«Look at me now, look at me. Don’t look at him. You knew him?»
«What was his name, his surname, how old was he?»
«Oleksandr. He was 48. He’s my father-in-law.»
Fifteen minutes earlier.
Daytime, the city, quiet, our old spot, where no one has lived for ages, but which serves as the starting point for departures and returns. The three of us were sitting, each of us on a separate bench after the latest trip. I really just wanted to collapse onto this bench in the shade of the trees and sleep, and never go anywhere else again.
«Oh, it’s starting again… one… two… Two incoming. Looks like the SMERCH is releasing. Now we’ll see where the bundle falls.»
«Where it falls is on the factory. There’s nothing left of it at this point, but they keep firing at it anyway.»
«Why are you two sitting? Let’s go. Maybe someone will need medical help.»
«How great, Dimon, that the rota’s combat medic is with us. Otherwise, we might have just sat here with nothing to do. This way, we’re on duty… let’s go.»
The drive from the bedroom community on the avenue leading to the factory reminded me of an episode from the movie, «I Am Legend.» Not a single soul, nobody at all, no people, no cars. We got to the intersection where several roads led to the industrial zone and stopped.
«I don’t see anything burning. Where should we go? Which direction?»
«Two more incoming… the cannisters will open now and we’ll see where.»
Two powerful explosions broke the stillness and after them two smaller explosions rolled on.
«Look, two cars racing away! That’s where we have to go.»
«Interesting. We’re heading right where everyone else is running away from.»
We drove up to the plant’s checkpoint and walked on in the direction of the people who were there. Two security guards and a handful of workers were standing near the turnstiles, looking through a window in the direction of dark smoke.
«Greetings. Are there any injuries? Do you need assistance? One of us is a medic.»
«Yeah, we need help. There’s someone lying in there, maybe still alive, and maybe not. But I’m not going in there.»
«Don't worry, I’ll go. Who can point out where he is?!»
«I'll show you.»
«He's done. It’s a 200 [dead], already cold. Bled to death. A piece of shrapnel hit him in the carotid artery. They began to drag him and then dropped him.»
«Ok, then I’m calling the police. We’ll wait until they get here and then head back.»
«What about the other, the 300 [wounded]?»
«The shrapnel lodged in the skin on his side. It’s an easy wound. They’ll remove it in the hospital and he’ll be released today.»
«Here comes the team. Get ready.»
People were still milling around the entry. When we were going to the evacuation point, a security guard had stepped through the door and shouted at my back, did I have a document proving I was military? I shouted back without stopping that I would show it when I returned. Now I went up to him and said:
«Do you still need my ID?»
«Nah, no ID’s necessary… nothing’s needed any more… How did he die?»
«Shrapnel in the carotid artery, he simply bled to death. The other injuries aren’t serious. Treatment will be a few minutes.»
The security guard continued to chat with the medic, while I looked at the workers who continued to peer through the glass in the direction of the smoke.
«He was in your crew?»
«Why did you abandon him?»
«It was scary. I’m not a soldier, you know.»
«I didn’t become a soldier overnight, either. I was a civilian.»
«I didn’t know what to do.»
«You just had to press on the artery with your fingers and wait for the medics.»
«How could I know that?! I’m not a medic!»
«So become on now. Take a course in tactical combat care. Look it up in YouTube. The war’s in its eighth year and you still don’t know what to do. You guys abandoned your friend to bleed away, yet you could have saved him. Next time, it could be you that the others abandon, step over and walk away. The next one could be you.»
Vasyl, Kharkiv Oblast