No Alarms and No Surprises

Suddenly he was thrown onto the floor as reality was tested violently with the quivering, body-shocking rage of a huge explosion. It hit them after some single storey buildings on the other side of the bridge dissolved into a wall of dust. It took several seconds for Mickey's brain to re-engage and begin to make sense of what had just happened to him. The blast wave had hit first, stunning him and throwing him back against the soft brick of the wall. Then a cloud of debris had boiled up the lane from the bridge like a pyroclastic flow from a volcano. Somewhere in the jumble of sensory impressions the concussion of the explosion had rattled his inner ear into numbness. He tasted the metallic tang of blood and smelled the damp cement-like odour of building dust and burning plastic. Consumed by the cloud he curled into a foetal ball, the barrel of his rifle clutched in his fist. He coughed and spluttered, dirt filling his eyes, mouth and ears.

He came to his senses and remembered he had been sitting next to Dook seconds before. He looked back to where he thought they had been and all he could see was rubble covered with a thick layer of dust. Then one of the piles moved, rolled clear of the others and started to shake itself off like a dog.

Bits of building and twisted metal were raining down and they both dived back against the wall for cover. They waited until there was just dust coming down.

"Shit, that was a big one."

"Bloody hell, look at your lid Dook." His helmet had a piece of shrapnel embedded in its top, about the size of a fifty penny piece.

Dook took it off and examined it, running his finger along the edge of the metal. "Felt like a slap round the ear by my Ma." One of the few things Mickey knew for certain about Dook was that he was an orphan. His mother had died when he was quite young.





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