It was the beginning of the end I suppose. Angels, they said, were on the battlefields, picking up the souls of those who fell in battle. Bullshit I said. Like hell there'd be an angel to pick me up when I fell. More like a demon to pull me down.
Yeah, I said when. There was no if's at this point of the war. A ticket to the battlefield was a ticket to the morgue. If you were lucky. If you weren't, you'd be burned, just like the rest of us. At the end of the day, a torch would be thrown onto the battlefield to burn the bodies of the fallen, and let them depart this world with at least some dignity.
I heard the sergeant calling attention, ordering us to get ready. You know that feeling when you're half asleep, almost detached from your body and hears everything, but doesn't really comprehend it? That's how I felt at that moment. I thought about Maddie, my little daughter, who I'd never get to see. Tessie, my wife of 3 years, two months and 23 days. Yeah, I kept count. Since the day after we'd become lawful husband and wife, was the day I was conscripted.
Times was hard back then, but not much harder than now I suppose. With the attack and slaughter of a British Embassy, the prime minister had ordered a militant response. Unfortunately, the people we were fighting, was Israel.
The rumours of their recent increase of military strength had not been exaggerated. Not at all. If anything, we had underestimated them grossly. "Knowing" the strength of the Israeli military, the field marshal had ordered that only the first army was to be deployed, and even that was, in the Ministry, a huge waste of resources. But he wanted it over with and done quickly. And he got what he wanted. But not in the way he wanted.
The first army was defeated within two weeks. Every single man and woman had been slaughtered, the insignia of the generals send back to the Ministry, stained with dried blood. The Daily Telegraph brought a picture of them a few weeks before my wedding.
I managed to shake my mind away from those thoughts and stand at attention. The weight of my rifle weighed me down in more ways than the physical weight, and my uniform felt like a curse. As I entered the van that would take me to the battlefield I absentmindedly noticed the low voices of the other soldiers, praying to various gods, mentioning names of people I didn't know, and in general, sounding like they felt the same way I did.
The car quickly got uncomfortably hot, and a drop of sweat trickled down my face. And the moment the doors opened, we rushed out, eager to escape the heat, weapon in hand, firing at anything that moved.
I ran forward for a few minutes, managing to keep firing at people and things while changing magazine twice, before it happened. I was hit in the shoulder first, and fell backwards to the ground. The pain wasn't really noticeable for the first few seconds. It was like a delayed reaction. But when it hit, it hit like a hammer. I could only groan in pain for some time, before I managed to block it out and get up again. Better dead than in the hands of the medics.
So I kept running. And I managed to run for a few more minutes, before they hit me in the chest. Several times. I fell again, but this time the pain was immediate. I screamed.
I kept screaming until a soft white light appeared in the distance, and closed in on me. As it came closer, I could slowly make out more and more of the shape, until the figure of an angel was clear. And it kneeled by my side, reached into me and pulled out a white, human-like figure, completely limp. And as I watched, my sight disappeared for a moment, before I was looking into the angel's eyes as we flew away. It seemed that angels did indeed pick up the souls of the fallen…