It hurt so much.
Archer stumbled, the impact of the fall reverberating in his ribcage, and he howled, his fingers curling instinctively at the blinding pain, wet dirt pushing into his nails.
His breaths came in gasps now. He clutched at his chest, his eyes shut tight, the hot burn in his side intensifying.
His senses were blurred, all he saw were greens and browns and white light, stinging his eyes.
And suddenly they were all back, jolted back into place as he was lifted up, onto Solomon's broad back. Archer howled again, his wound felt as if it were tearing itself apart, his muscles wounding up so tightly that he could not feel himself anymore. He heard Solomon grunt as he made his way uphill again, but it sounded as if the man were far away, as if he himself was locked up in a small glass box, and all he could hear was his own laboured breaths and the distant brush of grass and the lonely call of a faraway bird.
He was drifting away, in his glass box, and he fancied he heard waves. Calm, soothing, cool waves. His eyes started to droop, and the reddish brown dirt flickered, melting into gold, fine gold sand-
All the pain crashed down onto him again, harshly, knocking the wind out of him. He couldn't stand it anymore.
"I can't! No! Stop!" he gasped, his breath shallow.
Solomon gently put him down, and he clawed at the grass, as if it would drain the pain out somehow. With a grunt, he rolled over, collapsing onto the cool earth. His sight focused, almost painfully, when he stared up at the clear sky to see his plane flying overhead.
Solomon bent down, as if wanting to pick him up again, but Archer grabbed his arm.
"God! No, stop! Christ, no more. No more," he yelled, shaking his head.
Archer's fingers went to his side, where a stray bullet had left a gaping hole in his lung. He stared at it. Blood coated his fingertips, and he took a good look at it. He looked up at Solomon. The black man's eyes were fixed on his wound gravely.
Archer cast his eyes down. That was it.
It was over.
At long last.
The same bloodied fingers traveled to the lump in his shirt pocket, wet and cold with his own blood. He took the little bundle out, and released it from its confines of stinking cloth.
It was beautiful. He held it up to the sun and a grin spread on his mud-covered face. He chuckled, though it hurt. A lot. It was beautiful.
This little stone had given him the adventure of his life.
And his death as well.
Looking beyond its pink clarity, he met Solomon's eyes.
"Take it, huh?"
Archer snapped, "Take it! Take it." He shoved it into his large hand, letting go of the small piece of paradise. It was not his to keep.
Solomon grinned, looking down at the stone, then back at him, humour in his voice. "I thought you would steal it from me."
Archer laughed. "Yeah, yeah, it occurred to me, huh?"
And they laughed. It felt good, thought Archer. It was the end of the road now. It was almost over.
Reaching into his shirt pocket again, he pulled out the bloodstained card he had carefully tucked away and gave it to Solomon. He took the deepest possible breath and said, "Listen, this is Maddy's card, huh? Call her when you get to Guinea, alright?"
Solomon nodded, and Archer pulled a gun from his trousers, wincing at the sharp stab of pain in his chest. "And don't trust that pilot for a second. Point this at his head if he fucks around, huh?" He shoved the gun into his other hand.
"I can carry you," insisted Solomon.
Archer looked into his eyes. Both knew he would not make it. So he shook his head, shifting to sit up a little more.
His eyes went to Dia. The boy stared back.
"Take your boy home, huh?" he said quietly. "Take him home, huh?"
Archer's eyes were strangely dry when father and son scrambled onto their feet, and he looked at their retreating figures for a second before gunshots jerked him back into consciousness.
"Fuck," he grumbled. Grabbing the machine gun by his side, he braced himself and dragged himself to the verge of boulder.
It looked as if they didn't do that great a job at blowing up the colonel's boys.
Gritting his teeth, he positioned himself at the edge, and pulled the trigger.
He smirked satisfactorily as two men dropped down, followed by three more, dead or alive.
He pulled back to load his gun, and he heard someone yell, "Archer! You're a dead man!"
Archer actually grinned, repositioning his gun. "Yeah yeah."
As the adrenaline rush faded, the acute pain made its presence felt again. Archer winced and warily glanced at the plain below. There was nobody in sight.
Hauling himself backwards, he grunted and leant his head back against the warm rock, catching his breath.
