East of Gangikhel, in Eastern Afghanistan, Mohammad carried eight 82mm mortar rounds, food, and the clothes on his back. Another boy in their troupe of thirty carried the blanket they shared. The rugged terrain had seen the first snow of winter but now was dry, windswept and cold. The Taliban battalion moved stealthily, wary of American drones through sparse trees and tall brushes. Mohammad was scared. Taken from home in Pakistan two weeks before by men in a truck, he had not seen his parents or little sister Anum since.
At Bagram air base, a bored operator relayed orders from Kansas Unmanned Air Command to an A-10 pilot flying 6000 feet above the broken plains East of Kandahar and above the soup of weather. The plane altered its bearing to fly toward Gangikhel.
Mohammad put his pack down and motioned that he had to go relieve himself again. A tall Afghan in brown garb smacked him on the head. "Hurry, boy."
He went a little ways, past a large rock, into a small ravine, looking back to make sure he was not seen. As he untied the string holding his pants, a scream of death came from the sky and an enormous yellow and orange explosion obliterated the troupe, the blanket, and the boy who carried it.
The Americans sent choppers.
At the town's orphanage, the American Captain asked questions, looking for the terrorist, his men searching; weapons held ready.
All they found was an old man and a young boy playing with scared toddlers.
When the choppers took to the sky, blades churning the crisp air, the old man turned to Mohammad.
"Help me feed the children, and then we'll write a letter to your parents."
I wrote this story in late 2015 for Friday Phrases ebook. They chose not to include it, so I was able to put it here :)
© 2016 Christopher Mahan