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The Pen is Mightier than the Sword
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andrea hawk

Orange Air

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The sky is choked with dust. Illuminated by the sun, the air has an unnatural ginger hue. It hurts to breathe in the toxic air. There is an aberrant silence blanketing my ears, muffling voices as if they were only thoughts. The birds are the smart ones, they have long ago sought cover from the hovering filth. I looked towards the north straining to see, but realized I couldn’t see farther than the fence that separates us from them. It’s always been said that calm ensues before a storm. Everyone around me is tense, stomachs in a knot, waiting. Only waiting; trying to appear as if they don’t feel what I feel. They’re trying to appear as if they aren’t scared. Their eyes, however, betray them. I can see past their brave façade. I can almost hear their hearts beating faster than they should. From the early hours of this morning I knew it was going to be a bad day. We couldn’t see them. They couldn’t see us, but they knew. They knew exactly where we were.

 

We were bunkered down, still trying to catch our breaths from the frenzied dash to shelter. One door doesn’t bode well with a room full of people all trying to get to the same place. They told us once we heard the screaming alarms we had eight to ten seconds to get to a safe place. The knowledge of this only made it more dangerous to get out. Your friends are no longer your friends. It’s Darwin’s theory in the works. Whoever can push the hardest and run the fastest are the ones who will remain safe. Don’t look back, ever. Just run. Wait for impact. Pretend like it all isn’t real.

 

Jesus, I need a vacation.

Edited by andrea hawk

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“This is the Command Post. This is the Command Post. There has been an indirect fire attack. All personnel are released. All personnel should remain vigilant for UXO. All clear. All clear. All clear. Command Post out.”

I shook my head as the Big Voice rang out from various speakers surrounding the AO. “No shit there was in indirect fire attack… that one was, like, right there!” I grumbled. The others muttered their agreement as we shoved our way out of the bunker. I surveyed the area around us. You could still see the explosion cloud slowly dissipating into the already dirty air. I looked at my people, faces visibly paler than they were before the attack.

“Bet you’re good and ready to get out of here…” Robby said as the clapped me on the back.

“Man, you don’t even know. I need a frickin’ drink.” I smirked.

“Bet you can’t wait till Dubai, huh? That first beer is always the best.” He chuckled; obviously mentally back in Dubai, chugging down a cold one.

“Oh, I can wait.” I said. “But once I get there, I plan on being in a drunken stupor from then until I get back to this shit hole.”

“Yeah, well get it while you can. Stupid country. We can die here but we can't drink here? This place is hell on earth.”

“Hell? This place is hotter than hell. The devil goes to Hell when he needs a vacation from this place. I hate this place.”

“Yeah man, fuck Iraq.” This was the one statement that passed through everyone's lips at least once. We liked it because it was an all encompassing expression of the disdain we all held for this place. It was a coversation ender, kind of like our own personal 'Amen". You didn't really need to say much more after you said that; it had all been said with those two words.

 

It’s been eight months to the day since I landed on ground. There are a few things I learned in a hurry and one of them was about the Big Voice. The Big Voice is an increasingly irritating, but necessary evil on the Camp. Usually she tells us what has happened and too frequently not what is going to happen, much to our extreme exasperation. A few times she has warned us in advance; instructing us that we should, in fact, “take cover”. More often then not though, we are faced with that god damn screaming alarm and the impending doom that always follows.

For some reason, things always get more crazy right before I’m about to get out for my much needed decompression time. It’s like they know I am on the verge of giving up. On the verge of giving in and surrendering to this place and it’s evilness. Sometimes, I want to quit. Sometimes I just want to say “Screw It, this isn’t worth it.” And just go home, where it’s safe and LESS that 100 degrees a day. But what would the fun in THAT be? The only thing that matters is that in a few days… I’d be home. And this time, I have something to look forward to. I only had to make it through the next seven days, one week. That was it.

 

Some things, unfortunately, are easier said than done.

Edited by andrea hawk

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