left.

Jack and Tank just stared at me. “Why are they sending you home?

I shook my head. “Dunno, Jack, beats me.”

“So that’s it then, the fab four will be no more.” Tank said, slumping on his bed.

“What’ve you both got? Three months left?” I asked, not being able to think of something comforting

“About that, I guess. So, you looking forward to going home?” Jack asked.

I wiped another few beads of sweat from my forehead and puffed. “Be good to see family again. Oh, and of course, visit Lukas.”

“We must all get together again, right?”

“Fuck yeah, Tank. We are tight, and I don't think I’d be alive if it were not for you and Jack. I love you both more than you know. What a fucking journey this has been.”

Tank smiled and ruffled my hair. “Get some rest; I’m gonna go kick a ball around while the air is bearable out there.”

“Go for it! See you later!”

~~~~~~~~~~~~~

August 18th 2006 - 05:20

The alarm went off, waking Tank and Jack up. I grabbed my phone to silence the ringtone I had meant to change since I unboxed it back at home.

“Sorry guys, this is it, time for me to get ready.”

I could hear Jack shuffling around above me in the top bunk before seeing his hairy legs hang down. Then, finally, he jumped to the floor and rubbed his eyes.

“I’ll help you get your gear sorted.”

“Tank looked over the side of his bunk and put his hand up. “Man, it's early.”

I respected him for not sleeping on the bottom bunk where Lukas used to be. Of course, it was never mentioned, but his bed was left made up neatly, and no one or nothing was ever put on it.

“Actually, I’ll make us some coffee, first,” Jack said, wandering around our small box room looking for some plastic cups.

“Jack, In the cupboard, chuck us some lube.”

“Lube?” Jack asked, wincing, confused.

“Yeah, I am super horny this morning. I need to rub one out quickly.”

“Ahhh, man,” I said, smirking.

Jack hunted through the cupboard and pulled out a small bottle of Liquid Silk Tank had brought with him - him being circumcised… Of course. We never got around to having a conversation about why, as it was not the done thing in our country.

“Two sugars for me, Jacko and by the time that kettle boils, these balls will be empty.”

I sat up on my bed and contemplated what to do first while Jack made coffee. I briefly looked over at Tank, who had his eyes closed, tugging away. I deliberately watched him for a few seconds just to see if I found the act of him jerking off somehow erotic. But there was nothing. I was okay with it, of course. I mean, we all have needs; we’re young, and with no women around to speak off, I think we all sympathised with our drives. Jack acted like it was something that happened every day. But I must admit I’d never seen any of us ‘publicly’ get off. It was always something done in the shower or when everyone was asleep. At least, that was my routine. Anyway, I am now wondering why I am still speaking about this. The clock is ticking.

I got up just as Tank came, and Tank was never quiet in that respect. Jack burst out laughing while I rolled my eyes.

“Feel better?” I said, walking slowly over to my tiny closet.

“Man, what a load, here guys, come and look at this!”

“NO!” We both shouted in unison, laughing… albeit mine rather forced if I’m honest.

05:26

Jack had got most of my gear out of the closets and cupboards and packed it all up neatly like we were trained. So everything was always neat and tidy; it was drummed into us. It was a bonus as we seemed to find spaces where no other human could, I always thought.

05:38

I hugged the guys with everything packed and was overcome by emotion as they both stood there together looking at me. Jack had got three guys to take my bags out onto the tarmac, and another had arrived with a wheelchair which I gladly fell into.

“Keep in touch! Or I’ll fucking shoot you with my automatic,” Tank said as Jack wheeled me out. I raised my arm and middle finger but shouted back. “You got it!”

05:49

Out on the tarmac, the sun was already up, and the screaming idle engines from the plane were making it hard for me to hear what Jack was saying. But I think he said he loved me and that we would all get together soon.

A line of my regiment has all lined up to see the six of us who were injured and saluted as we were wheeled onto the plane. I don’t mind admitting I found that act overwhelming. The guys we had fought with, each of them keeping us safe, knowing we had their backs also. I didn’t envy them. I was glad to be going home, just not under these circumstances.

Looking after all of us, Private Jenkins helped me into one of the seats and strapped me in before ruffling my hair.

“Enjoy your flight, muscle man. Be safe.”

“Cheers, man. You get back to Bastion safely every day, yeah. Please say goodbye to all the guys for me.”

“Of course,” he shouted above the noise.

05:59

With us all now strapped into the side of the plane, with various damaged and beat up vehicles in the middle of the aircraft, the cargo door started to raise.

I put my earbuds in and selected a song I knew I would play when this moment came. With Darude’s ‘Sandstorm’ blaring in my ears, I felt the engines rev up. Everything was vibrating, and I just put my head back and closed my eyes.

I was going home!

06:00

Take Off!

End of Part 1

I really hope you all enjoyed Part 1 of Him In the Dust. It was great fun to write and, at times, emotional as I did my research. No matter what you think of the Afghanistan war, as in whether it was right or not, you can’t help but feel proud and humble of the work our Service Personnel do to keep us safe. As I researched, I was moved reading first-hand accounts of what went on… and is still going on, in that dusty, sandy hell zone. I just hope I have done those soldiers justice in my description of life in a warzone, and gave a little insight into the hardships they face. You'll be the Judge. Thank you for the kind support and comments you all leave. I read every one!

Copyright © 2021 James Matthews; All Rights Reserved.
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Great chapter. So Lukas is alive, condition unknown and Seb has been patched up an medical evacuation. Can't wait to see what happens with Lukas and Seb.

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Wow, what a great series!  Can’t wait to see where this goes from here!

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You do write very emotional drama without much expressed emotion... amazing stuff. Its great to read stories about people who you actually know enough about to really care for.

Thanks.

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Thank you for a great Part 1!   Shall be looking forward to Part 2 (hopefully on the way soon?)

 

I must say, Him In The Dust is a very interesting (and in its way, exciting) departure from your regular works (Saturday Boy, Puppy for Sale, Purity).  So more reason for me to look forward to, a different flavour to read.  👍

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Just now, Canuk said:

You do write very emotional drama without much expressed emotion... amazing stuff. Its great to read stories about people who you actually know enough about to really care for.

Thanks.

Thank you for the kind words Canuk. I am humbled and glad you liked part 1. It was a pleasure to write.

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Just now, mgl said:

Thank you for a great Part 1!   Shall be looking forward to Part 2 (hopefully on the way soon?)

 

I must say, Him In The Dust is a very interesting (and in its way, exciting) departure from your regular works (Saturday Boy, Puppy for Sale, Purity).  So more reason for me to look forward to, a different flavour to read.  👍

Thanks very much. Yes Part 2 is being written as I speak. As for the departure on my normal stuff. Yeah I wanted to come outside my comfort zone and write something that was fiction, but still real. Unlike my other stuff which was a little bit of me sprinkled in each one, this story had to be researched to get the feel and base right. Of course the characters came from my head, but the setting is real. I'm made up you enjoyed it. Thank you for the comment. 

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A heart wrenching chapter, all I can say is well done and thanks, now...on to Part 2!!

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It was a great read packed with powerful emotions that, as far as I'm concerned, were true to form detailing real scenarios of a very difficult war zone! Excellent writing considering this was "outside your comfort zone"!  Thank you James.

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