144 - Baghdad
SEVERAL YEARS AGO The sound in such an enclose space was deafening. I’d thought that I knew what to expect, but there’s really nothing that can prepare you for something like that.
Within moments, my ears were ringing, seconds after that, the world took on a muted quality.
Yet, I couldn’t lift my hands to cover my ears, that would only make things worse. I could already feel the warm stickiness of a thousand nicks on my neck and hands the way it was from flying chips of stone. At least I’d managed to avoid the ricocheting bullets.
Suddenly, it was quiet.
So blessedly quiet.
I couldn’t tell if I had finally gone completely deaf or if the bullets really had stopped coming. I didn’t dare move if it was the latter, so all I could do was lie there and feel the blood slowly seeping in several points over my bare skin.
Then, there was a tap on my shoulder. I thought I heard something that could have been human speech–albeit what speech sounded like from under a pool. I was going to have to get that checked out.
It was the Sergeant.
And he looked mad as hell.
Spinning on the bed, I started to get up, but a sudden wave of dizziness washed over me. I sat back down–less by choice than I would have liked.
“What is it?” I asked.
Or rather tried to ask.
I could hear the words, but they sounded strangely muddied and higher pitched than they should have been. I couldn’t quite make out what was going on there–if I’d lost my hearing, then why could I hear myself speaking?
But for the moment, it didn’t matter. Knowing wouldn’t bring my hearing back.
I repeated the question. “What is it?”
The Sergeant grimaced at me. Oops. Without being able to judge my own volume, I was probably yelling.
I repeated my query once more, only then realizing that he wasn’t answering because he hadn’t understood me… In fact, he was answering and had been each time. I just couldn’t make out his words.
I gestured to my ears, waving my hands back and forth in what I hoped would get the point across. He nodded at least and started to repeat what he had said.
Unfortunately, despite what I was sure was a slow pace and exaggerated words, I couldn’t quite make out what he was saying. I’d never been particularly good at reading lips.
I shoot my head at him. I could see the frustration building.
Luckily, one of the men with him figured out the solution. He silently–I can only assume that much–offered a small notepad and a pen then backed out into the hallway. I could see one of the others there standing watch as well. I couldn’t have said where the other two went.
Writing quickly, the Sergeant scribbled something on the pad then turned it towards.
Where is he?
145 - Baghdad
SEVERAL YEARS AGO Mr. Average was nowhere to be found.
That was impossible of course, but that was really starting to feel like a sort of motto of the day. What was the line from Wonderland?
“I’ve believed in as many as six impossible things before breakfast.”
I felt like I was giving Alice a run for her money.
“I have no idea,” I said, trying to keep my volume reasonable. The Sergeant stared at me, disbelief clear on his face. I said nothing. if the disbelief was just because he hadn’t understood me, he would ask again.
Plus, I wasn’t sure that I understood myself.
I wasn’t sure that I wanted to understand.
What I did know was that Amira was safe, at least for the time being. So our mission was accomplished. Beyond that–no idea–but that was enough for me.
I looked back to Amira. She was still unconscious. “We need to get her some medical attention,” I said, turning to the Sergeant, but he’d gone back out into the hallway.
I stood, lingering for a moment. If I didn’t leave the room, then nothing else could go wrong. Or at least that’s what my instincts were all telling me.
Then again, I’d been there when she’d been kidnapped in the first place, so what did they know.
I made to follow the Sergeant back out into the hallway, making it as far as getting to my feet this time. Unfortunately, that was right when the entire world seemed to tilt and spin out from under me.
Trying to catch my balance, I abruptly felt a cool surface against my face.
A long moment later, I realized that the strange line that had suddenly appeared in my vision, cutting from top to bottom was in fact the ground. I’d fallen to the floor, completely without realizing it.
It was a singularly strange experience. I didn’t feel nauseous or anything quite like that. I didn’t feel like I was about to pass out. Yet, here I was–quite suddenly and unexpectedly on the floor.
Yet another oddity for Alice’s list, I thought.
I heard a strange sound from off to one side–no, it was above me. It was difficult to tell which way was up. The sound actually reminded me of something, but I couldn’t quite bring to mind what it was.
I rolled onto my side–the feeling of movement was off slightly. It felt like I was turning the opposite direction that I actually was.
I looked up and found the Sergeant standing over me, his face upside down from my perspective. He was speaking, although the words were badly distorted, sort of an up and down hum with only a faint relationship to human speech.
I suddenly recalled why the voice sounded so familiar. It was the same sound that the teacher in those old Charlie Brown movies had made. That humming sound, always so maddeningly impossible to understand.
For some reason, that just seemed absurdly funny.
Perhaps it was the stress of the day or perhaps it was the relief at finding Amira apparently unhurt, but I just couldn’t stop laughing. As the expression on the Sergeant’s face grew more and more angry, I just laughed harder.