Him in the Dust

by James Matthews

Chapter 8

Down, Out, Up and Away

August 5th 2006

It was morning in the hospital wing and I was laying on a hospital bed with my leg propped up in a bandage that looked like serious overkill. My whole body felt tingly and itchy and I was trying to concentrate as hard as I could on the TV that was stuck on the wall. I knew it was the news, and I could hear two people conversing, but whatever was being said was beyond me. I just couldn't take it in!

Worst of all, although I'd been here for some time now. I don't remember how I got from that compound to this room.

"Nurse?" I called, surprising myself with the slurriness in my voice. A young lady came over to me.

"Yes, Private?"

"I feel odd."

She looked at me inquisitively. "Are you in any pain?"

"No, I itch everywhere."

"You have been administered morphine, this is a side effect."

"Right, okay. Hey, I need to ask. My friend…"

"Yes, Lukas...Private you have asked several times. I'm sorry but I don't have any news for you."

"I haven't asked before, have I?"

"Try and rest Private, you have lost quite a bit of blood and need to rest!"

"My leg, is it gonna be ok?"

"The operation to remove the bullet went fine."

"Will I walk?"

"Eventually, but right now you need to try and get some sleep."

She went to walk away. "But I need to know about Lukas. And where is my unit?"

"I'm sorry Private, I don't have that information."

I slapped my hands down on the bed and huffed, "It's always a secret ain't it."

"Private, the morphine will…."

"Yeah, yeah, I know! I'm probably talking bollocks, but my questions about my comrades are clear in my head. And can you turn that damn TV off?"

The nurse walked over to the wall and switched the device off and went back to her little makeshift office. I was stuck here and feeling out of sorts. The fucking itching was now getting inside my head. It felt like ants crawling all over me. I closed my eyes briefly before a familiar voice opened them again.

"Hey sick note, how you feeling?"

It was Tank.

"I've been better. What's happening, no one is telling me anything."

Tank pulled up a chair. "I need to tell you something Seb."

"He's dead ain't he?" I asked. Feeling emotional all of a sudden.

"No, Seb, he made it, just."

"Talk to me Tank, I need to know where he is. What happened to him?"

Tank threw his head back and blew out a breath.

"He, uh...he's in intensive care. They are flying him back to the UK in a few days. He was shot in the back and bled out. His heart stopped four times, but they managed to get it started again and gave him six blood transfusions."

"Is he awake?"

"No, he's in a coma Seb, and…."

"Just say it!"

"They erm...uh, they don't know if he's got brain damage."

I tried to sit up but failed. "What? What do you mean they don't know."

"They need to get him back for a scan. We don't have the equipment here, so they need to see what's going on in his head."

"Fuck sake. When I get out of here I'm gonna find that fuck who did this and piss over his pathetic corpse and strap a IED to him and watch him disintegrate!"

"I've been told you're done here, is that right?"

"Well i'm no fucking good to any of you like this am I?" I barked. "I'm sorry, I don't mean to be like this. I just fucking itch and I'm worried about Spinner."

"We all are mate. Hopefully things will work out, yeah?"

"I'm sorry I forgot to ask... how are you and Jack doing?"

"I'm okay. Jack is pretty shaken up. It was a shit show in there. We got all of them, but it was not executed well."

"It was that fucking yank. Where was Sgt Bennet?"

"He's been reassigned to the north with half our regiment."

"What the fuck?"

"Yeah. I think the war is going badly. We need more troops on the ground and we have lost six Vikings due to IEDs. And we have a C-17 out of action on the runway which got hit on the tail as it was coming in. Apparently we've got to borrow another one from the Yanks to get some of you home."

"I don't want to hear any more. Listen, can you see if you can get me out of here to see Lukas. I really need to see him."

"I dunno if that's possible, I don't have any contacts. But I can ask Jack?"

"Yeah, yeah please do."

"Cool, well I'll leave you to it, I have a briefing at eleven and I wanna get some food."

"Tank, I love you man. Take it easy, yeah?"

"Okay morphine head. I love you too. Get well, I swing by as soon as I can with Jack."

August 17th 2006

I seemed to find myself in the mess hall quite a lot lately. I was eating far more than my body needed. Jack said I was comfort eating, but the good thing is I was sticking to salads and coffee. Not good to fill up on calories when you're so incapacitated because of a fucking Taliban asshole. I wanted to exercise so bad. It was a way for me to release tension and anger. Anger which was now building daily and there didn't seem to be an outlet.

