Nnijd by Bloodyspaghetti
Remembrance Day is a few days away. It’s this time of the year when the veterans come out and start sharing their stories. I’d like to share a story from mine here. I was one of the few lucky ones to actually survive the war. Most people who come back, they’re not all there. A piece of you dies at war, the awful things we do to each other. It takes a toll. I’ve been to Afghanistan. I’ve taken part in a conflict that had nothing to do with me or my country. Do I believe I‘ve done the right thing? I‘m on the fence with that. Did I help some people? I‘d like to believe that.
My story here today is somewhat different from the usual war horrors stuff. I am here to talk about the one that saved my life. My unit was ambushed in the highlands of Helmand shortly before the battle of Marjah. It was early in the morning, and the Mujahadeen were well prepared. They opened heavy fire on us. A fight ensued. I took a bullet that grazed my liver.
Ever been shot? It feels like a very sharp knife and a very hot rod pierce through your flesh at the same time. It sucks, I’ve been shot before that too. In the heat of a firefight you don’t panic, you can’t. Your body won’t let you. The adrenaline is so high in your system you can pull through, even if it’s just for a bit. So, I grasped at my wound and pressed on. Maybe ten seconds after the searing pain shot through my torn side, I felt myself buckle. Like a bomb went off in my face, my body just collapsed underneath me. My vision started blurring and my ears were bombarded by tinnitus. I guess my vagus nerve didn’t appreciate being disturbed by a stray Mujahadeen bullet.
I thought I was going to die. The flashes of the guns going on became dimmer, and the sounds of combat turned quieter by the moment. I was already about to accept my fate when I saw the shadow.
A shadowy figure approached me from the distance. I couldn’t make out its features, but its general form was very dark and wavy. Like that of a cloak in the wind. I thought I was seeing death coming for me. I remember laughing as the shadow crawled closer to me.
Turns out, I was seeing death, obviously, since I‘m here right now.
The figure scooped me up and carried me somewhere. I don’t remember where to or for how long, all I know I felt myself being hoisted onto something warm before I passed out.
The next thing I know, I‘m in a cave with a bunch of other wounded soldiers. I pulled myself up and my side just screamed. Instinctively I touched the sources of pain and much to my surprise there was no hole. The bullet wound was sealed, but when my fingers probed my torso, a searing sensation rose from a layer of charred leathery skin. My wound had been cauterized. I groaned as I sat up to look around. Inspect my surroundings, eleven other soldiers were lying there, all unconscious and injured to a various degrees.
I didn’t even have time to collect my thoughts about the whole thing when a wooden bowl slid towards me from within the cave. Filled with rice and some sort of meat. I looked in the direction from which the bowl came, and I saw a vague face in the darkness. It nodded before vanishing into the dark. My stomach growled, forcing my mind to go blank as the primal instinct took over and I lunged at the rice bowl. It was fine, honestly, it was good.
I have no idea how long I‘ve spent in that cave, but it must’ve been at least a few days. I spent my time in there humming songs, sleeping, and eating rice and meat that came from the depths of the earth. The boys came to one after the other, but we were all too weak to leave the cave. Marcus lost a leg to a shell. Mac, an eye. Bullet wounds elsewhere were the most common of injuries in our sad makeshift platoon.
I grew fond of these guys.
I was already starting to feel better, stronger when a stray Afghan war dog found us. He had an AK in his hands when he stumbled upon us. He screamed something in Pashto before grinning like a mad man. I rose up to my feet, standing upright for the first time in a few days by that point, I assume. The muj aimed his rifle at me. I tried playing it like I could do something. Told him there were twelve of us and one of him, someone was bound to tackle him down and the rest of us would just tear him to shreds.
My heart was pounding, the adrenaline was coursing through my veins. I didn’t mind dying that day, as long as the dog died with me. The other boys followed suit. We all surrounded him but he remained confident, grinning, and talking to us in tongues
He turned away from me, and his body started shaking, violently. His body started convulsing uncontrollably and his rifle fell out of his hands, accidentally releasing a round into the air. He screamed in pain. In agony, as he collapsed to his knees, convulsing even more viciously than before. His screaming grew louder and louder until he barely sounded human anymore. I remember his scalp sliding off the top of his head, steam rising up from underneath it.
The world had gone silent for me. It froze again, all but a muj shaking and screaming like a demon from the lowest pits of hell as his flesh just falls apart from his frame. Soon enough there was nothing but a bloody red mess consistent out of muscles and gore.
The cloaked figure that I saw in the field days ago emerged from the pulsating burning corpse. First in the shape of a smoke cloud. One that reformed itself into the rough shape of a human. It just walked past all of us and disappeared into the darkness of the underbelly of the cave. I just sat there, perched up against a wall, my eyes locked in terror onto the burning pile of bony matter that remained of the muj. He was roasted alive in front of me until not but ashes remained.
I was silent for the rest of my tenure in that cave, I couldn’t do anything but repeat that scene in my head. The afghan burning alive as his screams played in my ears like a broken record. I was silent until I left the cave. All of us were. We just slept and ate the rice this… thing provided.
We all eventually got out of there, our unit thought we were MIA. We didn’t tell anyone about the creature in the cave or the spontaneously combusting Afghan. The reason was no one would believe us, but deep down, I know it’s because we were all too shocked to even recollect the events out loud.
Eventually, I came back home and the images and screams in my head died down. I don’t know about the others, I heard at least one got himself locked up. I guess I‘m just lucky. That’s my wartime story. I’ve been to Afghanistan, I‘ve fought the Taliban, I’ve been wounded and something saved my life out there, whatever the hell that thing was. What saved me wasn’t human.