I don't really know where I was, I'll never know, somewhere in the dark reaches of my mind that I never want to be again.....
One minute I was being interrogated, injected with truth serums (they wanted information and they were damn sure they were going to get it), and the next Jagan was standing over me with an AK-47.
I could have sworn I was hallucinating but no, he was there, then I caught sight of movement behind him and saw things that were hallucinations but my mind was so mixed up between what was reality and what wasn't that I flipped out, I mean really flipped out. A scream tore through the building before I realised that it was me who was screaming, I'd heard that kind of sound before, from soldiers lying in their own blood, calling for their mothers. I didn't want my mother, I didn't want anyone to come near me, I wanted everything I saw in that room to stay the hell away from me.
"Get me out of here." I choked as I stood up and steadied myself by hanging onto Jagan. My legs were stiff and sore from earlier and I shuffled to the door leaning hard on Jagan's shoulder. He jumped up through the trapdoor and then helped me up. My body was aching and I lay with my back on the grass as I stared up at the night sky. Jagan sat on the alert, the gun across his knees, as he watched the forest.
"I make it a rule to never leave a friend behind Jagan, my father said it to me once, I'll say it to you now. "A West never turns his back on a friend so he sure as hell doesn't turn his back on family." Just remember that about us, me and Beth might be completely different. But we grew up by the same rules, with the same attitude to certain things. I love my sister, but I know that I can't control her life. She's inevitably going to go against everything I say anyway. But I do think she loves you. I really do. And I hope you look after her." I said suddenly.
Jagan half smiled and opened his mouth to say something but I cut him off.
"There's something I think you should know about me, and when I tell you, you'll be one of about 7 living people that actually know the full story." I paused and took a deep breath as Jagan stared at me.
"You ever here of the Delta Hounds?" I asked and Jagan frowned as he thought about it.
"Yeah sure I did, the team of ten went on a mission to rescue some kind of diplomat and only four of them came back with him."
I started to laugh hysterically. "Only four. hahahaha only four...."
"What do you mean by that Crow?" he asked confused so I pulled myself up to a sitting postiton.
"It was a con, a phony lead, there was no diplomat captured, we were eliminated because we were considered too much of a threat by international governments. I watched as my team mates were cut down and lay writing in agony on the ground and I couldn't do anything for them except run. My girlfriend at the time, Sarah, she got her head blown off, one whole side of her face collapsed and I was there, it happened right in front of me. Man it was so effed up to the maximum. The government covered a lot of it up, didn't want people to know that they'd screwed up on their intel, that they'd killed eight people. Only four came back? Only two came back, Me and Kian."
"Your friend that died in the plane ambush?"
"Yeah, he never got over it. I didn't lie that he'd died from the crash, I just never mentioned that he died two hours later, in my arms. Because I went back for him, I lifted him off the metal spikes he'd been impaled on, pulled him from that wreck of a plane, dragged him into mine and flew back with him. An hour and a half it took to get him back and all that time he cried for those eight people we left behind and screamed as he remembered what he'd seen that day. It wasn't an ambush, it was a slaughter. I had just gotten him out of my jet and halfway to a waiting ambulance when he grabbed me and told me he couldn't continue and to try and convince people to tell the truth about the Hounds. Then he died in my arms. He was my best friend." a sob escaped me and I found myself breaking down into seven years of traumatised tears.
"I...I never cried for any of them, I never did, I had to go on I couldn't let them stay alive in my mind, they were dead. Ghosts. Do you know what the biggest thing in my head was when I came here to North Korea with you guys?"
"What was it Steve?" Jagan asked gently and I lay back on the grass and sobbed.
"I was thinking, sh*t, what if it happens again? What if it's a false tip to get rid of us. That's where we went before you see, we were here when it happened, this very building Jagan. I recognize it now, it's all to messed up and real for me. Right now I feel like a kid again and I just want this to be over so I can get the hell out of this country. I keep seeing their faces, I see them in my dreams. They haunt me every day, eyeless, half their faces gone, begging me, pleading with me, but worst of all asking me why I left them behind. All of them are there, Patrick, Joey, Emily, Sarah...oh Sarah....she was beautiful, they destroyed her so badly she had to have a closed coffin funeral. They sent the bodies home you know, the North Korean government, and they paid for the funerals. It was almost like an apology." I suddenly stopped my babbling and threw an arm across my face. "People have the right to know, but I don't know how many times I can tell that story without cracking up."
"I'll tell the others." Jagan said quietly but I barely heard him.
"WHY ME????" I screamed at the sky. "WHY DID YOU LET ME LIVE??"
I heard voices and was suddenly aware of someone at my side, brushing my hair back from my face as I clung to their jacket and sobbed. I heard Beth talking to Jagan and Foster and some other guys were sweeping the area. I slowly opened my eyes and looked up at the person beside me. It was Dani, but at that moment to me, she was an angel.
"You're safe now." she half smiled and I tried to return it but I couldn't bring my mouth to form a smile just then. "But not from the memories." I whispered. She helped my to my feet and I winced as my shirt chafed the burnt skin. She must have noticed because she immediately ordered me to take it off so she could check any injury. My heart sank, I didn't want them to know about it. But no matter how hard I protested she still insisted she have a look at it. So I took the shirt off slowly and turned my back to her.
"OH MY GOD." she screamed in horror as she traced the letters with her fingertips. "What did they do to you?!"
I turned back around to her just in time to hear Foster's yell "SNIPER IN THE TREES!" and see the little red dot focus on her forehead. I didn't think I just dived on her and the two of us crashed to the ground as a branch behind us exploded on the impact of a bullet. Then there were more shots and Foster called the area clear. I sighed with relief and pushed myself up on shaking arms. Dani looked up at me with a dazed expression and I managed a smile for a moment. "You have a bad habit of being a sniper target." I joked. "Maybe it's cos you're so pretty they just focus on you."
She blushed and I realised that I was leaning over her, no shirt on and I had just started flirting with her without realising it. I coughed and stood up slowly and pulled my shirt back on, pain rippling through my body. Tears began to pour down my face once again, partly from pain, partly from memories.
She jumped to her feet and put my arm around her shoulders to keep me steady as she helped me over to the others. They didn't know about my back just yet. My ears burned red when I thought about what had happened with Dani.
"Steve are you ok? Jagan just told me what happened, I can't believe you'd do something like that. I'm so proud of you. Really, I am. Are you ok? You look a little red and feverish, doesn't he look a little red Jagan? Sherlock? Sherlock do you think Crow is coming down with a fever?" Beth was panicky and I realised that Jagan had told her a brief story about why I was in such a state.
"Relax Beth, I'm fine. I'm just...." I saw movement out of the corner of my eye and I knew they were back, the ghosts. A sob caught in my throat as my old comrades prowled the night. "They injected me... it was... hallucinogenic....Kian...Sarah..." I choked out as Kian stood at Beth's shoulder and Sarah passed behind them all, staring at me with her one remaining eye. It was way too much for me.
I turned and vomited into the grass before passing out.