I heard about how dangerous the drive between Baghdad and Fallujah were a million times, yet I still wasn’t as worried as I should have been. Riding in the back of the Humvee tended to zone me out and made me feel like I was riding in the back of my mom’s Suburban and not an armored truck filled with ammunition and unstable men with guns.
I didn’t even know what happened when we hit the roadside bomb. I suddenly felt myself flying through the air and my legs were burning. I landed hard on the side of the road in a pile of sand.
My legs felt like I had stuck them on a barbecue grill and left them there. I laid on the side of the road in the dirty sand, listening to the sound of the vehicle I had been riding in burning up and the sound of my comrades screaming out in pain. I wished I could have helped them, but I couldn’t even move my neck enough to look at them and see exactly what was happening.
I sucked in about 10 breaths before everything started to get blurry. At first I thought it was just tears welling in my eyes, clouding my vision, but I quickly realized my overall consciousness was being affected. I was slipping away.
The red hot cloudless sky of the desert faded. The burning hot landscape was replaced with a dark alley lined with brick walls on each side as far as the eye could see. I didn’t recognize the setting and it didn’t feel natural. It felt like part of a waiting area for a ride at an amusement park. There was nothing but the puddle-splashed dark asphalt at my feet and the endless walls of red brick that stretched as far as the eye could see in each direction.
I felt a warm splash of rain fall on my skull of buzzed hair. I looked up and saw a night sky of grey clouds hovering over me. A soft tap on my back interrupted my gaze.