Desert Storms

I don’t know how we got here. Maybe that’s the PTSD.

Maybe it’s all so bad, my body can’t let me remember. Still, if that’s true, it’s the same for all of us.

The sand is blowing again. Erasing the past. Obscuring the future. Rattling dry scrub-brush like bones bleached on the beach.

I wish we were on a beach. What I wouldn’t give to see something other than wreckage and sand and torn steel.

When I check the vision blocks, I find that blackened wreck of an enemy camp just over the slope. It’s the only way I know we’ve already been this way. Three or four times? Or was it five? The command center and Inter-Vehicle Info System went offline after we overtook the last tank.

I’m so tired, I can’t remember anymore. But we have to keep driving until we find a signal.

I once heard about dust devils. Now I’ve started to see them. Gaping jaws, grasping claws, howling out there in the swirling dirt.

The guys have started to whisper. They think I can’t hear, but that’s stupid, wishful. We’re all crammed in this little can. I hear everything. Every blink.

So we drive, tired and bored, suspicious… superstitious. We’re crammed into this hulking crawler. It wasn’t made for road trips.

After the last battle, I heard the driver whispering to the gunner about the burst of light in the sky. He says he saw it clear and bright. “Game Over” in red, white and blue.

The gunner rolled his eyes, but later, he told the loader that we’re the last ones left. We took down the munitions plant, tracked the stray combatants, took out their last tank, and now we’re obsolete, forgotten, discarded. Game Over.

That’s when I tore into them. It’s poisonous talk. We’ll drive on. We’ll find the signal. Someone remembers us. Someone will come for us.

Funny thing, though. I can’t form a picture of who remembers, who misses us, who sends out the search team. We’re someone’s pawns. Everyone answers to someone. Still, by now I can’t even remember the names of my crew. Did I ever know?

I just keep looking out the scope and wondering, why the hell would anyone fight over this? I’m the commander here. But as the days go by, my mind grows more dusty, more barren. Everything is windswept and endless like the heat-baked horizon.

There’s nothing for us. Nothing for anyone, and there’s nothing to do until we make contact with mission control, spot a friend or find a foe.

The driver is driving, but he’s mumbling again. Mumbling the words like an incantation through his sleep/wake state.

I hear the whistling wind, the grinding motor, the crunch of tread over sand.