The girl came fleeing from her mud-brick house, and he mowed her down with a rapid fire from his M4 carbine.
It seemed as if everything happened in slow motion. One moment, he’d been gingerly scanning the street, his weapon cocked and his finger twitching nervously on the trigger.
Crouching warily in the growing dusk, his patrol makes its way slowly along the street, their muscles burn with fatigue, and the strain, as they scan the shadows for any hint of ambush.
…he pivots his rifle towards the sound, everything stops, as the burst hits a young girl escaping from the confines of her mud-brick house.
Twenty feet away, she must have only had taken three or four steps when the lead hit her, hurling her minute frame backwards with a fine spray of her crimson flow, shattering the doorframe with a limp carcass. The red mist scattered in motionless air.
The echoes of the shots played in his mind.
He stiffens in horror, staring at the small heap of bloodied meat, which once was a life.
In the distance shots can be heard, as hidden assailants open fire. Quickly the patrol scatter for cover and return fire, but he, stuck in this crossfire, slowly walks towards the young girl, the muzzle of his rifle trailing behind him in the warm desert sand.
He gently takes one of her wrists softly and with his other arm lifts her limp body to behind a thick palm trunk; he crouches impossibly low feverishly searching for the slightest form of life. Her eyes are half-opened, but oblivious to this world, fluttering as she gasps feebly for her life. A tiny trickle of blood stains her cheek and dribbles into the dust below her head. He gets to work immediately trying to stem the blood flow. It was futile from the beginning, her entire torso was a shredded monstrosity, but he just keeps on working, silently.
Around them the chaos is just beginning to subside, but scattered shots in the distance ensure that the streets remain clear, apart from the two isolated figures at the side of the little girl’s home.
Her heart stopped.
Staring down at her with an expression approaching detached reverie, he kneels down beside her. There is a strand of hair over the girl’s eyes, he brushes it gently back. Her emerald-green eyes look accusingly, at him. He is silent.
He continues, stroking her head. A thunderous detonation from beyond the village shakes the ground.
He glances casually up from her face, his eyes glazed as time stops for only him, he looks back down at her.
Pulling out a cigarette, he lights it, he takes a long reflective drag.
His forlorn eyes look down at the limp prostrate form.
He staggers mesmerized down the street.
He watches the bullets that hit the girl in slow motion.
A tear is swallowed up by the deserts sand.
The street falls silent once more, warily the patrol squad approach in the gloom, making their way towards their own. One man puts his arm around him and leads him back down the silent street, where they had come from.
He shivers in his bed, nearly 80 years old; he looks at his bed, the bed he shares alone. He takes out his revolver his hated, yet only friend. As he contemplates the irony: he went to save his country; he went to save lives.
He came back as a failure in his own mind, the forlorn hope has never left his eyes.
He looks down at the revolver. He sighs. He raises it to his head, his eyes towards the heavens;