Thursday, March 8, 2007
He’d had the dream only infrequently at Walter Reed and afterward at Camp Robinson, the lingering images then being vague and fleeting, nothing to hang on to. He knew it had something to do with being a sniper, but couldn’t recall the specific details, the only aftereffect an elusive feeling of dread.
However, since leaving Camp Robinson and moving into the apartment in Grand Island, the dream had begun to haunt his sleep more frequently and he was recalling more detail. Like all dreams, it had many bizarre elements.
In the dream he was leading a pack-laden donkey, part of a long train of hundreds of donkeys, so many stretching before and behind he couldn’t count them all.
He “knew” they were all smugglers, but of what he wasn’t sure.
And he “knew” the man in front of him, as well as the man behind him, in fact, every one of the endless line of donkey handlers was him.
At times they were on a trail in what was obviously the barren and rugged mountains he knew from the Kush. But other times they were surrounded by thick stands of pines, more like the White Mountains of Vermont where he’d been for his cold weather combat school. And sometimes he was in what was clearly desert, with cactus plants beside the trail and wind-swept buttes visible across wide valleys, like in central Texas where he’d done his basic training. And there was even a version where the “mountains,” which he had no doubt were mountains, looked more like abandoned and decaying high-rise buildings and the “trail” was a crumpled and potholed city street.
Yet, in every case, despite what his eyes told him, there was no doubt it was Afghanistan.
As a smuggler, he also “knew” there was a hidden sniper out there on a mountainside, ready to open fire on him and his doppelganger fellow handlers from long-range with a deadly Barrett .50 caliber. He “knew” whichever of the many hims the shooter chose to take out, all of the hims would die – one shot, a thousand kills.
The Barrett’s deadly reputation was notorious; its slug would arrive long before you heard the deep thud of its report, in truth, you’d never hear the report, as you’d already be dead before the sound ever reached your ears. So, he plodded forward, knowing death awaited, but not knowing when it might arrive.
But, strangely, he also “knew” he was the shooter, the one lurking unseen among the rocks, coldly surveying the line of handlers through his telescopic sight, carefully picking his target.
Eventually he, the shooter, squeezed the trigger…
But instead of the fleeting pain of a deadly bullet smashing into his body, he, the smuggler, heard the thud of the distant rifle’s report followed by a ping and whine as the bullet ricocheted from a rock nearby.
But that was impossible.
First, he should not have heard the gun fire before the shot arrived, as bullets from a Barrett .50 travel faster than the speed of sound.
Second, heavy, thumb-thick .50 caliber slugs don’t make ping-whine ricochet sounds, they make big, fist-size gouges in rocks.
And third, he, the shooter, had missed… But he, the shooter, didn’t miss… He, the shooter, had already taken out dozens and dozens of targets just like him, the smuggler, with never a miss…
Unless… He, the shooter, had missed him, the smuggler, on purpose…
Which is when he would wake up.
The dream always left him with hazy feelings of confusion and relief; relief he had not died, confusion over what the dream might be saying.
All dreams have a message, even if we don’t always understand it, or for that matter, want to understand it. Was it a death wish? Or the opposite, a life wish? Was he supposed to kill himself? But then why did he spare his own life with a miss? Was it some sort of release valve, simply letting off repressed anxiety so he could continue to function day-to-day? Or was it a message that the thrill of the hunt was missing for him, the exhilaration of a life almost continuous on the edge he had known in the Kush was now sapped?
Next: No dishonorable death
© 2019 Dave Lager