“Seagull Actual, Seagull Actual, this is Seagull 1-2-Alpha, over.” I called out, climbing the elevation.
There was nothing but static.
“Anything?” Sam asked, with jaded breaths.
“Nothing!” I joined him on the ground and crouched forward.
“You think anyone would find us?” he asked, despite knowing that I’ve been with him too for the past twenty hours with no radio contact with the FOB or the HC.
I crouched a little towards the top and peered the area. An old refinery site was shining all alone in that desert.
“We’ll have to find a way,” I replied as I crouched back.
“There’s a refinery! From the looks of it, I think it’s abandoned,” I said, surveying the sector on my map. There was nothing but sand to the extent, one or two possible hostile outposts, but too far. “Let’s see if we could find some rations.”
“Would you rather die here than in a shady place?”
“Alright! I’m in!”
The refinery was roughly two clicks from there.
Once we were inside the holding areas, we made it sure that the facility was actually abandoned. It was a stupid move, but lesser in stupidity than to hope for any extraction or survival, out in the open. In fact, the very first stupid move was not to run for our tactical gears when the rebels bombed our base. The radio, maps, pistols, and the helmets were the only gears that survived with us.
The refinery, it was all a rusty maze of pipes, valves, pumps, and broken gauges everywhere. Hours passed and we’d only been clunking around those refinery pipes and doors. We searched every nook and corner. There were no signs of any food or water.
“Maybe if we can start now—”
“You hear that?” I cut him out and turned.
“Hear what?” Sam asked, focusing his senses and lowering the tone. He immediately took my silence as a sign for inbound hostiles as I focused more. He took out his pistol and found a corner wondering what I was hearing.
“There…” I ran among the pipes and followed the clunks.
Sam followed, covering my six with colourful words. We stopped at a small spot under one of the huge structure, what I believed to be a large boiler.
“What is it?” Sam was madly searching under the pipes.
“Forget it!” I let myself down by one of the columns. “I thought I heard some animal sound.”
Sam calmed down and sat by the column in front of me, throwing his helmet on the ground next to mine.
I knew it. Two or three days tops, we both are going to die a horrible death. As these thoughts gnawed deep in my head, I read from the imaginary paper, “Two sole survivors of the last division, found dead in an old refinery by the local warlords.”
Sam chuckled. “Sucks, eh?”
“There could be more, you know?”
“Nah! It’s just us. I heard at least, three explosions. Final stretch might’ve been a good cover for the others, but it’s obvious now. Comms are dead man!”
“Too many good men… What a waste of life!” I closed my eyes for a short nap before I could lose my sanity.
“I wish some local rebels catch us,” Sam said, looking at the ground. “At least, we’ll get some nasty food in the camps.”
It hasn’t been even a minute since he uttered those words. Two masked guerillas were standing there with their AKs pressed against our temples.
“Of all the stupid wishes you could make—”
They pulled us up and threw us out. As they barked in some language, we slowly trudged towards the direction they pointed, with our fingers clutched behind our heads.
“What do we do now?” Sam whispered.
“Find a faster, less painful way!”
“How do we do that?”
“You see those?” I signalled their trucks that were parked next to a big storage tank. “If we could fight our way out of this, we’ll probably have a slim chance of crossing this desert alive with one of those trucks.”
The driver and the gunner began to celebrate our capture as they saw us approaching towards them.
“Look at those half cooked bastards!” Sam uttered. “I wish the tank exploded on those ugly ass faces!”
“Calm down,” I whispered as we approached closer to the trucks. “I’ll make a move for those crates.”
The gunner’s excitement elevated, and he started firing towards the sky. His skinny hand wobbled with all those recoils, and the last few bullets poked some decent holes in the storage tank.
The moron behind me yelled something to that skinny guy. Before he lowered the weapon, one last bullet ricocheted off the rusted valve and granted Sam’s wish. The leaking oil gobbled up the spark with the required oxygen. In a few seconds, blew the entire storage tank, spurting out chunks of metals all around. The shock wave was not strong enough to throw us off from that distance, but the trucks faced a horrible fate. They flew out and collided onto the pipes. Just as Sam wished, the driver and the gunner lost their heads instantly.
In that mayhem, we both acted fast, knocked off the other two and lodged several bullets in them.
“Damn!” Sam shouted, looking at the dark, smoke-covered ground. “The trucks!”
“We could’ve handled it much better if you’ve kept your damn mouth shut,” I retorted, checking the rebels for anything useful.
“What did I do?”
“Well, you screwed up anyway,” I said, throwing an empty matchbox on the ground. “It is your job now to light a fire today.” I was still above his rank, and he had to comply.