He suddenly felt very faint, and black specks appeared at the outer rim of his vision, but he stubbornly blinked them away, shaking his head sharply.
He had one more thing to do.
The numbers floated in front of his eyes, and he had to bite down on his lips to make his eyes focus, perhaps a bit too harshly- he tasted the blood on his lip. Shakily, and agonisingly slowly, he punched the buttons one by one. He knew the numbers by heart. He had held the card in his hands and stared at it many a times, wanting nothing more than to hear her voice again.
And he would now, for the last time.
"Hello. Maddy Bowen."
He smiled. He could picture her, her brown curls, her green eyes, her lips.
"Yeah, thought I'd never call huh?" he asked, keeping his tone light.
He could hear her smile. And nothing ever felt better than this. Her smiling for him. "And I'm so glad you did. When am I gonna see you?"
Pain attacked again, and he breathed in sharply. "Maddy I want you to do me one last favour, huh?" He squeezed his eyes shut at the sting in his chest. "I want you to meet Solomon in Guinea."
"In Guinea. Why do you want me to go to Guinea?"
He wheezed. Why was it hurting so much again? "We found his son, but he's gonna need some help, understand? Maddy-"
She cut her off, her tone panicky. "You're hurt. Are you hurt?"
"Yeah well," he said softly. "I got a little problem here." He spied a row of fresh troops at the foot of the hill, their guns aimed at him. Motherfuckers.
He was only half-listening now, the pain rushing over him like an insistent tide, drowning him.
Maddy said something, but he couldn't hear her. The whirr of engines led his eyes upwards, and he looked up just in time to see the plane fly overhead.
With a soft smile on his bleeding lips, he turned away so that he was staring out at the huge expanse of green hills- so peaceful, so wild, so beautiful.
T.I.A., he thought to himself wryly.
Quietly, he breathed into the phone, his breath becoming more than uncomfortably short. "I'm looking at an incredible view right now. I wish you were here, Maddy."
He wished she was here with him so bad. He wanted her to hold his hand, like that night. Her soft fingers wrapped around his weathered hands. Soothing. A taste of heaven.
"Okay then I'm coming to be with you. Just tell me where you are."
The black specks were there again, but this time he couldn't fight them. Not anymore.
"I don't think so," he rasped.
He dipped into a momentary darkness, and he heard a murmur of her voice over the phone, but he couldn't hear her. He just couldn't.
He drew in a deep breath. "Maddy you find somewhere safe for the boy, huh? And keep him out of sight. And get Solomon to London. He's bringing something with him. He's gonna need your help."
"Why aren't you bringing it yourself?"
Archer chuckled a bit. "It's a real story now. You can write the hell out of it."
Silence fell upon them, and Archer smiled. His voice was almost tender when he said this, "I'm really happy I met you. You know that?"
He needed her to know this.
"Yeah, I'm- I'm really happy I met you too. And I wish I could be there with you."
He could hear her crying. A current of sadness washed through him as truth dawned upon him. He would never see her again.
His throat closed up suddenly and he was violently gasping for breath now. He clenched his teeth and kept on breathing. Just keep breathing for a little while longer.
"That's alright," he told her. "I'm exactly where I'm supposed to be."
He looked at the blood red sun, and he knew he was right.
He would never leave. Not now.
The phone fell out of his hand as he went limp, slumping against the boulder. His eyes fell to his hand, and he watched the blood drip from his fingertips onto the sand.
They say the earth is red from all the blood that has been spilt from all the fighting on the land.
He could hardly feel anything now, but slowly he curled his fingers, and brought his hand up again, watching the fine grains of red earth slip away in the gently breeze.
It was all fading now. Everything.
He didn't feel his arm drop bonelessly.
He didn't feel his head fall back on the hard stone.
He didn't feel his throat closing up.
He didn't feel his heart slowing down.
But he watched the sun shine, a brilliant red. And a speck of white moving towards the ball of fire.
Somehow, he knew that was something good.
He was tired, so tired.
He didn't feel his eyes close, nor his lips curve softly into a smile.
No, you listen.
Maybe in another life.
The red faded into a blinding white, and the winds sighed-
And he was exactly where he was supposed to be.
I think this is the most touching death scene of all movies, which is why I thought there should be something about Archer's last moments. I hope you enjoyed that.