The rather horrifying photo above is of two examples of a creature native to Iraq, and other parts of the Middle East known as the Giant Egyptian Solpugid, or Camel Spider. These wonderful critters are just another example of things they never told us about during desert combat training. What follows is loosely based on one of my experiences with them.
CIGARETTES AND SPIDERS
It was hot.
Not the kind of hot you’re thinking about, but the kind of hot that physically drained you, then wouldn’t let you sleep just when you needed it most.
The green shit didn’t help either.
No one was really sure what was in it, and the docs weren’t talking. It was some sort of stimulant that much was obvious. One needle and you were awake and alert for up to three days, not to mention the added benefit of a marked increase in your aggression.
It burned when it went in. You could feel it spreading through your bloodstream. Just when you thought you couldn’t get any hotter, along someone came with the green shit. Just to make your day a little brighter.
The crash was horrible. The headaches would put your average migraine to shame; sensitivity to light was increased nearly tenfold. For up to ninety-six hours after the dose "wore off" life was misery.
Every man in the unit accepted the green shit as necessary equipment for their situation. The problem was, after being used as often as they were at the start of this adventure half of the men were so banged up that they had the added bonus of the watery pink shit.
The watery pink shit didn’t hurt when they shot you up with it, in fact it made you feel nice and fuzzy and want to hug people you didn’t know.
Nice and fuzzy wasn’t going to cut it in Baghdad.
It sure as hell wasn’t going to cut it this far north of Baghdad.
In order to counter the watery pink shit, the dosage of the green shit was increased. Some of the men had heard some of the medics and nurses express concern at the amount of the increase.
Anderson opened a bottle of water and took a sip. He heard a voice behind him say something in Kurdish, then realized the voice was speaking to him. He turned, and there was a youngish looking kid of about nineteen or so wearing the familiar green woodland camouflage of the local PRK forces with a beat up AK-47 slung over his shoulder.
He held up a cigarette, and spoke in Kurdish again, Anderson listened, and realized the kid wanted a light. He reached into his pocket and pulled out a Bic. He held it out and said in Kurdish: "Smoking is gonna kill you." The kid replied without smiling: "It won’t be smoking that kills me."
Anderson looked hard at the kid.
He was serious.
Anderson wondered what it must be like, to be so young, and have only known the kind of chaos that ravaged his home for his entire life.
And to be so young and carrying what was obviously a well-used weapon.
The kid lit his cigarette, handed the lighter back to Anderson, and strolled off to the other side of the compound.
It was hot.
Anderson took a step towards his tent, and caught a movement out of the corner of his eye. A camel spider had decided to use his shadow to get out of the sun. Big fucker too. It’s body, head and mandibles were at least the size of his palm.
God, they were creepy looking things, and not really spiders from what he understood, but closely related. Anderson realized that he was going to have to make the decision to either run for his tent, or kill it where it was because it would follow him to stay in his shadow, and a motivated camel spider could actually move at about ten miles an hour.
If I don’t take off at a sprint, he thought, my eight-legged friend here is going to follow me all the way into my tent.
It was hot.
He looked at the camel spider. It was large enough that he could make out its glittering reddish-black eyes regarding him as well. They only had two eyes, thank god, not the eight that their true spider cousins flaunted. These things were weird enough because they were so big. The last thing they needed was MORE eyes.
It was hot.
Not too hot to run for cover if something happened, but way too hot to run from a god-damned camel spider.
Unbelievable, he thought. I’m out here in the fucking desert, fighting a war for the fucking oil companies, I’ve earned my black tags, and I’m telling a kid who’s grown up under the gun that smoking is gonna kill him, and I’m actually debating making myself hotter than I already am so this funhouse abomination can live?
He lifted his boot and dispatched the camel spider, then walked to his tent.
Not gonna be able to sleep he thought, but maybe I’ll just lay down for a while.
His radio crackled: "HAMMER 1 you need to swing by and see the medic."
Time for the watery pink shit.
Not to mention the green shit.
It was hot.
Anderson dutifully headed to the med tent.
He thought about the kid.
He thought about the camel spider.
He thought about home.