The mess hall was also a good place to be away from my bunk. Yeah, I mean I had Tank and Jack there, but seeing Lukas's empty bed each day just reminded me how bad things were for him. I wished he had never gotten under my skin like he did. I resisted him so badly. I fucking hated the fact I had to bother about him. I hated the fact I had someone that was on my mind all the time. I fucking hated my life so bad right now.

With daily Physio I was now walking again, albeit with a limp and aid of crutches which I tried not to rely on too much. But it was great to be up and about. Tank and Jack had been sent back out on patrols and I worried like crazy each time.

I was due to be flown back home for a skin graft in two days. Lukas had already been flown back and I thought about him night and day.

I was beginning to actually hate it here. My motivation seemed gone and I was struggling with being a soldier in a war I thought was going nowhere. My life had been turned upside down by a person I actually loved to hate!

Actually do I mean that?

It was time for more Physio, so I grabbed my crutches and limped from the mess hall, a short distance to the medical wing to see my therapist. Who was late as usual. I went over to the walking bars and started on my own. One for in front of the other. The pain was actually willing me on and I growled like a bear with a thorn in its foot.

"ROOOAAARRR!" I screamed out of frustration as I fell over.

"Now now, Pvt Biden. We'll have none of that. Come on, back on your feet."

"That's easy for you to say you haven't been shot at and had a hole put in your leg."

"My we are a grumpy boy today. Not had your weetabix? Now you know you can do this! Start from the beginning and let's have another go."

I scowled at her but did as she said getting back up to a standing position. I was now sweating with the pain and frustration that my body would not do what my brain wanted.

It was eight o'clock and I was lying on Jack's bunk. He has offered to swap for obvious reasons. I was trying my best to read. But what with the throbbing pain in my legs and the damn thoughts of Lukas invading my head I put the thing down and threw a pen I'd found at Tank, who was laying down listening to music.

He jumped up, taking his earbuds out. "What?" He asked, mildly annoyed.

"Where's your shadow?"

"Playing football with a few of the lads."

"And you're here because?"

"Looking after you."

"Liar! What's up?"

Tank got up and sat on Lukas's bed, opposite me."

"My nan died today. She passed while I was out on patrol. I only found out when I got back."

"Fuck Tank, I'm so sorry. Why didn't you say?"

He waved his hand at me. "I didn't want a fuss. And besides. There are worse things going on right now. She'd lived a long life. I just wish I had been with her."

"Man, that sucks. Here, come sit with me."

Tank came over and sat next to me on the bottom bunk and I put my arm around him. Tank was a hard shell but I knew this would have hit his mushy interior."

"Anyway, Don't make too much fuss,"

"You can cry, you know, if that's what you need. You might be a soldier but it's ok!"

"I just have something in my eye. Anyway, how are you doing. You've been really pissed off these last few days. Jack says he feels like he's treading on eggshells around you."

"Can I tell you something?"

"Of course, anything."

"Me and Lukas were...I mean are, well…."


"Sort of involved."

Tank's eyes seemed to expand outwards, and a wry smile came over his face.

"You boning each other? Get the fuck out of here!"

"No, it's not like that. It's nothing like that at all."

"Well what then? What are you actually saying?"

I took a deep breath and sighed. "I don't know what we are, but I needed to tell you."

"So what are you saying then, he's your boyfriend?"

"No, not even that. I just think we connected really deeply and maybe the best way to explain it is being half way between friends and something more."

"Sounds intense."

"Do you mind?"

"Why, what have I done?"

"No stupid, I mean do you mind me telling you. And do you mind what I told you?"

"No, why should I?"

"No it's just… ah forget it. But anyway that's the reason I've been pissed off. I really worried about him. That and this fucking leg."

"He's a good guy, and strong. He'll pull through. Just you see."

Just then there was a shuffling of footsteps outside the door and Corporal Maddox popped his head in our tent.

"Lads, how goes it?"

"Fine. But do you think I could get another fan in here, I'm sweating so bad at night," I asked. Wiping my forehead.

"No need Seb, that's why I'm here. You're on a C-17 tomorrow at Six am. Get an early night.

"Really, Wow, that was quicker than I expected. Ok Thank you."

