Him in the Dust

by James Matthews

Chapter 5

Acts of War

July 15th, 2006

I had 5 patrols under my belt now. Each one has given me more confidence. We had also begun forming light friendships with some of the other guys we went with. I would even say I was adjusting to this way of life. The banter was good, morale high and respect was being earned with each patrol.

I had called home a couple of times and spoken to my mum. I felt closer to her now than when I was in the UK. Strange. Maybe I needed her here more?

At times I would feel lonely. Some days still traumatised by my first outing. My dad said I was doing good. I was not so sure.

This world is crazy, maybe I am crazy. Will someone tell me if I am crazy?

"What are you thinking about?" Spinner asked as I peeled the label off my bottle.


"Wanna share?"

"It's just so fucked up don't you think?"

"Your life?"

I grinned. "No stupid, this whole war. I mean what are we doing here really?"

"We are playing a game my dear friend. President Bush pulls Blair's strings. We, and our US friends, bomb this place to make Americans and us feel that we are somehow defeating terrorists. And the reason for this is to take revenge for the attacks on September 11th and the July bombings in the UK. And…."


Spinner shrugged. "War keeps people in jobs. And…."

"Stop doing that," I laughed, brushing his hand with mine.

"And there is oil."

"I like you Lukas!"

"No, you're drunk!"

"So, I deserve to be, I killed someone!"

"And how does that make you feel?"

"We've done this," I said, waving my bottle around.

"I've heard your sober feelings. Now I want the truth."

My face seemed to take on a serious expression all on it's own as I fixed my gaze on nowhere in particular. "I try to bury it in the pit of my stomach, but it haunts me at night."

"Keep going."

"I ask myself if I'm a killer. I asked myself if what I did means anything. I ask myself if that little girl we saw no longer has a daddy." I looked at Lukas. "I mean, does anyone need to die?"

"Kiss me!"

I lurched backwards. "WHAT, no!"

"Why not?"

"Uh, because you're a guy."

"Will you have another drink with me?"

I sighed, and downed the last of my beer. "Sure why not?"

"Be right back."

I looked around me, wondering how late it was. There was still a squaddie behind the bar, but it was just me, spinner and some other guy in the corner reading a book. I started to feel relaxed and yeah, I guess I was a little drunk.

"You're still here," Lukas announced, placing two more bottles of beer down on our table.

I leaned back in my chair and smiled. "Why not, I don't have anywhere else to be."

"You're not freaked out?"

"By what?"

"By me asking you to kiss me."

I tapped Lukas's head with my finger. "Hey, nothing surprises me that comes out of your mouth anymore."


"So what?" I asked, swigging on my new ice cold bottle.

"Why don't you tell me about yourself."

"You know everything." I replied, slipping down in my chair to a slouch.

"I know nothing."

"I mean you know everything, or seem to."

"I have opinions."

I huffed. "So what do you wanna know?"

Lukas looked at me curiously and smiled. "Are you a virgin?"

"No!" I said defensively, screwing up my forehead.

"I can tell you are."

"How so?" I asked, curious.

"You never talk about girls even though you say you don't like guys. I would hazard a guess that you find girls intimidating and so you never get close." Lukas gasped all of a sudden.


"You've had your heart broken! That's it isn't it?"


"So you're a virgin, come on, admit it to Spinner!"

"I have a question!"

"Go on."

"Why Spinner?"

"I'll tell you my secret if you tell me yours." Lukas said, grabbing my chin in his hand.

I rolled my eyes. "OK, I'm a virgin. Happy now?" I slurred.

"Spinner is my nickname from school. I used to breakdance when I was a kid and could spin on my head for a full minute. No one else could in my group, so they gave me the name and it stuck. Friends of friends started calling me it. And then I joined the Army with a friend and he called me it, and so it spreads."

"I like Lukas more," I said, grinning.

"And I like you."

I sat up in my chair as the grin faded from my face. I was drunk and it suddenly occurred to me that I was actually pretty fucked.

"Lukas, I'm really flattered and all that but seriously man!"

"Yeah I get it."

"Well cool because...hang on a minute, you get what?"

"That you like girls, even though you've never been with one."

"So, I'm still straight."

"What makes you think I am not?"

"Uh, duh!"

"Because I said I like you and wanted you to kiss me."

"Well yeah, Lukas," I nodded. "That would pretty much confirm that you're into guys."

"And you're not."


"How come?"

"Huh?" I asked, confused.

"How come you don't like guys?"

"Be... because they have dicks and hair and...why don't you like girls?"

"I do. I find girls incredibly attractive and I have slept with a few as well."

"So why hit on me if you like girls?"

Lukas leaned back in his chair, putting his hands behind his head. "Hmm, I like challenges, and I happen to think you have an attractive personality."

"Is that what I am, a conquest? A sick fantasy?"

"Why sick?"

"Meh, I dunno, I'm drunk. Look I get it okay, you like me. I'm the greatest, but…."

Lukas leaned into me and cut me off mid sentence putting his lips on mine and exploring the inner parts of my mouth. I pulled back, shocked.

