Saeed Shah/MCT

Todd had to jump out of the jeep because it had been hit in the back by a shell, and he figured it would probably catch fire soon. It happened quite often these days. He plopped himself down behind a little hill where a couple of his comrades were. Dust was getting into his clothes. It was everywhere: your shoes, your trunk, your gun, even in the shower. It was really annoying when all you wanted to do was eat the granola bar in your pocket, and you choked for half an hour on the dust until the doctors came and poured water down your throat. The enemy was shooting at them now, not that they ever hit anything, really. They didn’t know how to hold the gun properly, they were always shooting from the hip or curling their arms around the corner to blind fire at you. Sure, they’d get lucky once in a while, but for the most part you just kind of assumed they wouldn’t. Danny popped his head out of cover to get a better look and some enemy got lucky. It was a real mess, spattering blood all over Todd’s brand new boots. He’d have to spend all day washing them over a crappy pump-well, and the stains never came out of leather, anyway.

He decided that he’d better start fighting back, so he took a grenade off his belt and pulled the pin. The trick was to wait a couple of seconds before you threw it; if you threw it too soon, your target might have time to get out of the way before it exploded, or throw it back at you, and Todd really hated the smell of shrapnel. When he thought he had waited long enough, he tossed it over the hill he was hiding behind. As he ducked back down, he caught a glimpse of the sun. It was bright today; he supposed that if the cloud of black smoke billowing out from the abandoned jeep weren’t blocking most of it, it would feel quite nice on his skin. He didn’t get enough time to enjoy the sun. He wished he could tan more. All that time spent in full-fighting gear, crouching behind thick objects, really left you paler than you’d expect a soldier to be.

Todd threw a few more grenades. When he ran out, he threw his gun. As it hit the ground, it went off a handful more times, shooting a few more enemies. He took his knife off his belt and threw that, too, hitting one right in the chest. After that, he threw his brand new boots. They were ruined anyway. Two more died. He didn’t want to throw his helmet—that was still clean—so he took out his pouches of ammo and started throwing the bullets. Todd made little “bang” noises every time he threw one, and it was just like firing a gun.

The enemy soldiers started running backward, probably to some hideout, all the while holding their guns behind them and shooting without looking. They never learn, Todd chuckled to himself. He couldn’t take too long to enjoy his own joke, though. When they ran was when you had to get them. That’s when they were the easiest shots. He stood and lined up a few of them, being careful not to throw too hard or his arm might come off.

“Nice shots, Todd!” cheered his sergeant, who had bagged a few himself.

“Thanks, Sarge!” answered Todd. The enemy had retreated and were out of sight. Todd asked if he could go after them, but the sergeant said that the air forces would be bathing the area in chemical sprays by now. The chemicals were really quite useful. What they didn’t kill outright they slowly poisoned. At the very least they caused a birth defect or two.

To fuel his excitement, Todd inspected the bodies of the enemies he’d killed. It was always fun to find one that had died in an interesting way. He quickly found the ones he had gotten with his grenade; the multitude of tiny cuts gave them away. They were easy. A few of them had greenish tints to their skin; they must have been exposed to the chemicals sometime earlier. Todd left those alone. You didn’t want to get too close or you might be affected, too. The few that he had gotten as they ran back up the hill were far better. One had fallen over to rest just like a mummy, the arms folded over the chest. He’d have to take a picture of this one; the boys back at camp would get a major kick out of it. He also plucked some teeth from the mummy soldier’s mouth and stuck them into his own. It never hurt to have more teeth.