My Corporal dipped his chin and left.

"So that's it then, the fab four will be no more."

"What have you both got, 3 months left?"

"About that. So, you looking forward to going home."

I wiped another few beads of sweat from my forehead and puffed. "Be good to see family again. Oh and of course visit Lukas."

"We must all get together again, right?"

"Fuck yeah, Tank. We are tight and I don't think I'd be alive if it were not for you and Jack. I love you both more than you know. What a fucking journey this has been."

Tank smiled and ruffled my hair. "Get some rest, I'm gonna go kick a ball around while the air is bearable out there."

"Go for it! See you later!"

August 18th 2006 - 05:20

Alarm went off waking Tank and Jack up. I grabbed my phone to silence the ringtone I had been meaning to change since I unboxed it back at home.

"Sorry guys, this is it, time for me to get ready."

I could hear Jack shuffling around above me in the top bunk before seeing his hairy legs hang down. He jumped to the floor and rubbed his eyes.

"I'll help you get your gear sorted."

"Tank looked over the side of his bunk, and put his hand up. "Man, it's early."

I really respected him for not sleeping on the bottom bunk where Lukas used to be. It was never mentioned but his bed was left made up neatly and no one or nothing was ever put on it.

"I'll make us some coffee," Jack said. Wandering around our small box room looking for some plastic cups.

"Jack, In the cupboard, chuck us some lube."

"Lube?" Jack asked, wincing, confused.

"Yeah I am super horney this morning. I need to rub one out quickly."

"Ahhh man," I said, smirking.

Jack hunted through the cupboard and pulled out a small bottle of Liquid Silk Tank had brought with him - him being circumcised...A conversation we never got round to having but it was not really the done thing in our country.

"Two sugars for me Jacko and by the time that kettle boils, these balls will be empty."

I sat up on my bed and contemplated what to do first while Jack made coffee. I briefly looked over at Tank who had his eyes closed tugging away. I deliberately watched hm for a few seconds just to see if I found the act of him jerking off somehow erotic. But there was nothing. I was fine with it of course. I mean we all have needs, We're young and with no women around to speak off I think we all sympathized with our drives. Jack acted like it was something that happened every day. But I must admit I'd never seen any of us 'publicly' get off. It was always something done in the shower or when everyone was asleep. At least, that was my routine. Anyway, I am now wondering why I am still speaking about this. The clock is ticking.

I got up just as Tank came, and Tank was never quiet in that respect. Jack burst out laughing while I rolled my eyes.

"Feel better," I said, hobbling over to my small closet.

"Man what a load, here guys, come and look at this!"

"NO!" We both shouted in unison, laughing.


Jack had got most of my gear out of the closets and cupboards and packed it all up neatly like we were trained. Everything was always neat and tidy, it was drummed into us. It was a bonus really as we seemed to find spaces where no other human could I always thought.


With everything packed I hugged the guys and was overcome by emotion as they both stood there together looking at me. Jack had got three guys to take my bags out onto the tarmac, and another had arrived with a wheelchair which I gladly fell into.

"Keep in touch! Or I'll fucking shoot you with my automatic," Tanks said as Jack wheeled me out. I raised my arm and middle finger but shouted back. "You got it!"


Out on the tarmac the sun was already up and the screaming idle engines from the plane were making it hard for me to hear what Jack was saying. But I think he said he loved me and that we would all get together soon.

A line of my regiment has all lined up to see off the 6 off us who were injured and saluted as we were wheeled onto the plane. I don't mind admitting I found that act totally overwhelming. The guys we had fought with, each of them keeping us safe, knowing we had their backs also. I didn't envy them. I was glad to be going home, just not under these circumstances.

Private Jenkins, who was looking after all of us helped me into one of the seats and strapped me in before ruffling my hair.

"Enjoy your flight, muscle man. Be safe."

"Cheers man. You get back to Bastion safely every day yeah. Please say goodbye to all the guys for me."

"Of course," he shouted above the noise.


With us all now strapped into the side of the plane, with various damaged and beat up vehicles in the middle of the plane the bowl door started to raise.

I put my earbuds in and selected a song I knew I would play when this moment came. With Darude's Sandstorm blaring in my ears I felt the engines rev up. Everything was vibrating and I just put my head back and closed my eyes.

I was going home!


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