''You ready?'' I say to Jayden. Jayden looks at me with a ready smile.
''Whenever you are, Nash,'' Jayden says as we both ready our guns. We aim them at a small house made of stones 30 metres away from our position, a makeshift stone-wall parapet. The house looks as if it has been badly shot up by- oh yeah, by us. I is just us two, no other soldier is with us. Not even a medic.
''How many insurgents did they say were in there?'' Jayden asks me, his eyes still trained on the house, along with his assault rifle.
''5, I believe,'' I answer. We're both speaking in hushed tones so that we don't get found out.
''Got any word from those thermal imaging drones in the area?'' he queries further.
''No, but that's what the last report was from Lieutenant Grissom,'' I respond.
''So for all we know there might be more, or they might not even be there any more,'' Jayden says, sounding anxious. I look at him and give him a stern stare.
''Look, I'll see if I can see anyone, and then try and aim a shot. If I can't get any clear shot, we can do it your way and storm it,'' I tell Jayden. He sighs and thinks about it, then nods in agreement.
''OK, but if your plan fails, I'll going in first,'' Jayden says.
''Alright. Let's go,'' I say as I train my sniper rifle on the house. I take a few moments scanning to see if I can get an opening, but it looks hopeless.
''Anything?'' Jayden asks.
''Nope, I can't get anything,'' I answer. I put down my gun, slightly disappointed. I turn to face Jayden, but he's already firing a shot at the house.
''Jayden! Are you crazy?!'' I whisper vehemently to him.
''What? You didn't get a shot, so I took it,'' Jayden says with a smile. Jayden is always so headstrong. I've known him for 10 years and he never changes.
''Wait a moment,'' Jayden says as we both look tensely towards the house, seeing if there is going to be any movement. There was silence for what seemed like forever. My throat is parched, and I think I’m suffering from heat exhaustion. Afghanistan is a very hot place. Even hotter in this army gear.
''I'm going in,'' Jayden tells me.
''Excuse me? I think the heat's getting to you. You are not going in until we get visual or audio confirmation that they are inside that house,'' I remonstrate him as I grab him.
''Look, the longer we wait, the more time they have to escape. They might have fled through the back already. Or for all we know, there might not even be anyone inside,'' Jayden reasons with me.
I don't care. I am not taking any chances.
''And what if they are in there, packing all sorts of weapons and waiting for us like we are waiting for them?'' I reason with him. Jayden sighs deeply, knowing I could be right.
''Fine. If I fire another shot though, they could pinpoint where it's coming from,'' Jayden points out. Oh yeah, that's true. But who was the one who fired in the first place? I look back at the house anxiously. What if they aren't there? And what if they are? How many of them are there? Did we get the right intel? I can see Jayden ready to go, but I am doubtful whether we should go or not. I don't want to die. And I don't want Jay to die either.
''I've got an idea!'' Jayden says suddenly, his eyes widening.
''What is it?'' I ask him.
''I'll shout out to them, tell them they're surrounded. Should spook them out,'' Jayden explains. I think about it, and I believe it's a plausible plan. I nod my head slowly.
''Alright, do it,'' I tell him. Jayden looks around him to see if he kind find cover slightly nearer to the house, so that he can be heard. I signal to his right a remnant of a wall that should provide us both with cover. We quickly scurry over there, making sure we make as little noise as possible. As soon as we are in position, Jayden and I both nod to each other as we count to three.
''THIS IS THE UNITED STATES ARMY! YOU ARE COMPLETELY SURROUNDED! COME OUT NOW! IF YOU HAVE ARMED YOURSELVES, NOW IS THE BEST TIME TO PUT DOWN YOUR WEAPONS, AND WE WILL NOT HARM YOU! IS THAT UNDERSTOOD?'' Jayden shouts the orders as loud as he can. We hear silence, no sound of movement at all.
''I REPEAT, YOU WILL NOT BE HARMED IF YOU SURRENDER YOURSELVES NOW!'' Jayden barks again. Still, there was more silence.
