“Oi Henry, get up. Your turn on lookout.”
I could barely hear what was being said. It was hard to roll away from the wall and onto my back, and trying to open my eyes was an even bigger struggle. In the end, all I could manage to do was open my right eye a little, and my reward for my efforts was a stone ceiling.
Fuck I’m tired…
My eyes kept rolling back. I felt like I would fall asleep at any moment.
“What time is it…?”
Jack sounded like he just had one too many. I turned to my right and looked over at him. He was facing the other way, busy getting himself under his blanket.
“Hurry up and get to the lookout.”
I felt tired just from pushing myself up.
Only half an hour of sleep per rotation and the floor is rock hard.
I sighed while looking down at my makeshift bed from the corner of my eye.
“Would’ve gotten a bit more rest if the rest of our platoon were still…”
I started preparing quietly.
I knew that I shouldn’t even be thinking it, but for some reason, I always fell to the point where those words slip from my mouth. And for some reason, I never went any further than that. It provided a reason, a convenient one for all if not most of my problems. And I’m not sure why, but it helped me get things done.
“I’ll be back in thirty.”
Jack just raised his arm, and dropped it as fast as he’d lifted it.
＊ ＊ ＊
Good thing I brought my coat.
It was still dark out, and a little cold. The lookout point was at the edge of the forest and from there, I had a good view of a fairly wide plain. It stretched out a few kilometres towards a large town, well, what remained of one anyway. Now, it was just a ruined outpost being used by the enemy.
I crouched down at roughly a hundred meters from the lookout point and went prone when I was roughly fifty meters away from the thicket I would be using.
“A few lights, no movement.”
A white mist clouded my line of sight as I let out a sigh, which turned into a yawn halfway through. Then I shuffled around, trying to find a comfortable position on my stomach.
“Staying still really isn’t my thing…unless I’m asleep. That’s the only exception…Ah, and probably when I’ve turned into a corpse.”
I let out a quiet laugh.
Most people probably wouldn’t laugh at or even tell this sort of joke, if you could call it one. But being on duty for a long time kind of loosens a few screws. Acting before you think sort of comes with the package.
A nearby bush on my right suddenly rustled. Immediately I drew my sidearm, took aim and froze. It felt like someone just threw a bucket of cold water on me. I scanned the area in front of me in a panic, but there were no movements nor silhouettes, and the only thing I could hear was my pulse.
The hell was that just now!?
I kept my eyes wide open. They darted from shadow to shadow, again and again, looking for any signs of movement. My breaths were slow and steady, my hands held the grip firm and my finger was ready to pull the trigger.
Hurry up and come on the fuck out!
I couldn’t call out, I couldn’t fire warning shots, and I couldn’t call for backup. All I could do was stay still and wait. And depending on what made the noise, shoot.
Roughly five minutes passed. My back ached, my arms were burning, my hands were cold with sweat and I had an uncontrollable shake. My body was beginning to give out.
Looking around one last time, I slowly lowered my head and arms to the ground.
“Ha, nothing’s there…fuck!”
The next second, my eyes were shut and I started snickering for some reason, and couldn’t stop. For a while, I was just lying there on my side, shaking, staring into the forest and laughing.
Maybe I’ve gone nuts.
I grit my teeth and clutched my mouth, trying to suppress it somehow. The laughing gradually died off, and I let out a long, relieved sigh. I was glad that nothing was there.
Unlike my laughing fit, my trembling didn’t stop and my body felt heavy as I dragged myself back into position.
“Let’s just get this over with. I’m too fucking tired for this.”
Nothing happened after that. For the next twenty minutes or so, I lied there and watched the enemy. There was no-one entering or leaving the town, and nothing was crossing the plain either.
“Assholes aren’t even sending out patrols.”
…What’s the fucking point of doing this…?
I knew that being on lookout was important. The exhaustion was getting to me and I couldn’t even keep my focus. Every now and then I felt like I was staring into space rather than watching for enemy movements.
What’ the time now…?
I looked down at my watch.
“About time to head back.”
＊ ＊ ＊
“Thirty minutes are up. Your turn.”
I walked over to my side of the room and sat down, staring at the ground. Jack let out a groan and sat up.
“Jack, man, you look like shit.”
I let out a weak laugh. Jack raised his head and looked over at me. He looked like he just woke up from a party but managed a smartass smirk.
“Right back at you. Did you see a ghost or somethin’? You look like you pissed yourself.” He said, rubbing his eyes.
I shook my head and looked around the room. I couldn’t manage to make eye contact.
“Nah, I thought I heard something, but it was probably just a rabbit.”
“There aren’t any rabbits or anything like that ‘round here. Y’know that, right?”
The atmosphere became heavy all of a sudden. He was looking straight at me, with a dead serious face. I didn’t really believe him but the way he said it sent a chill down my spine. I swallowed.
“…I’m just screwing with you man! Relax!”
I was still pretty spooked out but he just laughed and got on his feet.
“Well, I’ll be off in a sec. Don’t forget to change your pants man. Smells like piss in here.”
“Fuck off man.”
We both laughed.
“’Kay, well I’m off.”
“Have fun man.”
I raised my arm, seeing him off. He left a second later, and as always, forgot to close the door.
I leaned against the wall and sighed, looking around at this hole in a rock we called a hideout.
Home sweet home.
Then I turned my attention to the door.
I let out a silent laugh and leaned forward. As I reached over to close the door, in came the sound of three shots followed by several more, and then there was shouting in a language I didn’t know.
I hesitated for a second and then reached for my gun.
Fuck, they’re here!
Moving quickly, I kicked the door shut, turned off the lantern, and pushed myself up against the wall. My safety was off, my iron sights were on the door and my finger was already placing pressure on the trigger.
Then came the sound of running footsteps.