"You fucker! Ewww, you just tongued me, fucking hell Lukas."

Lukas clapped his hands and sounded a heartfelt laugh falling back in his chair. I looked over at the squaddie behind the bar seeing he was laughing too. I was either too drunk or too dumbfounded to say anything more.

July 16th 2006

I awoke to jets, maybe four, flying overhead. Speaking of heads, mine was pounding like a drum on Chinese New Near. I was sweating, either from the heat, the hangover or both. It was just after seven in the morning local time. My God, what had I done? What had I said? No, it's all coming back to me bit by bit. I was fine, it was Lukas who was not.

I peered over my bed to see him passed out on his back. His smooth bare chest slowly moving up and down in some wretched hangover nightmare I hoped, thinking how I'd been taken advantage of.

My thoughts were distracted by movement below me and I swung my head over the side to see Jack awake stirring. My head almost exploded as the blood rushed to it.

"Awwww, look at you sleepy. You look fucked!" Jack said, grinning.

I fell on my back. "Don't! Just don't!"

"I had to carry him back," Lukas said, now awake it seemed.

"Who carried who back, you were both fucking gone. We were both asleep and you two come rolling in at whatever time it was, making all sorts of sweet nothings to each other." Tank interjected.

"I did not!" I barked. "I remember getting back here."

"Like fuck, you were letting our boy here get all over you. We thought it was funny." Jack stated.

I peered over and looked at Lukas who was smiling.

"Oh fuck off guys, thats not funny," I squealed, causing the whole room to burst out their held in laughs. "Anyway, what did you two get up to last night?"

"We played pool, darts and some footie out on the runway some of the squaddies had set up. Five aside, it was kinda surreal," replied Jack, getting out of his bunk.

"Morning wood alert," Tank shouted, causing Jack to go red.

I mean why didn't Lukas react to that for fucks sake? Why me? Why is all the attention on me? Here's a guy sporting a fat boner and yet nothing but an innocent giggle, what gives? I thought to myself, hoping down out of my bunk.

I went straight to one of the small cupboards where we kept our water, Lukas's ciggs and some other paraphernalia and felt around for a box of Paracetamol, almost tripping over Jack as I turned around.

"Jesus Jack, just go to the toilet with that thing," I barked as his obvious erection brushed my thigh.

"He got closer than me," Lukas announced to Tank, causing a sniggering grunt from the both of them.

"You guys finished hazing me? If so, I'm going for a shower... ALONE!"

It was the second day of our rest cycle and I was tempted to spend all of it in my bunk nursing my delicate body and head. I had eaten in the mess and news must have got around to my drunkenness the previous night as a few of the guys wolf whistled me while I had sat for breakfast. It was nothing nasty. I mean, did I expect them to be nasty? Why should I when I did nothing accept let a straight gay guy kiss me. Fuck sake!

Showered, dressed and somewhat fresher I was on my way back to our bunk, lost in thought about myself... Selfishly.

Lukas was right to some extent I was labelling him, but what label was I supposed to use? He didn't exactly explain it to me very well. But I was also confused. His question about girls did hit home, and his guess I was a virgin was right. Who was I?

After thinking about this for some time I arrived back and found Lukas writing something in a small book which he quickly put away as I entered.

"Not like you to be shy, where are the others?"

"Jack is showering and Tank is doing laundry." Lukas replied.

"What's in the book?"

"It's private?"

"Not in here it's not, c'mon tell me."

Lukas slowly pulled out the moleskin book and sighed. "It's just a diary. I like to write things in it."

"Yeah Lukas, that's what you do in a diary. So why hide it?"

"Because it's private. It's my inner thoughts, my memories, my fears, my worries and my passions. You know, stuff like that?"

"Don't linger on the passion word, it makes me nervous." I said, sitting on Jack's bunk below mine.

Lukas put the book down and shifted on his elbow. "Enjoy your first guy kiss last night?"

I gave him a scathing look. "Must you tease me? What you did was out of order."

"Oh be quiet, we were both drunk and it was a bit of fun."

"Well fun you might think, but whoever was in the bar last night saw what you did and now I'm getting whistled at in the mess hall. Don't you think I should have been consulted before you plunged your tongue into my mouth on a fucking military base?"

"Whoa, calm down Sebbie, it was just a little kiss."

I shook my head. "You're hopeless, you know that. When will you give up with this?"

Lukas fell on to his back, letting his head then fall in my direction. "You know I love the chase."

"Go chase someone else... Like a girl if you're supposedly straight."

"Did I say I was straight, I thought I said I was not gay."

"Same difference, and yeah you did say you were straight. I remember even if you don't"

"Awww little Sebbie is trying to take the moral high ground even though he was so out of it I had to winch you back here."

"What do you want, just tell me?"

"But where is the fun in that? Much better to not know, huh?"

I looked at his stupid smile and rolled my eyes, storming off to take a piss. God he was frustrating.

