“Seagull Actual, Seagull Actual, this is Seagull 1-2, over.” I called out, climbing the elevation.
No break in the static.
“Anything?” Sam asked, over his jaded puffs of dust.
“Nothing!” I joined him on the ground and crouched forward.
“You think anyone would find us?” he asked, well aware that I’ve been with him for the past twenty hours with no radio contact with the FOB or the HC.
Before he could flip me off, I made myself useful and found myself an elevated spot. I peered the area. An old refinery site was shining all alone in that desert.
“We’ll have to find a way,” I replied.
“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. It was a quick stretch in a field of hot sand, but still Sam just couldn’t wait for anything. He bolted towards it and I had no choice either.
We reached the holding areas in one piece, dehydrated enough to pass out under that roof decorated with bullet holes. If not running towards our gears when our base was bombed by the rebels wasn’t stupid enough, hoping for any extraction out there in that abandoned refinery was. With a radio, a set of maps, pistols, helmets, and a sea of sand to feed us, we had to survive.
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. No food or water.
“Maybe if we can start now—”
“You hear that?” I stopped him and turned, drawing the pistol out.
“Hear what?” Sam asked, honing his half-baked senses and barely lowering the tone.
He rather took my intent focus as a sign for inbound hostility and took cover around a corner with his pistol.
“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 mad. He got on the sand and aided the search 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 until our tragic demise. 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. One of food poisoning, the other eaten by a cannibal.”
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 capture us,” Sam said, looking at the ground. “At least, we’ll get some nasty food in the camps.”
I chuckled and shut my eyes for a break.
Two minutes of peace since he uttered those words, I woke up to an alarming cry. Two masked guerillas were standing there with their AKs to our temples.
“Of all the stupid wishes you could make—”
They pulled us up and threw us out.
As they barked at us in one of the many local languages, we slowly trudged towards the direction they pointed. Our fingers clutched behind our heads, far from the holsters.
Sam nudged my elbow. “What do we do now?” he whispered.
“Find a faster, less painful way!”
“How do we do that?”
“You see those?” I signalled at their technicals 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 technicals.”
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 explode on those ugly ass faces!”
“Calm down,” I hissed back 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 could lower 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. It was brighter than the sun. The storage tank erupted, spurting out chunks of metals. Though the tremor shook us up, the shock wave was not strong enough to throw us off from that distance. But the fate of the technicals that were too close was beyond recognition. One had flown out and collided onto the pipes. And just as Sam wished, the driver and the gunner had lost their heads instantly.
Before the mayhem could drop dead, we both acted fast, knocked off the other two and lodged several bullets in them.
“Damn!” Sam got a hold quick.
Looking at the dark, smoke-covered ground, we yelled in unison, “The technicals!”
“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. Get to work.” 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, bruh.”
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.”
“I think … 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. “Let me see.”
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. No reinforcements came looking for the headless. Sam and I finally caught a break in the 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. We just kept talking to escape the despair.
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 spare himself a task to walk back again to the oil tank to light up the lamp.
“Looks like a storm,” he said, gawking out 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. The unified skies dared the puny structure.
We exchanged a look of hope, finally.
“Come on… Rain. Rain. Rain.” I started chanting.
It was only high winds and loud bangs for a few minutes. No sign of rain.
“Let’s go find a container or something.” I rushed out of the office and skipped the stairs in glee.
“Our helmets!” Sam cried, falling down the stairs to follow me outside.
Stream of sand particles and the cold air stung us. Just keeping the eyes covered, 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 past me, 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 we kept kicking the legs in the dark to hit something soon.
“NOD!” I shouted over the loud wind. “NOD!”
“What?” He shouted back.
“Put on your night vision!” I raised my voice.
The wind had carried away the helmet a little farther into the adjacent boiler structure, but Sam finally grabbed it.
The battle with the wind on the way back was much easier with the night visions. As we passed whatever that was to the safety to the office building, it was the nature’s turn to reward us a few drops.
Minutes passed, and nothing but the howling wind. Sam had lost hope, but he just waited patiently by me, looking aimlessly at the dark sky.
At the first sound of the sprinkles, we lit up like two hungry dogs. The sky opened up a barrage of drops, cold, but good enough to quench our thirst. The winds backed off soon and it was just the drops throughout the night. We drank as much as we could, pathetically saved some in our helmets, and drifted into the sleep by the fading lamp.
In the morning, Sam’s mad hysterical laughter, and louder than ever girly scream 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—”
A jeep. The rusted and dented mass of metal was lying there sideways. The mad and excited Sam was next to it, trying to push it back like a maniac who found the idol of the creator.
“Come on! Help me out,” Sam waved. “You believe this?”
“But—How—How did this happen?” I asked, amassing all the strength to my hands to push the vehicle.
“Probably—” Sam synchronised with my pushes and the jeep wobbled. “The—” He pushed hard. “Wind!”
After two hard-synchronised pushes, we were able to tip the jeep on its wheels.
Saving the energy to celebrate later, we hurried back to the office building and refilled the water bottles that we found in the jeep. The vehicle was in a bad shape, but we believed it would hold for a few hundred kilometres through the desert.
Sam, the squad’s Delta, jumped into the driver’s seat to check the condition.
I dashed into the office to get the maps and the rest of the gears. The lamp was out, the helmets were dry, and it was time to go. I gleefully returned with everything piled up in the arms to find Sam sitting there with a frozen gaze at the refinery.
“Let’s go,” I patted on Sam’s back, throwing our stuff inside the jeep.
“Yeah, okay.” He snapped out and started the engine.
The engine was good in shape. We started moving.
“I still can’t get over my mind with this,” I said. “What the heck happened?”
“What!? 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 reach it.”
We both had our heads fixed on the refinery as the vehicle galloped towards the sandy mound. 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 dismay.
“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.