Chapter 17

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Everything was black. There was nothing. Nothing to think about. Nothing to hear. It was just emptiness. Ben suddenly felt his feet the ground hard. He looked down and watched as the view started to slowly fade in. He saw he was wearing combat boots. The sand sat under the tread of his boots. The full battle rattle on him weighed his body down but he still felt light as air.



"It's just a dream," he said to himself.

Gunfire erupted and he heard the crackle of a bullet whiz by his ear. Ben jumped and ran to the wall nearby. He pushed his back against it and realized his weapon was hanging to his side. He grabbed it and closed his eyes.

"Wake up. Wake up. Wake up," he told himself.

The bullets started to pick up the dust in front of him as they grew closer. Ben took off looking for his team. There was no one on the streets. No humvees, no MRAPS, no soldiers, and no civilians. He ran full speed down the street and ran to a corner for cover. He pushed his back to the corner and looked down at his leg. It seemed fine. There was no pain. He could run again.

This has to be a dream. I'll wake up soon.

Ben held on to his weapon and continued to scan the area in front of him. There was still no one he could see. Nothing on the rooftops and no one down the street. The gunfire had subsided. Ben walked out from the corner and moved to the next cover. He took in his surroundings again and noted how eerily quiet it was. A shot rang from the air and hit the wall beside him. Ben dropped down and ran down the street. Another shot came through the air and nicked his arm. He ran behind a wall with rubble and crouched down. He looked at his arm and saw blood.

"What the fuck? This isn't happening!"

He reached out and touched his arm where the bullet grazed. Warm blood touched his fingertips. He felt his eyes grow wide with panic.

This isn't a fucking dream. This is really happening. Where the fuck am I?

Ben held his weapon tighter and heard a whistle above him. He ducked his head down as the explosion of the mortar fell a few yards ahead. The earth quaked around him. Dust blew in where he was sitting. The sand settled around him. He couldn't move. He didn't want to move. He was frozen from the shock this is not a dream.

"Hey Gray."

Ben pulled his head up to see a soldier's boots in front of him. He looked up and saw Nelson grinning down at him.

"Oh no. Not again. I have to be dreaming," Ben muttered to himself tearing his eyes away from the figure in front of him.

"Nope. No dream."

Ben looked back up to Nelson's face. He still had a smile playing on his lips.

"Let me help you up," he said as he put his arm underneath Ben's.

Ben felt Nelson's arm tug him up. Ben stood up and put a hand on Nelson's arm.

"Wait, you're real."

"Of course."

Ben continued to stare at him. He realized everything had grown quiet again.

"But, you're dead."

"True. I did die."

"No I must be dreaming. Or I'm going insane."

Ben took a few steps back still looking at Nelson in wonder.

"Okay. Time for me to wake up," said Ben as he did a full 360 looking around.

"Grayson, you're dead."

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