Mid-afternoon. The lights in the tree have been twinkling since sunrise. Silent flames dance in scarlet cheer from the gas fireplace. Through the front window the world rests quietly in gray doldrums, the air thick with moisture. Occasionally a car drifts by, it's exhaust fumes dissipating like scattering leaves in the wind. ...and the holiday is observed.
Meanwhile, a lone soldier clings an uzi to his waist as he rolls behind the wreckage from a recently destroyed apartment building as bullets slice through the air overhead.
His chinstrap unclasps, causing his helmet, once olive, now covered in dust, to slide over his eyes as he waits for the buzzing in his ears settle.
He opens his eyes, immediately feeling the sting of grit and tiny pieces of shrapnel floating through the paltry air. In the distance he can hear the voices of his enemy, calling out to one another in foreign tongue. If only he could understand them...
From his belt the two-way radio chirps. What remains of the rest of his squadron, calling out to him. He quickly taps the receiver with a forefinger, then turns the radio off. The voices fall silent. Did they hear it? Did they discover his whereabouts?
He rises to a sitting position behind the brick husk of what was once the home to many civilians and their children who are no doubt long gone by now.
He can hear the thudding of combat boots approaching. Several pairs, from different angles.
Knowing he's cornered, he clutches the sub-machine gun with both hands and looks up through the soot to the sun above. It's the same ball of fire he's seen countless times throughout his life. But from this strange, desolate place, it's somehow different. Not as friendly. It's managed to absorb the turbulence of the unforgiving mountainside surrounding him, of the blazing sand under his torn fatigues, and of the vacant angst expressed on the faces of the few survivors left behind. The one's he's fighting to protect. The same one's who turn on him without a moment's hesitation.
For a moment he closes his eyes, saying a prayer through a hoarse whisper. Then he releases a breath, grips his weapon, and turns toward the oncoming assault...
"Awww man! Got shot again!" my son exclaims, bent over in frustration in front of the television. I glance up from the book I'm reading. The television shows a downed soldier lying in a pool of blood, a few splatters having clouded the screen itself.
I look to my son, clutching his XBox controller as if wielding The Hobbit's magic ring and positively refusing to relinquish it's power.
Still bent over in defeat, his eyes find my gaze from across the room. The corner of his mouth curls up in a grin. "Care if I try again?" he asks.
I roll my eyes, shrug my shoulders, and return to my book.
"You're going down lousy terrorists!" my son exclaims.
Then I hear the eery background music. Moments later I hear the guns.
Christmas 2009. Modern Warfare.
...Jeez I'm getting old.