My fingers hurt. Hours of digging holes has peeled away their skin and blisters have split. My friend pours water over them as we discuss medals. The war began several hours ago. Bombs fell from the air and enemy troops died. I curse as the water trickles across the red welts.
Compressed air thumps into me. My body snaps back and I bite my lip. Blood spills onto my chin and my body armour. I sit perfectly still. Confusion and fear. Another concussion wave slams into me and then the sound wave catches up. I am deaf as I taste the blood.
We are being bombed. Explosions rip across the sand. My friend looks at me. Terror and panic. A voice screams out. 'Gas Gas Gas' My bowels fill with ice and my chest pounds.
Gas. Nerve Agent. Agony. Death. I am 16 years old again. A Sergeant shouts at us 'Be on time - Mask in nine' The CS Gas he has lit burns my eyes and my throat. I vomit and cry out in pain. 'NINE SECONDS you Fuckwits' He screams. Ten seconds without a Respirator means death.
Other voices have taken up the shout 'Gas Gas Gas' Chemical Alarms wail. There rising and falling tone piercing through the explosions. I reach for my Respirator on my side. It isn't there.
Panic and fear overwhelms me. I fall off the AFV, winding myself on the hard ground. I begin to crawl toward the back of the vehicle. I try to hold my breath but the terror is too great, I suck in frantic gulps of air.
Mustard Gas. Blister Agent. I start crying, I don't want to die. 'Gas Gas Gas' The voices now distorted as they shout through masks and filters. I crawl into the back of the AFV. Babbling and wailing. A respirator is thrust into my hands. I fumble as I pull it on. Yanking the straps until they bite deep into my skull.
A soldier looks at me. His insect features hide his identity. Bulging Perspex eyes. Black Rubber. Forced heavy breaths. I shout out that I cant breathe. My chest feels tight. I am dying. He grabs my jacket - Staring at me. Eyes wide. Fear. Shouting then laughter.
A soldier walks through our position. He has no mask on and he is laughing. 'It's outgoing lads' He says 'It's the fucking Dropshorts and their MLRS'
I pull of my mask and breathe in deeply. There is no Gas. There is only life. Tears spill over my eyelids and I find a quiet place to worry. I spend the rest of the day watching the Rockets that frightened me so much climb into the sky. I grin at the immense power they posess as my respirator hangs by my side...