Woke up screaming again. The old memories come flooding back the moment I put my head on the pillow. Although I survived the last mission into the foothills of Northern Pakistan, we lost a lot of good men, and something in me was changed forever. I can’t even begin to describe the things I’ve seen, the people I’ve killed, the good friends I’ve lost over the last couple of years. War is hell.
More night horrors. We were storming an enemy bunker and I had my men behind me, then I turned around to find I was cut off and alone. I dived for cover but it was too late, and I took one in the leg. As I pressed down hard on my wound to stop myself from bleeding out I saw the shooter. Friendly fire!
More fitful battlefield recollections. Louise says I was shouting “no Don! It’s me! Don’t do it!” all through the night. Got up and had a cup of tea, which helped a bit, then went back to sleep.
Dreadful! We were inside the compound when we started taking fire from all directions. Garrett took one in the head, and we had to leave him just lying there. We scrambled to safety behind an old tin shed alongside the compound’s fence. “We need evac now!” I yelled into the radio. “Send a bird asap! We have one man down and they have us pinned!”
But I knew there was no hope of rescue. Our mission was top-secret, and the brass would just deny any knowledge of it. They told us there would be no rescue.
I said to my sergeant, “Johnny, do you still have the cutters? Let’s cut our way out through the fence and make a run for it.”
Johnny looked all shaken to hell. The last few missions had really kicked the stuffing out of him. I recognised in an instant the look of resigned defeat, because I’d seen it too many times before, in far too many good men. You can push a man only so far before he breaks.
I grabbed the cutters from Johnny’s pack as the enemy guns rattled and as bullets ricocheted off the tin shed, but I realised with growing despair that they were the wrong sort of cutters. It would take an eternity to cut through the dense red tape with such a feeble tool, and by the time we managed to cut through the enemy would be all over us.
“This is where the journey ends, my friends,” I told my team, as I checked my weapon and made sure it was fully loaded. “We can die here, cowering like beaten dogs, or we can send these red bastards a message. What do you say?”
I was greeted with cold stares: the stares of defeat. “We could surrender,” said Private Roy.
That’s what you get when you take a woman on a combat mission, I thought to myself. “They’ll kill us all,” I told her. “Don’t fool yourself that we’re leaving this place alive.”
I heard the recognisable thud thud thud of a helicopter’s rotor blades. I looked up to see one of our birds coming in, guns blazing!
“We’re saved!” I yelled, leaping to my feet, waving my arms so as to be seen.
The chopper came in on its run, and I knew it would leave a trail of destruction. The gunner let loose and the world all around us turned to fire. Roy and Douglas went down in a bloody mist, but Johnny somehow escaped being eviscerated by the chopper’s 30-mm chain gun. I dived to the ground.
“You’re shooting at the wrong target!” I screamed into the radio.
“Sorry about that,” came the reply. I knew the voice all too well. “But frankly, er, you’re lucky we even came. Stand by for pick-up. Gunner Perigo, er, have you got a fix on the enemy?”
“Target acquired, sir” came the gunner’s voice from the radio.
“Er, fire at will then. Hold on captain we’re coming to get you!”
The last thing I saw before I awoke screaming was the firing of an air to surface missile from the chopper. The missile was aimed at us!
Louise said nothing, though I know she’s worried. The dreams just won’t go away!
8: 42 am
Felt a bit better after a good workout. It’s hard to believe I used to be so chubby and marshmallow-like. I’ve turned my life around, and now look at me.
“Did you enjoy your workout?” the woman behind the counter at the gym asked me.
“I leave this place with no regrets,” I told her.
I have a Herald column to write, but first I think I’ll unwind. I have discovered in my retirement the joys of just relaxing, sitting in front of the computer and whiling away the hours. It was something I never had the time for during my years in Parliament. I was so busy making the world a better place that I never found the time for myself.
I am at peace with the world at long last, and I don’t bear ill-will towards any of the people who wronged me during my time in politics.
And I was much wronged, unfairly maligned, accused of all sorts of hideous things, called a bully, labelled a climate crank, tormented about my weight, accused of being an extremist, told I’d abandoned ACT’s libertarian principles and cosied up to reactionary groups, blamed for the demise of the ACT Party, picked on by Winston, betrayed by Don and John, thrown under a bus by the PM, knifed by my own caucus, savaged by the opinion polls, lied about in the media, abused on talkback radio, and spat on in the street.
Mate, I’m a box of f**king birds!
What the heck am I going to write about this week? My life is so perfect and balanced that it really is hard some weeks to summon the passion to write something hard-hitting.
Louise came home to find me in my underwear, slumped in front of the computer, covered in sweat and trembling from head to toe. I had suffered another panic attack.
“Rodney, we need to talk,” she said sternly. “This can’t go on. You need help.”
I can’t accept what she is saying. “Just leave me be. Nothing’s wrong,” I told her.
“Did you at least write your column? Or have you been playing computer games again?”
I broke down, blubbering like a baby. I can’t cope any more! The blood on my hands! All those good men dead! Why did I survive? Why?
“That’s it!” she yelled, ripping the computer plug away from the wall. “No more playing Medal of Honor all day long!”