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, its 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, bullets slicing through the air overhead.
His chinstrap unclasps, causing his helmet, once olive, now blanketed in dust, to slide over his vision as he awaits the throbbing in his ears to settle.
He opens his eyes, sensing the sting of grit and tiny pieces of shrapnel floating like angry hornets through the paltry air. In the distance he can now hear the voices of his enemy, calling out to one another in foreign tongue. If only he could understand their jargon...
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, turning the radio off. The voices fall silent. How far did the sound travel? Has his whereabouts been discovered?
He rises to a sitting position behind the brick husk of what was once the home to many civilians and their children, no doubt long gone by now.
He can hear the thudding of combat boots approaching. Small plumes of dust rising from earth's scarred surface. The sound of many, from different angles.
Realizing 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 flame 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 an unforgiving mountainside surrounding him, the blazing sand under his torn fatigues, and the vacant angst expressed upon the faces of the few survivors left behind. The one's he's fighting to protect. The same one's willing to turn on him without a moment's hesitation.
He exhales a breath, voices a prayer through a hoarse whisper. A mouthful of dust, and lips chapped like scorched asphalt. Then he grips his weapon, releases a fearful whine, and turns toward the oncoming assault...
"Aww man! Got shot again!" my son exclaims, bent over in frustration. He slams a fist upon the carpeted floor, his legs crossed Indian-style in front of the television. I glance up from the book I'm reading. The Sony reveals a downed soldier lying in a pool of blood, a few splatters trickling like raindrops on the screen.
I look at my son, clutching his XBox controller as if wielding The Hobbit's magical ring and refusing to relinquish its 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 bellows.
Then I hear the eery background music. Moments later I hear the guns.
Christmas 2010. "Call of Duty: Black OPS Edition."
...Jeez, I'm getting old:)
Thanks for reading.