He scoffed. “Losing your mind already? Turn around. There is your god damn fire bud.”
I laughed, eased up a bit and looked around. “Well it’s gonna go dark soon, let’s go find something to light up then.”
“Well, I did find an oil lamp around the corner back when scavenging for food,” Sam walked towards the high structures, unsure about the exact corner to turn.
I moved back to the office building inside the holding area to find a well-insulated shelter to escape that night’s temperature.
Three hours passed. Sam and I were in that office building, exchanging some memories of the good old times in the platoon. The old lamp was good enough to light up the whole room. We tried to find some cactus and worms earlier, but there was no sign of life there, except us, the two marooned, dehydrated soldiers, awaiting a hopeless sunrise. We both realized that neither of us would have either the physical strength or enough sanity to think straight and make it through the next day.
Sam started talking about his last card game in our jeep. “Man I miss that piece of crap! I wish I could listen to our horrible songs back in that thing again.”
“The radical four!” I pronounced the band’s name in a deep voice and chuckled.
In a few seconds, the fire wanted to go off as some high winds entered the vents. Sam rushed and closed it to save himself from a task to walk back again to the oil tank to light up the lamp.
“Looks like a storm/” He gawked through the windows.
“What are you even seeing in the dark?” I joined him.
The sound was rattling, and very soon, loud thunders accompanied with powerful flashes from the skies dared the structure.
We exchanged a look of hope, finally.
“Come on… Rain. Rain. Rain.” I kept mumbling.
It was only high winds and loud bangs for a few minutes. No sign of rain.
“Let’s go get a container or something.” I rushed out of the office and jumped down the stairs in the joy.
“Our helmets!” Sam cried as he kept my pace and followed me outside.
Stream of sand particles stung us everywhere. Blocking them from the eyes, I battled every step into that narrow area. The wind had already put out most of that oil fire with the sand, and it was completely dark. It was even strong enough to push me against the wall. Lucky for Sam, he had his sunglasses. He signalled me and ran forward quickly, holding the pipes.
“Over here!” he yelled out from under the large boiler.
I grabbed the pipes and followed his voice.
Sam found a helmet. Not sure where to look for the other helmet, we kept kicking the legs in air to hit something soon.
“NVG! NVG!” I shouted over the loud wind.
“What?” He shouted back.
“NVG!” I raised my voice.
The wind had carried away the helmet a little farther into the adjacent boiler structure. We put up a hell of a battle with that wind on our way back and made it safe to the office building with the night visions. It was the nature’s turn to reward us a few drops for what it was worth.
A few minutes passed in that wind and then we had it. Sprinkles from the sky to quench our thirst. The rain lasted for roughly an hour.
From then on, throughout the night, it was just the occasional winds.
In the morning, Sam’s mad hysterical laughter and screams woke me up.
I stomped out the holding area, yelling at the top of my voice. “Sam, you stupid moron! What the hell has gotten into—”
The jeep. It was right there around the corner. It was crashed sideways, and Sam was pushing it hard with a mad excitement.
“Come on! Help me out,” Sam waved.
“But… How… How did this happen?” I asked, thrusting all my strength to my hands to push the vehicle back on its wheels.
“Probably!” Sam synchronized with my pushes and the jeep wobbled. “The!” He pushed hard. “Wind!”
After two hard pushes, the vehicle tipped on its wheels.
Saving the energy and celebration for later, we hurried back to the office building and refilled the water bottles that we found in the jeep. The vehicle was in bad shape, but we believed it would hold for another seven hundred kilometres through the desert.
Sam jumped into the driver’s seat.
“Let’s go,” I said to Sam, who was looking at the refinery.
The engine was good in shape. We moved slowly on that hot desert.
“I still can’t get over my mind with this,” I said. “What the heck happened?”
“Look,” Sam drew my attention to the music player.
“It’s ours!” I freaked out more. “It’s our damn jeep man!” I laughed. “Man… You got some pretty good miracle going on inside you.”
“You remember? Last night! I did wish for this to happen.”
“Yeah… Yeah! I do remember that.” I felt strange. “You know what? Let’s test it. Wish for something else now.”
“See that dune over there? I wish that the refinery explodes as we go over it.”
And just as we got to the dune ahead of us, the refinery exploded in a ball of thick black smoke. The sound of rapture followed a few seconds later and struck us with the strangest form of confusion.
“It’s real! It’s happening! I think I have a superpower!” Sam cried.
“Yeah! What did you do? Did you rub some lamp or something?” I cried back in excitement.
My head hit hard on the dashboard as Sam slammed on the brakes.