Igor Gorbachevsky

FEAR

Dedicated to those who made it.
In remembrance to those who did not return.

One day you will be invited again to school, where you studied for 10 years, to give a new generation a speech about war, duty, and courage. With the war medals pinned to a suit you will tell them about Afghanistan, about the mountains, about the death of recon team “Canyon-3”…

A kid will get up and in a thin voice will tell you: “We are so jealous of you! You are a hero and that is our dream!”

Sitting down, with a frozen smile on your face, you will be looking through the faces of these girls and boys with awe in their eyes; but your mind will be racing, trying to find the words to describe that it is not right to kill and die, that to cold-bloodedly squeeze a trigger at 19 is evil, but even greater evil is not to squeeze it, for you and all those that rely and trust in you will die as well.

You are looking for words, but the only word that is burning in your mind is FEAR.

Fear for your life, it is one and only. Burst of machine gun fire passes by within a centimetre of you, and you know that the next one is yours. The soul shrinks into a tiny ball and wants to hide, to squeeze its little body into the rocks, fold its ears, and wait it out – the good guys will surely win – and I will come out of my little hole, proudly straighten out my ears: how powerful we are!

But even this Fear can be overpowered by a different kind of Fear.

When there’s no life where you lay in a crater on the side of the road, unable to feel your legs, your friend beside you with a hole in a stomach, and there’s nobody around but enemies… You know that if you survive they will kill you slowly, breaking your arms and legs with a dull hoe. Strike – blood squirts into dust, forming little balls. And after – sharp pain in the stomach and the groin, send streaming into the wounds… Horrible pain.

To avoid it you pray and take out the ribbed body of a grenade and you are almost dead. Here on Earth it’s only a flash, a flash of consciousness.

Like in slow motion you can see them crouching and running towards you, and squeezing the ribbed body of the grenade you wait; just a slight move will result in a flash, pain tearing you chest apart. Fear, no – horror and a waterfall of sweat. Heart pulsating in your throat, you are sipping ready to turn over. Horror frozen in your eyes. Everything is seen from the side like it is not you but somebody else next to you. Soul has left the body already. You see yourself twisting in agony of pain and fear and them running to you, hatred twisting their bearded faces. No, there is no more LIFE: everything ended and disappeared except horror that turns the body inside out. And now they are approaching and you are on the last verge of this non-being…

They fall down around you, fall down dead. Your comrades, making it in time, give you life. The soul returns back. Slowly, drop by drop, it seeps into the broken body. Dried out vocal cords cannot even moan, throat and tong, swollen from rapid dehydration, cannot squeeze out a single sound. But the image of death is still in front of you, the damned ribbed grenade is still pressed against your chest. A thought rushes into your brain that they will lift you and…

Later you feel how life rushes through you like a powerful wave. If during the battle everything was black and white, except the roots of the explosions, then now you start to notice the green mountain valley, warmth of the sun, taste of water from a well. THIS IS A FEELING OF LIFE.

But there’s one more Fear. Fear of you own cowardice. Fear that you will hide in the rocks while the mujahidin that you did not kill, will kill your friend that trusted you to cover his back, that saved you that time by the road, when you already bid farewell to life…

These two fears – for your life and his – fight together, your brain cannot handle it, and you lose it – you run toward machine gun fire, jumping and turning between bullets and death.

Mujahedeen fires a burst at point blank range, right at you, but apparently his fear of you is stronger – he pulls the trigger too hard towards himself and the barrel swims to the right, you feel the hot air from the bullets passing by. You can see his wide opened eyes – you devil! You are invulnerable to his bullets! Laughing, you let him have a burst right in the face.

You twist and turn among the rocks, immune to bullets, shooting them at point-blank range when the mortars hit – somebody decided that taking your life is more important than saving the lives of their own men. But you jump and turn and laugh and all shrapnel and bullets miss you.

- “Biiiiiiiitcheeeeeees!!!!!!!”

You shoot and turn, turn and shoot before somebody decides to direct all the mortars at you. Now you put in a new magazine and squeeze the trigger again…

… The drunken movie technician, messing up and entangling, chops off the film of your life…

… Bright flash and silence…

For half a year best specialists will be trying to piece the film back together, attempting to restart the movie…

Half a year later the movie will start playing again, in fragments, but it will be mute and dark – heaviest concussion will take away ability to hear, see, and talk. All attempts to utter a word will end up the same – flexing vocal cords will be choking you, not letting to inhale, and you will only be able to torturously pronounce: “Yyyghhh…… Yyyghhhhhhhhh!”

One summer day you brother will take you out to a lawn, and you will sit, your blind face towards the sun, enjoying the grass under the broken body and warm sunshine.

And at night another completely different FEAR will come over you.

Fear that you will live as a vegetable forever. You will wait until everybody is sleeping – you can already sense when everybody is asleep; you will go to the bathroom – you do not need the light! You will feel for and take out a razorblade.

FEAR. Fear to remain a plant, burdening the people dear to you with you useless existence.

You are tearing at your hand in an attempt to slice the veins, not feeling any pain but only hatred – hatred towards yourself. Razorblade breaks and somebody’s hands grab you from behind – it’s your little brother, gathering all his strength he holds your trying to escape body and screams, screams until the awaken parents come running…

Ambulance that stopped the blood, bandaged the hand, and like to some hysterical little girl gave a shot of downers, leaves. Mother is holding your hand, and her hot tears – drop-drop-drop, burns your skin. Twisting, you are trying to say something but the vocal cords chock harder and harder; but you, suffocating, manager to squeeze out: “Yyyghhhh… yyghhh… mmmmmyghhhh… Myyyyghhaaa-mmmaaaaa!!!!!!” Everything is put into it – your pain, prayer for forgiveness, and love…

… You are sitting down, looking confused at the terrified eyes of children. You don’t notice the mix of sweat and tears rolling down your face. You will not be invited to school again.