We all counted the number we killed, back in the old days. It was bravado, covering up the horror of what we did. After a while the mental tally got confusing, so they would notch it on their rifles. I never needed to record mine. I know the first though. We stalked quietly into a building containing some of the enemy. Splitting into groups, as dictated by training, I gave the orders; they would finish the ground floor before joining us on the first floor. As I thought, the enemy were on the first floor. As we turned the corner my heart pounded in my ears, surely they could hear it. My gun was loaded and ready, my boots picking their way along the tiled floor. I stepped carefully over the edge of a carpet, my eyes ahead. I could hear people talking quietly, exchanging a couple of words to decrease the boredom of their wait. Behind me came a load clattering sound, I wheeled around. Anders, shamefaced, dusted off his rifle. Eyes back in front, I found an enemy almost pointing a gun at me, fumbling slightly. I knew what to do, my rifle was already at my shoulder, my finger on the trigger. I fired, the noise ringing off the walls, smoke and dust puffing into the air. I hardly looked at the body, the person who lay in front of me, looking up at me with unseeing eyes.
Killing was easy then. We were the superior fighting force, trained and ready. I can’t remember my kill count, not anymore. Jake and I never had a relationship, never spoke about it. If we had we would have been split up. They never would have let us serve together. But we both knew we would eventually. When we left the army we would have the chance.
But when I finally got to hold him, his blood ran though my fingers. His breathing was quick and shallow. The metal that now riddled him was taking him from me as I gazed into his light blue eyes. His lips moved with words that I could hardly hear. And the life faded from his eyes.
I didn’t keep count anymore.