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The Hero (unfinished)

He knew that the audience were leaning forward in their seats to hear the answer to the interviewer’s question but he paused before answering nevertheless. He waited long enough for the cameras to move into a closeup on his face and he still waited. Eventually his long pause was justified by the interviewer once again feeling the need to speak, lest things get awkward on prime time television. “You were in the field on your own for 2 weeks after getting separated from your unit, you fought alone for all that time and racked up over 50 confirmed enemy kills and were then spirited to safety by the miraculous arrival of a rescue helicopter. What was going through your mind all that time? What prompted you to launch a one man war against an enemy you had no reason to believe you could beat?”

It was the same question, more or less, that he had been asked a mere moment ago but television personalities hated silence on air and always felt obliged to fill it, even if it meant repeating themselves. It was the exact silence he had been waiting for. Make the story all the more dramatic and sell even more books, there was even talk of a film…

“Well” he said, cutting off all fears the interviewer had that he might have croaked on air. “The thing was, I was the worst soldier in the world for getting separated from my unit in the first place.” This drew a few surprised giggles from the studio audience; he went on as if he hadn’t heard them. “I’ll tell you the story from the very beginning and perhaps it will make sense.” The interviewer nodded his head, either utterly fascinated already or doing an excellent impression of someone who was. His thick makeup was starting to run ever so slightly at the top of his forehead where his perfectly groomed, full head of hair began. He wore glasses even though the lenses were weren’t prescription as focus groups has suggested that chat show hosts are more accessible to their audiences when they wear them.

“We jumped into the helicopter at 01:15 in the early hours of the morning, the rockets were already falling on the villages to the North, as I am sure you remember. The order had come that we should go in and so we did. For me the helicopter ride is always the most frightening aspect, once my boots are on the ground at least I feel like I have some measure of control over my own destiny, but when I’m in the air there’s nothing I can do.” He paused, time to throw out a nice dose of humility for all those watching, “and I have nothing but the greatest of respect for all of those air force guys flying those helos, where we would be without them I don’t know!” He let that little bone go for the air force pussies who dropped them off in the forests and mountains and were back safely in their magnificent bases scarcely an hour later having done their job, while he and his friends were only just beginning their own private nightmares.

“We came under fire soon after the helos had left and found ourselves in a tough position. Our officer, Schneider was hit and that left 5 of us.” “Yossi Schneider,” The interviewer interjected, “from Kibbutz EinhaShofet, correct?” “Yes that’s him” he said “a wonderful officer, we would have followed him anywhere, I guess you can say that we did. All of us had great confidence in him, he was a natural born leader!” He said though he remembered well enough that Yossi Schneider was an asshole who had consistently gotten them lost on field exercises and was by far the biggest obstacle towards the successful completion of the mission. But it just wasn’t done to speak ill of the dead, not to mention the fact that Schneider was the son of Lieutenant General Aaron Schneider and it wouldn’t be helpful for book sales to insult the memory of the deputy chief of staff on national television. So he continued the charade that he was a great, honoured officer beloved by his men, despite the fact that it was a bald faced lie, despite the fact that on the inside he was dying to scream about the incompetence of the man. Instead he simply continued with the story.
“The sergeant, a big Gorilla by the name of Neiman…”

“Ah yes Avi Neiman! The interviewer interrupted once again, speaking as if he actually knew the man personally. Awarded several decorations for his role in the mission”, he read from one of the prompt cards that he had surreptitiously positioned where only he could see.

“Er yes” the interruption had knocked him off balance “Avi took command and ordered me to try and move over to the flank of the enemy and catch them in a crossfire.” Well it was a half truth, after running away from the shooting he had found himself way off to the East anyway, Avi had simply sent him forward, probably expecting him to get killed doing it, but he had obeyed.

