James Brakespeare, Grade 8
Euphoria sweeps over me as I march through the streets of Kabul, alongside my fellow Islamic countrymen. It had been my friend Hakim’s idea to come here, to endure the heat and flies of the city in mid morning, to be a protester.
“Don’t you want to show that we can resist the Taliban, Ameen” Hakim had asked when I had initially refused his offer.
“Yeah, but there’s a reason why they’ve ruled over us for so many years. They don’t enjoy opposition, and they’re effective at removing it’’ I had countered.
“Don’t be such a killjoy. They won’t hurt us here, there’ll be security. Just come anyway, it’ll be fun.”
I had reluctantly agreed.
Now as we proudly paraded down the main street, the smell of oil and sweat filled the air. I glanced around still weary.
Afghanistan was controlled partially by the Taliban, and I knew they wouldn’t take the threat of a mass scale protest lightly. I should know, as my real father had been killed several years ago by Taliban militants while serving alongside the US Army as a peacekeeper, not that many people knew.
I watched the procession ahead, as I am only a few metres back from the front. Standing upon a Maybach 62 limousine, one of the Afghan generals rallying against the Taliban sits in an armoured car, saluting and waving simultaneously.
“He’s a happy chap that General” mentions Hakim.
“I would be too if I were helping to restore an entire nation” I reply factually.
Alongside, soldiers ride on two seat motorcycles. More soldiers stood on the flat roof tops, their long intimidating AK-47s and AK-74s stark reminders of the danger.
A glint of steel catches my eye. I turn to see one of the soldiers unzipping his jacket. Beneath is a tangle of wires and circuitry. In horror I stare.
“Down” I scream hysterically.
Suddenly, the world around me is vanquished. I crumple to the floor. Gunshots fill the air, invisible among the cloud of debris. One smashes into the ground centimetres from me. I fell a piece of shrapnel lodged in my leg. Horrible wailing and screaming surrounds, blood running like a river down the street alongside.
The suicide bomber had been well equipped. A large bang resounds as a building topples, scorched and blackened. The stench of burning human flesh intoxicates me. Gasping, I crawl into a shallow crater, realising the smoke is clearing. Yet more gunshots whistle past. It’s a fire fight between the Taliban and Afghan military, and we civilians lay in the middle.
I curled up to conceal myself. What else could I do?
An Afghan soldier crawls past, and takes cover behind a nearby body. A split second later, he and the other body are blasted by a volley of automatic fire. He slumps back bullet ridden and motionless. Ahead, the shell of the Maybach lies smouldering.
I freeze - more soldiers are approaching. Two or three of them are slowly making their way along the road. Gunshots have ceased, the afghan army it is clear have been defeated.
I crawl painstakingly slowly towards the dead soldier, as the other soldiers, obviously Taliban militia, loot some of the dead. I quietly release the antiquated Steyr from his holster, my nerves taut.
Silently I slip back to the shelter of the crater, certain the soldiers would discover me soon. There was no choice but for me to try and take their lives now though I would be killed one way or another, as the Taliban would have captured the city. I primed the Steyr like my father had shown me before his death, grateful for it and the fact that it didn’t make the giveaway ‘click’ the AK-47 did when about to be fired.
Through the lingering smoke the militants approach, their outlines grow ever bigger. Terrified, heart racing, I pull the trigger as I lay on the ground. My body jars with the recoil, as I fire on full automatic into the militants. Two fall to the ground, yet one remains. My Steyr clicks, my ammunition depleted. With a cruel grin, the insurgent reveals his AK-74, revelling in my fear. Too afraid too move, my muscles inoperable.
White light flashes again, as the insurgent is floored. Five F-15 Strike Eagle aircraft flash over eliminating my surroundings, the crater protecting me. I hear helicopter blades, as two UH-47 Chinooks land.
Dazed, I hear the voice of a soldier.
“You’re alright now mate” he grins with an Australian accent. I’m lifted on to a stretcher and wheeled away towards the Chinook. “Where’s Hakim” I cry out, suddenly remembering in my own self despair.
“Who?” a soldier replies with a frown. I realise now I hadn’t a chance of finding Hakim.
Everything’s a kaleidoscope, the pain in my leg the scene around me, time seems to stand still.
An anaesthetic is quickly injected to my arm by an UN medic.
As my consciousness disappears, I realised how narrowly I’d survived the Kabul Carnage.