Thursday, September 10, 2009

What I Did On My Summer Vacation

What follows is the truth. Really.

It all started the day school got out for the summer. I came home like normal, handed my report card to Mom and then went into my room to play video games.

"Hello, Mike," someone said as I shut the door.

Surprised, I looked up to see who had spoken. I saw myself leaning against the door to my room. I closed my eyes then looked again. Yep, it was me. Had Mom put a mirror on the back of my door? Nope, no mirror. Too weird!

"Who are you?" I asked.

"I'm you," my double said, "sort of, anyway."

"Sort of?"

"I'm your summer stand-in," he said.

"Why do I need a stand-in?" I asked.

"Because you're getting your wish," the double replied. "You're going to finally have an exciting summer!"

Before I could say anything else, my double pointed something like a TV remote control at me and pushed a button. My quiet room vanished and I found myself waist deep in the ocean, the sound of gunfire all around me. I was surrounded by guys a lot older than me, all carrying M1 rifles and wearing green uniforms and struggling through the water toward the beach. I checked myself out and found a green uniform and an M1 gripped tightly in my hands.

D-Day? I was storming the beach at Normandy? What the hell?

I pushed my way through the water, trying to hide behind some of the other guys. That worked until all the guys around me had been shot. I was so scared I wet my pants, not that anyone would notice. I was trying to figure out what to do when something hit me hard in the chest. Looking down, I saw a red stain spreading out fast. I couldn't stand up any more. I was-

I was suddenly somewhere else. I was wearing something really heavy, holding something really heavy and had something blocking a lot of my vision. Looking left and right, I saw armored hoplite warriors. The one on my right, a much older man, grinned at me.

"Don't worry, boy," he said, "we can handle this Persian scum! Keep your shield up, thrust low and hard. You'll be fine."

I looked in front of me for the first time. Not fifty yards away, a whole lot of men were advancing on us. They gave a terrifying cry and rushed at us!

Off to my left, someone called out, "Brace!"

The human wave hit us, driving us backward. Then I felt a shield against my back, pushing me in the other direction.

"Now, boy, thrust!" the old man next to me yelled.

It was so loud I could barely hear him, but I did what he told me to do. I thrust with my right arm as hard as I could. It was strange, feeling the point push through light armor and pierce flesh. The man before me convulsed and screamed and blood splattered and I thought I was going to be sick. Then that man was down and another took his place.

I thrust again and again and again and again. The screaming, the blood, the horror went on and on until I was numb to it. My arms ached from holding the shield and thrusting. My legs throbbed from pushing and pushing. I didn't think I could hold out much longer when suddenly the Persians retreated.

"Front line," a voice called out, "drop back for rest and water!"

I turned to grin at the old man next to me, ready to tell him I'd made it. I didn't recognize the man standing next to me.

"What happened to-" I began.

The man shook his head. "He dines with the gods tonight."

Suddenly feeling empty, I turned away.

And everything changed again.

I was in a village of some kind. If the movies I've watched are at all accurate, it was a European village. I was pulling something heavy, like a big hand cart. I turned to see what I was pulling and wished I hadn't. It was a big hand cart that was full of dead bodies; men, women, even children. A man was walking out of a hovel carrying a small bundle. The man's eyes looked dead, even if he wasn't. When he put the bundle on the pile of bodies, I saw why.

It was a baby.

I realized all the bodies were covered with large, oozing sores. The plague! Oh, God, I was in a plague infested village! I started to back away from the cart but felt a hand press against my back.

"It's all right, boy," a horse voice said. "You get used to it after a while. Just think of them as a load of wood. And don't touch them."

Suddenly, he began coughing. I thought he was going to cough up a lung, it went on so long.

"Damn," he said quietly. "Looks like you're going to be handling the cart on your own soon."

We dragged the cart through the village and my horror grew with each step. There were so few people for such a large village, and most of them looked half dead from exhaustion. Finally, we dragged the cart out of the village and dumped -- there's no other word for it -- the bodies in a mass grave.

As we were pulling the cart back toward the village, I started to cough.

"I take it all back!" I cried. "I don't want an exciting summer! I want to clean my room and mow the lawn and wash the cars! Please, God, let me be bored again!"

And just like that, I was back in my room. I wasn't coughing or shot in the chest or wearing armor. I was just sitting in my room, looking at my double.

"Did you have a good time?" he asked.

"No! I spent the entire time I was gone terrified and horrified and sure I was about to die!" I said. "I most definitely did not have a good time!"

My double smiled, "Good. It seems you learned something while you were gone."

"Um, how long was I gone?" I asked. It had felt like forever.

The double looked at his watch and answered, "Six minutes."

"Six-? So I've got all of my summer vacation left?"

My double nodded.

"Thank you, God!" I said and reached for my iPod.

There was a knock at the door and my double vanished. Mom poked her head into the room.

"Your father wants you to mow the lawn before you do anything else today," she said.

"Aw, Mom!"

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