When the bomb went off, Johan felt almost nothing. A bee sting, perhaps, or the sharp shock of a pinched nerve. Suddenly, he was half as tall, the earth as close to him now as it was a decade ago, when he and his friends would play leapfrog and shoot each other with cushioned darts at school.
Being shot here felt a lot different. His newer friends walked past and over him, several limping, and a few motionless in another’s arms. He watched them dissolve into the distance as his body dissolved and became camouflaged into whatever surrounded it. Reddened dirt, branches, and smoking shells. Steam rose from his stomach and met with the smoke in the orange skyline. The pain increased, and his legs resembled props from monster movies.
By his belly, he could see and smell his mother’s beloved arrabbiata con pollo. It comforted him. He allowed the numbness to settle, the light to blind, and the screams and explosions to transform into the tune she hummed as she bathed him every Sunday, after church. Afterward, his father lulled him to sleep with treasured war stories, instilling John with fearless heroism and a love for his country.