The day was red.

War was all around me. Paint-filled bullets whizzed past my ear, narrowly missing my skull. I dropped to the hard earth and crawled behind a fallen log, placed strategically by those before me as shelter in combat.

I was low on ammunition. My comrades were falling left and right, but our ability to regenerate by touching a designated tree stump kept us in the fight.

The mission: to shoot the idol in the eyes which mocked us from the crest of the hill.

Our enemy perched in their fortress, shooting any who dared to come near. Others were posted in the forest, waiting for us to walk in their path.

But the idol must be destroyed. We could either stand firm, or forfeit.

I would have spit at the thought, but my mask prevented me from doing so. I pushed back my hair that stuck to my forehead from sweat. It was a hot day. Our leaders advised we wear pants and long sleeves, but I decided to take my chances.

I couldn’t hide much longer for fear of being called a coward. With pride at stake, I dared to lift my head above my hideout.

Nothing.

A suicide mission had just occurred, leaving my path clear and attention diverted elsewhere. Darting low to the ground, I made my way halfway up the hill.

“There!” A voice cried from the fortress above.

Forfeiting stealth, I dove behind a steel mesh curtain as death flew all around me. It was a circular shield, exploding the ammunition into colored shrapnel which stained my body, but didn’t do any harm. I couldn’t shoot from behind the shield without exposing myself. I had but one option.

I jumped from safety and knew there was only a matter of seconds to complete the mission. My aim was true, my finger pressed the trigger…and my head jerked back, stunned. I missed, and a yellowish goo leaked from under my helmet. I was shot.

My jaw felt like it was punched by Goliath. Tears filled my eyes, but not one escaped. I stumbled to the regeneration stump and nearly collapsed. My comrades kept fighting, unaware of the tragedy that had befallen my face.

I turned back and continued on, again halfway up the hill when more shots rang out, pelting my body.

I tried to cry out, but no words left my mouth. My body took each impact with a twist. I fell to my knees in slow motion, only to hear a triumphant yell. The idol standing tall above me fell to its side. Its long ears caressed the ground, and its stuffed body riddled with holes. A pink stain, right between the eyes.

It was finished. We had won! But at what price?

The losing team surrendered, guns held high in the air as they marched before us. We took off our helmets one by one.

A gasp.

I felt my face. My hand was shaking. There was no blood. Just the yellow paint. My jaw was swollen, the worst injury the captain had ever seen on that field in his time serving. I shakily grinned, which hurt, so I stopped. I may not have won this battle with my heroic efforts, but none would remember the one who did. All they would remember is the valiant soldier with a purple knot on her jaw, who had taken a paintball to the face to save her team.

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