Shadai clutched the rifle to his chest. It was the only thing he was sure existed. His breath rasped. He didn’t know if he was cold or hot. He perspired inside his combat suit. He was afraid. His teeth were clenched. He clutched the rifle even more tightly. His fingers throbbed. His heart drummed.
From far away. Then a sprinkling of gunfire like firecrackers. Such an unimpressive sound. Not at all like the movies. This was no movie. This was real. This was happening. This was happening right now and yet he still could not believe it.
His own death edged closer. He was aware of the danger and he was afraid and yet he was also absent. His consciousness was floating somewhere between the combat suit that he wore and the rifle that he held. He was sure he would lose his mind if he were to become fully cogent of his situation.
That one struck a nearby building and broke it to pieces. His goggles fogged up and he tried to wipe them with the back of his hand. He couldn’t unclench his teeth. He was still holding the rifle. There was a voice in his head, but he pushed it away—there was no time for that now.
Shadai was down. He couldn’t reach his rifle. He couldn’t feel his arms or his legs. But they were still there. He could move. He could crawl. He made his way through the darkness, feeling the way with his hands. And that voice, again, ringing in his ears like God speaking to an unbeliever:
“Team E: respond.”
“Team D: respond.”
“Team K: respond.”
Shadai unclipped his earpiece: there were no voices here.
He waited for another explosion.