''Alright, let's go,'' Jayden said as we were about to get ready to go.
''Wait! Did you hear that?'' I say, as I believe I hear the creaking of a door. We both look at each other then sneak a look at the house. We saw nobody come out, but I'm wondering why I hear the creaking of a-
''LOOK OUT!'' Jayden screams as he leaps on top of me. At that same moment a warm sensation ripples around me, as well as a powerful blast of wind. This was accompanied by sharp pangs of pain scattering my legs and arms. I land on my back quite quickly, so I feel quite winded, and the fact that Jayden is on top of me makes the compression on my chest worse. My eyes are closed tightly from the impact, and when I open them, Jayden is still on me.
''Jayden...Jayden...get up, you're heavy,'' I manage to say. My speech sounds...muffled. Like I can hear myself talking through a wall. The impact of the blast begin making my ears ring extremely loud. I blink very slowly as I keep looking at Jayden. He isn't moving off of me. Is he unconscious?
''Jayden...are you OK?'' I can't hear very clear, so I am unsure if he is speaking. I try to lift him off of me, but I begin to feel a warm sensation on my chest. My arms feel so sore as I try to grab Jayden and lift him off me. As my arms go up to his shoulders, I start to feel the warm sensation on my hands. And it feels...wet and sticky, like...blood.
No no no!
Jayden! As I realise what is happening, I suddenly gain strength to pull him totally off me and onto his back. That's when I see the extent of his injuries. I looked at my crimson-covered hands and then at Jayden. Blood is rushing out of his neck, and he is staring up at me, life slowly pouring out of him. I knew that we had been hit with a shrapnel bomb. I see a few nails, glass and metal pieces sticking out of my right arm and leg, but Jayden must have received a large piece in his neck. I stare at him as he struggles to gasp for air.
''No, no, Jayden! Stay with me!'' I struggle to shout as I grab a cloth from one of my pockets. I press down on his neck, watching as the blood consumes it as if it was a sponge being soaked by water. As I'm panicking, Jayden slowly reaches up towards me and grabs the back of my neck. He pulls me closer to him as I keep pressing the cloth into his neck, which I know is not even helping one bit. I can tell by looking in his eyes that he knows it too.
''Look...af-after Hannah for...me, OK?'' Jayden says, choking as he speaks. He looks at me with determination. I hate it when people tell you to look after a relative when they think they're dying. Jayden wasn't going to die. Not on my watch.
''You'll be able to look after her too. You've survived worse than this, Jay,'' I reassure him. I think I was trying to reassure myself more than him, though. He already knows he is going to die, but I won't believe it. He loosens his grip on my neck, his arm flopping back down beside him. He begins to breathe more slowly now, and it sounds less...frequent. His eyes begin to slowly close, and I watch him carefully...as he stops breathing altogether. I stare at his chest for a few moments, wondering if it is going to inflate again. Then I stare at his face.
It looks...so peaceful.
His eyes are closed as if he is sleeping, and he looks so...serene. I look around him and see the amount of blood that was coming out of him. I take my hands away from his neck, which are stained in his blood.
''Please...wake up, Jayden. We have to finish the mission,'' I say as tears drop from my face. I hadn't realised I had been crying until I felt my cheeks feeing as if they had been tickled.
''Please?'' I plead with his lifeless body. Just then, I hear a shot whizz past my ear. I look up and see 5 insurgents advancing towards my post, all training their guns on me.
''NOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!'' I scream at the top of my lungs, but for some reason, I can't hear it. I grab a gun, and begin shooting at them. I shut my eyes as I scream again, and as soon as I open them...
I'm in my bedroom.
I rise up from my bed, and recognise my surroundings. This isn't Afghanistan; it's home.
''Hannah...'' I say aloud as I turn to where she was sleeping, but she is not there. I close my eyes in disappointment.
''Damn it,'' I say to myself.
I did it again.