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In Over Your Head

A swelling tsunami of dust followed the iron wave of heavy tanks that churned up the storm under their colossal treads. Whirling sand blended with engine exhaust and tinted blood orange by the smothered sun into a blinding maelstrom racing across the desert towards little slits dug in the sand where boys like Ahmed had conveniently dug their own graves for the mechanical behemoths to bury them.
Ahmed was huddled against the earthen walls just under the shade of the sandbags. His breathing was labored, and his stomach was spasming. His discarded weapon lay on the ground next to him. The tanks strode with their gun barrels erected like an elephant's trunk. The low growl of their engines reverberated through Ahmed's body, and he spewed yellowish bile onto the toes of his boots.
The cannons burst from the approaching cloud-like thunderclaps heralding the arrival of the amorphous monster about to swallow them whole. The shock of the first explosion jolted everyone in the trench. The ear-bursting concussions continued at a greater and greater tempo. Bursting plumes of sand rained into the trench.
Ahmed folded up and covered his head. He clenched his eyes shut and tried to grit his teeth. The storm fell upon them. The granular black dust saturated the air. Ahmed felt a hand on his shoulder.
"We're going to make a run for it! Come with us before it's too late!"
Ahmed could only tremble and shake his head no. The soldier shook his head and disappeared over the edge of the trench. After a brief moment, another followed. Heavy machine guns began to chatter throughout the wall of dust, and they were answered by screams.
Ahmed uncurled himself and crawled on his belly over to the opposite wall facing the onslaught. His knees buckled, and his trembling legs felt like they would shatter beneath his body. He stood up and peered out over the edge. Only meters away was an oncoming bulldozer. The serrated edge of the metallic mastodon's earth-moving appendage bore down on the boy, and a ringing scream burst from his throat. Seconds later, an avalanche of sand filled his trench, burying him and his remaining comrades alive in their "fortified positions." They were covered over in an immense unmarked mass grave. The forgotten boys slowly dissipated into the sands. Their bodies blended in with countless others whose flesh-lined layers of this patch of sandy sea.


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