Outside the sounds of gunfire are ringing through the night. This is wartime, and my partner just stepped on a landmine that blew him to bits. I had shifted just out of reach of the
blast, and only caught some hot shrapnel in my arm. A bar, still intact, sat next to the blast site, so I ran inside as bullets poured down from the enemy’s higher ground.
A plane overhead dropped a few bombs down onto their heads, and their building crumbled apart into a heap of rubble. Dust kicked up and swallowed up
the street, swallowing sandbags and grenade craters and dead bodies. Some of it seeps into the bar through the bullet holes in the walls and windows. I scuttle over to the
bar, throw my rifle on it and fall to the ground, slamming back against it. I flip my pack around, adjusting myself, and pull out a canteen of water and a can with
some much needed carbohydrates and protein in it. Pulling my knife out of its sheaf, I sink it into the top of the can, and I twist and turn the blade until the top bends over,
and scoop the food up with my dirty fingers. The water tastes good, the minerals swirling around as I swish it in my mouth. I finish my little meal, throw the
can down, and stand up and walk around behind the bar. An old bottle of whiskey sits on the dusty shelf. I twist the top off and take a large swig. It’s rough and cheap and hits
me hard. I take my jacket off, and unbutton and remove my shirt. I wipe dirt off a mirror on the shelf and cover the knife with whiskey, and look in the mirror as I sink my knife into the skin
of my arm, twisting and turning until the shrapnel from the landmine pops out. My vision almost clouds up from the pain, but I remain determined until all the pieces
are removed. I throw some whiskey on my wounds, grunting, and pull a bandage from my pack and wrap my arm with it, nice and tight. I button up my shirt and throw
my jacket back on, and then I notice in the mirror someone sitting on a stool at the bar. I turn to see a small girl, a child, staring ahead with dead eyes, her mouth slightly agape. She’s covered in dirt, crusted onto
her skin and red hair, and I can barely tell her dress is pink through all the gray. She’s looking at my chest, but I can tell she’s not really seeing me. There’s nothing in front of her,
or around her. She hardly moves, only her shallow breaths making her back and chest slowly rise and fall. I look at her, wanting to say something, but can’t think of
anything right. But I get an idea. I look beneath the bar and pull out two glasses. I wipe them out with a cloth, barely removing any dust, and place one in front
of her and the other in front of me, and I grab the whiskey. I pour just a bit for her, not knowing how much her little body can take, and I fill mine nearly to the brim. I lift my
glass up and grin, and she finally looks up at me. She looks down at her cup, picks it up, and looks back at me, and I thrust my glass towards her. She smiles as she understands,
and we clink our glasses, like her mother and father must have. I throw mine back, and have to gasp and cough, but she sips hers slowly, only giving a slight sigh once she’s
done. We lock eyes again, and hers are no longer dead, and she smiles a lovely smile, as if a stranger just gave her water in the desert. Gunfire erupts from a plane above,
slipping some bullets in through the windows, and I hear a round ricochet off a table. Blood and brains coat the bar as her body is flung from the stool. I close my eyes. I wish I was in disbelief.
Picking up my pack and my rifle, I walk around the bar to her. I move her mangled little body around until she’s flat on her back with her arms to her side. Her eyes are dead
again, and I close them and cover them with a nickel and a penny, hoping that’s enough pay for the ferry. I move towards the backdoor of the bar, cock my rifle, and take a long, slow, deep breath. And
then I kick the door down and go outside, once more into the fray. Once more into the war. Once more into Hell.