Short Stack Strikes Back

You’re languishing among the ruins. You’re eating tuna off a knife blade. You’re down to your last four rounds of ammunition and feeling like you just fought 100 straight bare knuckle fights with a Bengal tiger. Nobody ever said that resistance would be easy. Nobody said that ideals protected themselves, and now that you’ve bought in, you’ve realized that you were dealt a shit hand and have to call “all in” regardless.

The flop is six enemy infantry moving up the alley behind your position. Not only does it ruin your dinner, force your to tuck your tuna knife away, and scare away your rat friends, but it’s two more enemies than you have bullets for. Not to mention, you were never all that good of a shot anyway. You check your magazine in some vain hope that you miscounted (you didn’t), and listen to the sounds of jackboots on broken glass and shattered earth. Then you get as low to the ground as you possibly can, and rest your body on six days worth of spent shells and cigarette butts.

The enemy moves closer. You can hear their language. You can hear the sound of their plentiful ammo belts jingling as they walk, and you know that they can kill you 100 times over and miss a whole lot while they do.

The turn is an airstrike that rolls overhead. You can’t identify the sound of the engines as friend or foe, but its moving fast enough that you know it will drop its payload without knowing, seeing, or caring who it lands on. A cacophony of noise hits your ears for a moment before a silencing of all sound. The earth shakes, and you feel what must be a nearby building hitting the ground one story at a time. Through a hole in the wall, the two members of the enemy patrol that you can see hit the ground and take cover behind anything that works; one covers under a table, another simply lays prone and hopes for the best.

You manage to lift your rifle, seeing this as your chance, and fire at the one who’s gone prone. Your bullet goes through his helmet and keeps him prone for good. You swing and aim at the one under the table. His eyes meet yours and the two of you share a moment of elicit compassion for one another, before you pull the trigger with all of the joy inspired by a phrase like, “it was him or me.” The shot is good, and his blood erupts out and cakes the underside of a bureau. The empty shell from your rifle lands on your wrist after it ricochets off a wall, but you don’t feel it burn.

Fear and drive forces you to your feet, and you crouch-crawl through the hole you’ve been firing through and enter the alley, knowing that this is your moment, and that if you don’t push hard the only fate that would await you is staring down six rifles that had found you cowering in a small hole because you missed your one chance to play your shit hand.

Two rounds left, and four enemies in front of you, hiding among the clouds of dust billowing forth from the bombing. They look just like you, but in this moment there are no humans, just targets, just them and you, and you are attacking. You lift your rifle to your shoulder, knowing that taking the time to aim will save you from wasting a round on a wall. Your first shot hits center mass on the closest soldier, he goes down the only four inches he had left to fall from his crouched position, and gurgles his last breath. You don’t hear this, it’s too loud still, but you know he must have.

The enemy returning fire interrupts your last shot. You miss as you run forward, knowing that with no ammunition, distance = death. The only chance you have now is take out all three of them with the butt of your rile, and you’re too full of fear to think about how good those odds are.

As you race forward, an enemy round slaps into your shoulder, ripping away your fatigues and hitting flesh. You drop your rifle without even thinking about it, having no say in the matter; a body reflex to constrict, contract, and keep the wounded limb close.

So this is how you die; out of ammo, starved out for six days in a siege that has lasted a year, tuna for a last meal, and a story nobody will report or remember.

The river is remembering your knife, the one with a blade still wet with the juice of the tuna you were eating off of it. You draw it from behind your back just as you reach the next enemy soldier. The blade isn’t long, but you plunge it as deep as you can into his chest four or five times, while the two others adjust aim and possibly stare in awe at the tendrils of blood that sing through the air as your arm arcs back between stabs.

You move quickly to the next, shielding your wounded arm and aiming a slice towards his throat. You catch him below the chin and make good his end. Then you turn on the last man, his weapon clicks empty, and the look on his face says he knows his plentiful ammo belts won’t save him when he needs precious seconds to reach them.

You stand, wounded and bloody, with a tuna knife in your good hand. Your hearing is slowly returning. You feel all the pain you should have felt minutes ago. The enemy throws his rifle away, a fold after a display of force.

All in, but not called.

You leave him be, throw your tuna knife at his feet, and grab his dropped rifle and his ammunition. He doesn’t resist.

Big stack walks back to his line.

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