Written with prompts by chat: “I have no mouth and I must scream,” “I can hear you,” and a first-person POV.

I Can Hear You

February 18, 2016

The first thing I felt was heat. I woke up with my face inches from a flickering flame, and when I pried my eyes open, all I could see was orange flame and twisted metal. I tried looking up but my head wouldn’t move. Stuck. The weight of my helmet held me in place. A chunk of burning cushion landed near my boot.

My boot was getting warm. I kicked at the heat. Moving my leg felt like slogging through molasses, but it did move, eventually. More of a nudge.

Despite my burning eyes, I managed to survey the cabin. The back quarter, what were the passenger seats, was burning in flickers and spurts. That’s what had fallen by my leg. My helmet was wedged tight. I couldn’t look up, but I could see the shape of the driver hanging to my right. He was still strapped in. The flame light flickered off the string of saliva that dripped from his lip. It wavered in even breaths. At least he was alive.

My throat burned. All I could taste was chemical smoke from the cushions burning. It was an all-consuming scent.

Outside the metal shell, I heard voices yelling. The popping of rounds firing into the distance. The pocking of round striking metal. A tight grouping splattered against our armor, and it was loud. Louder than I ever could have imagined. My ears rang hard and painful.

“Is anyone in there!?” A voice cried just outside our passenger door. I could hear them pulling at the twisted metal.

I tried to call for help, but nothing came out. I tried to tell them I was here, that we were here, but my jaw wouldn’t open. I couldn’t even groan. I had to let them know we were still alive, but it was like I didn’t have a mouth.

“Jensen! Get the—” Whoever it was, they got cut off. I felt the frame rock hard. We were lifted for a moment, thrown to the side. When we rolled back, my head rolled further. My helmet still had me pinned.

“Jensen!” I heard his voice return. Fists struck the bent door. “Crowbar! Now!”

I shifted my leg, as if it would do anything. Another clod of burning stuffing dropped and slid down the ceiling. Another spattering of gunfire from my right. At least these guys were trying to get in from the left. We were their shield.

“Anyone alive in there?” He called again.

The driver groaned. He raised a hand to his face. I saw his movements out of the corner of my eye. He winced and groaned again. “Y-yeah.” He cleared his throat. “Yeah!”

I sighed in relief. At least, I think I did. Metal thunked against metal. The warped door shook with each strike. My head was turned that way now, I watched as the tip of a crowbar slid between the frame. They heaved against it.

As soon as the door popped open, the oxygen rushed in and my legs grew hot. Very hot. I tried to shift away. The smoke grew thicker. I felt a weight fall behind me and shift. My helmet shoved down over my eyes as the driver started to crawl, pulling himself out of his seat. I wanted to punch him in the chest, let the asshole know I was still there.

He grabbed onto one of the upside-down chairs and hauled himself over my body. I wanted to scream at him. He had to know I was still there. With my helmet down over my eyes, I couldn’t see anything. It was getting hard to breathe.

From under my helmet brim, I saw his legs disappear out with the smoke. The cabin was so thick with black, I couldn’t see light other than the orange flickers.

I wanted to scream. I can hear you!

I couldn’t see the door with all the smoke escaping. I had no breath. I couldn’t scream.

Then I saw arms reach in for me. One had burned sleeves. Fists closed around my BDU straps. It hurt, pain shot down my back, and I wanted to cry out. It hurt like hell when they dropped me to the gravel, but I could see now. The blue sky, the black smoke billowing upwards, even the helicopters and the plumes of white as they fired off another air-to-air missile.

Another string of bullets pummelled the overturned Humvee behind us. I looked up into the face I had only seen hanging upside down next to mine. I could have kissed him.

“Sorry, brother.” He mumbled while the two others started working on me. I didn’t know what they were doing, but my legs hurt. My toes were tingling. “Sorry about that.” He kept apologizing, glancing at the two other men. “Hope I didn’t put a knee in your chest or anything.”

I wanted to cuss him out with a grin. I wanted to say thank you. I wanted to say something. Anything. But all I could do was close my eyes once and open them again. He grinned at me, wiped blood from his eyes.

“We’ve got you, brother.”

“I Can Hear You”