July 20th 2006

Today turned out to be a bad day. Typical patrol. We Went about a mile from base and talked to some locals who told us that a suicide bomber was on the prowl. Two explosions went off to the east. It's funny, you start running but you're scared to step on a pressure pad and when the explosions first go off you freeze for that split second. Then you start patrolling again a little faster. They started firing from across the bank today. We need better weapons. Every one of the SA80s stopped firing after one round but these weapons are a load of shit.

"Tank, this gun is jamming, for fuck sake." I whispered as we crouched behind a shattered building - Probably a shop once upon a time.

"Here, give it to me." Tank said, putting the safety on and baging it on the dusty gravel floor. "Hopefully that has unjammed it."

"Fucking weapons are crap. Who's designing this heap of junk? Lukas, over here."

"Commanders need to be asking for a better weapons system. And why don't the army have more sniffer dogs? We would be finding IEDs a lot easier with a furry friend running about and a lot more lives would be saved," Lukas moaned as we hear more gun fire.

"Since I've been here, I haven't seen one dog," Jack added, peering around the corner of the building.

There was more gun fire. It was getting closer now. I pulled Jack back and we all jumped through a broken window inside the building. Sergeant Bennet who was with us that day was calling for backup on the radio but was told none was available.

Through another window I got my binoculars out. I spotted what looked to be a sniper around 700 feet away away. He was crouching behind some kind of compound. He put his head up to get his bearings. Jack and Lukas came over with their binoculars and spotted the cunt. We eyed his scoped weapon. Lukas fired a single round and hit him in the head. We waited to see if he had anyone with him. After 10 minutes we engaged another gunman and hit him centre mass. Both kills were confirmed by one of our Apache helicopters. Later one man ran forward and recovered the body from the compound. I watched him through the sight of my gun but didn't engage. He was unarmed and was committing a brave act. He might have been the enemy but I wouldn't kill a medic and I suppose I saw him as the same as Lukas.

We got back to back to Bastion. Our Commanding officer says we did a good job. Now I'm really tired. I wanna go home!

"Wanna come Naafi for a snack?" I asked the guys.

"Will they have the news on. I wanna watch the news." Lukas asked.

"Tank, you coming?"

"Nah, you guys go."


"Why not, it's been a shitter of a day, I need a distraction."

Lukas had a text come through while we walked to the Naafi. "Whats up? You look like you've seen a ghost." I asked as we all stopped.

"Somebody has been killed in an explosion. Just realised it was someone from my old dorn back in the UK. He was a great guy, I was only talking to him a little while back. He got killed searching for IEDs. I just hope he was killed instantly and didn't suffer."

"Jesus!" was all I could say. The war suddenly felt even more real.

"He volunteered to go on this tour. Fucking Taliban CUNTS!" Lukas shouted, now shaking. Jack pulled him into a hug. I wanted to as well. I felt useless.

Just as we started to carry on walking the tanoy started blaring. The voice was asking anyone with blood types O and A+ to report to the medical wing to give blood.

"That's me," Jack announed. "I'm O"

"What the fuck is going on?" I asked, getting scared.

"Gordon Brown can talk whatever shit he wants. He is a politician not a soldier. The men here know the reality of it all." Lukas suddenly blurted, walking off. I followed. Bumped fists with Jack and he went off in a different direction.

"Lukas, wait for me!"

We got to the Naafi and saw a bunch of guys all huddled around the small TV that was screwed to the wall. News was scrolling breaking news. Seven of our guys had been blown up in a Viking vehicle and one had turned his gun on his mate. I fell into a chair and tears started rolling down my cheeks. Lukas came over and crouched down, his hands on my knees.

"Get it together, soldier!" Lukas barked at me. I reacted a little and tried to focus.

"They...they were just kids like us."

"All we can hope is they died instantly. They will be repatriated back to their families. This is war Seb, and I promise, for those seven guys, 21 Taliban brains are gonna get blown all over the floor."

I took Lukas's hand in mine and squeezed it tight. I swallowed hard. "I feel like I'm going fucking crazy."

"No, you're probably having a mild anxiety attack. Focus on my voice. You're going to be okay."

"Can...can we go back to the tent."

"Sure, We'll play cards, yeah. Take your mind off things."

"Right, yeah uh, anything. Can you get me some water please?"

"Sure bro, anything. Just sit there okay. Just breathe, nice and slow. I'll be right back."

Talk about this story on our forum

Authors deserve your feedback. It's the only payment they get. If you go to the top of the page you will find the author's name. Click that and you can email the author easily.* Please take a few moments, if you liked the story, to say so.

[For those who use webmail, or whose regular email client opens when they want to use webmail instead: Please right click the author's name. A menu will open in which you can copy the email address (it goes directly to your clipboard without having the courtesy of mentioning that to you) to paste into your webmail system (Hotmail, Gmail, Yahoo etc). Each browser is subtly different, each Webmail system is different, or we'd give fuller instructions here. We trust you to know how to use your own system. Note: If the email address pastes or arrives with %40 in the middle, replace that weird set of characters with an @ sign.]

* Some browsers may require a right click instead