“With them giving me covering fire I first ran over to our right and crawled for about 75 meters” he embellished.“Until I had made it into some shrubbery and where the foliage in general was a lot heavier, then I stealthily moved forward until I was way in front of our own guys and parallel with the enemy. I moved back around towards them and could see these enemies of ours shooting at my friends in front of them. I couldn’t believe how little I felt, the only thing that scared me was that I might miss them when I threw the grenade or that it might hit something and roll back towards me. Anyway I threw the grenade at a huge man firing a Russian made machine gun, I took cover when it exploded and then I was on them firing and screaming all the way, when the smoke cleared 5 of them were lying on the ground dead and broken.
I screamed towards Nieman to ceasefire as I moved back towards their position but he screamed back up to me to stay where I was and that they would come to me. A couple of minutes later we were back together, them carrying Schneider’s body on a stretcher. We hadn’t even started and already we had lost our officer, it wasn’t a good omen. We marched North from our landing zone with me as lead scout, we marched until daybreak and still hadn’t reached our target which was only supposed to be a few kilometres away but we hadn’t been dropped off in the correct location and had to move a lot further than planned. When we did get to the target, a missile battery that we were to destroy, we found that the air force had already done the job for us and all that was left of it was a smoking crater in the ground and a burned out truck.

“So what happened then?” the host asked, literally on the edge of his seat, “How did you come to be separated from the others?”

“Well I am coming to that…” he said the interruptions of this television star moron were becoming tiresome and threw him off his game.There was smug smile on his face while he waited, expectantly for him to go with the tale. “Nieman sent me to scout forward in the wood and see if there were enemy forces in front of us while they waited at the now obliterated target. I did as ordered and moved forward. I scouted down a trail of tyre tracks that led from the our target towards what was presumably a stockpile of missiles for the now non-existent missile system, perhaps the air force had missed the stock pile. I scouted down the path for about 20 minutes and came to a burnt out vehicle and no more tyre tracks. I carried on for another 5 minutes or so to try and figure out where it had been headed but found nothing of any value and turned around to move back to my team.”

The announcer grinned, he knew what was coming, he had heard the story already. “Only there was a problem when you turned around wasn’t there?”

“Well yeah” he shifted uncomfortably in his seat, admitting it still made him feel uneasy and here there was a huge live audience and many more people watching at home. “I turned around only I couldn’t remember which way I had come from. The area was heavily forested and I had left the tyre tracks behind me several minutes before.”
“you were lost…” the interviewer butt in.

“Yeah I was lost, I circled around trying to find the burnt out truck but somehow I just couldn’t get to it.” The mere memory of it had the sweat streaming down his face, the feeling of utter defeat had rolled over him forcing him to search both more intensely and more erratically as the adrenaline filled his system. Each second that past during his search had increased the fear harbouring within him until he had given up in the middle of a wood sitting down hugging his knees next to a fallen tree. His navigation skills had never been good. He had toldNieman that before he made him lead scout, it’s not like Nieman didn’t already know but the great oaf had never had a particularly large brain and now he was lost, alone and unlikely to survive the ordeal. Images of the soldiers who had been taken captive over the years filled his mind, getting taken alive was the greatest fear of any soldier.

“So I was wandering around looking and looking for this burnt out truck and I couldn’t find it.” But I did find it, I found it as soon as I forced myself to get up, it was right there in front of me and I followed the tracks all the way back to the boys. “I decided to head East which was the direction that the starting point lay in. I figured it my best chance to hook up with the guys again. After a couple of minutes of heading in that direction I heard shooting, I had a sick feeling and ran towards it, weapon at the ready.” I was right there, I watched them get massacred, I did nothing. At the end Nieman saw me, he saw me and I saw him die and I did nothing from my little bush. “By the time I got to them it was too late, they were all dead, the men who had killed them were all over the place, I had nothing to do there but move on.I had no idea where I was going, the radio had been with Nieman and now it had fallen into the hands of the enemy. I had nowhere to go, no idea how to get there” and I had watched my friends die without lifting a finger to help them.