Blisters

I crouched behind the almost-rusting metal barrel trying to be as small, quiet and invisible as possible. This was about strategy, after all. Tactics. This was life and death.

Looking around, I tried to gauge the position of the members of Navy X. That’s what Accra’s most ruthless lot was calling itself. See, with the name Navy and all, you’d think they were an honourable bunch of people. But the things they’ve done, the things I’ve seen them do? Those were unpardonable. And more unbelievable was the fact that I’d shared the same classroom walls with most of them.

Bang! The loud noise of the bullet hitting the barrel jerked me momentarily but I had to remember that I had trained for this. I was prepared. I had to get a hold of myself.

Slowly, I lifted my head and saw through my helmet’s glass that it was a stray bullet and, in fact, I had not been made. At least, not just yet. No one was looking my way.

I saw a movement in the woods to the left across the clearing. He was dressed in a brown and dark navy camouflage overall suit and had it not been for my 20-20 eyesight and my quick perception of detail, I would’ve missed him.

With no moment to spare, I aimed and fired off. I saw more than heard him gasp as the bullet hit his left shoulder. He raised his right arm and pointed his gun in my direction. Before he knew it, I had hit him again. His gun fell to the floor and he bent over, covering his stomach where the red stain was already fast spreading. Then he was down.

“No! James!” I heard my best friend scream in agony, running over her to her boyfriend who lay motionless on the ground to her right. Rephrase. Ex best friend.

Don’t get me wrong; me killing my ex best friend’s boyfriend was not at all personal. It was completely professional. It was my job. They were now the enemy.

I looked ahead of me to the right and saw my friend and colleague Alex signalling to me from behind an old double-decker bus he’d taken cover in. How on earth had he even gotten there? He must have gotten across while I distracted the other by taking out James. Good on him. Now I had to make my way to double up with him and help ward off Navy X from approaching the bus.

Out of the corner of my left eye, I saw one of the junior members of X aiming at Alex. “Alex, duck!” I yelled, warning my friend, who hit the ground just before the bullet followed him through the window he was hiding behind.

The X fellow, frustrated at having missed, did not see my gun aim at him and without warning, I hit him in one. He clutched his jaw, trying and failing to stop the red from escaping and tricking down his throat.

I was getting ready to follow up and knock him completely out when I felt a pang on my right arm. It stung! Luckily, there was no red. It was swelling up very fast, though.

I had to make it to the bus. Immediately. As fast as my legs could carry me, I ran. My barrel felt hot as I pelted off, warding off and fighting back against the X members trying to hit me. With a jump, I slid into the back door of the bus and took a second to catch my breath.

I looked back. My ex-best friend had been one of those who tried to stop me. She met my gaze with a coldness in her eye that I would not forget for a long time to come. She held the stare, aimed right at me and let one off in the direction of my chest in what seemed like slow motion.

She did not miss. The bullet hit the right side of my chest and I was sure I had cracked a rib.

To this day, I do not know why I did not try to duck, hide, dodge or anything. It must have been the shock of seeing my ex best friend look at me like I was a monster, when she was the bad guy and I, the officer.

I toppled to the floor. Alex rushed over to me and asked if I was okay. My green camouflage was stained with red, which was fast spreading across my chest but I tried to ignore it. “I’m okay, Alex. It’s okay.”

“We’ll get them, I promise. Let’s do this.” he said with a sureness about his voice.

We turned around and looked at the scene facing us. There was red everywhere. Our officers had taken down three more of Navy X and there were two left: the leader of the gang, Taylor, and my ex best friend.

“You take Taylor. I’ll take her.” I said to Alex, pointing in my target’s direction.

I was not ready to spare her. Not at all. I reached into my pocket, grabbed some ammo and reloaded in seconds. We fired. Relentlessly. We pelted them mercilessly without a thought for the grievous bodily harm we were causing, watching as the dark navy clothes were unrecognisably red all over. My former friend cried out in agony as she fell to the ground. They were all down.

Then we heard a loud, piercing whistle. Looking around, we saw our P.E. teacher, Mr. Parry, whistle around his neck, making a T with his hands.

“Time to go, kids! I hope you guys enjoyed paintballing. Good job, Z Corps! You managed to defeat Navy X so you get to choose next week’s activity. Decide and let me know after school. Is that okay?”

“Yes, Sir!” We yelled in triumph.

I turned to give Alex a high five as we headed to the changing rooms. That was when I noticed the blister that had formed on my right arm. It hardly mattered though. The battle scar was worth it. The victory was so worth it.