I stared up at the sun, my blood now staining the dusty ground beneath me.
I should have never come to Sierra Leone; I should have never let Yuri rope me into this. I'd given up gun trading, I'd given up cocaine. All I'd wanted to do was get my life back on track. It was all Yuri's fault, with his glorified talk of riches, political security and 'brothers in arms'. No, it was my fault: I let myself get caught up in the idea. I had become way too carried away with the idea and (let's face it) I more than enjoyed taking a different girl home every night.
I was nearly safe, nearly on the right path but then Yuri pulled out the old 'brother' card and I went running. The drugs were a mistake; I should have never started but that white powder was too tempting. It was just there... and besides, Yuri said they needed to celebrate.
I could really do with a snort right now: the holes in his abdomen hurt like hell. No, I was clean. I hadn't touched any coke in ages. I didn't need it anymore.
I would if Yuri hadn't stepped in and shipped me off to rehab. I had resisted, struggled against my brother to try and convince him to take me home instead of forcing me into that place. However, I was clean now so it was worth going through hell. Yuri was a good brother after all, even if he didn't always act like one.
I blinked; the sun was harsh against my eyes. I would never get married, never have children. I feel like a failure compared to Yuri. My brother had a beautiful, supermodel wife, a son- the heir to his small fortune that bought them expensive cars and a large house in the city. All I had was a history of drug abuse, prostitutes who had probably contracted multiple STIs and no cooking talent whatsoever. Yuri had always said my borsht was a pile of shit.
It hurt to know that I wouldn't ever see home again. I missed the greasy little cafe on the outskirts of town, even if business wasn't the best. Why did I become so infatuated with money when I could settle for a low income salary as a cook? I suppose that 'illegal gun runner' had a better ring to it than 'underpaid chef'. It was more exciting, never knowing when the authorities would catch up with them.
There'd been near misses, like the incident with the 'Kristol' but the rush of nearly being caught filled me with adrenaline, a high that was nearly as good as drugs. But seeing that kid, that defenceless little child who was the same age as Nicky… it was too much for me. I had to step in, I had to put a stop to all the murder and rape and torment in these villages. Well, what do you know? Even if I was a gun-trading druggie I actually had a moral compass after all.
I knew I was being reckless when I walked over to the merchandise. I knew it, I wasn't thinking straight. I'd picked up a hand-grenade, contemplating my next move and I realised that I was being watched. I sensed that his gun was on me and my heart rate quickened. I was perfectly aware that I was breaking the cardinal rule of gun-running: never pick up a gun and join the customers.
"What are you doing?" he said. "Something for Yuri" I had reassured him, knowing full well that if Yuri knew what I was doing he would object. "Step away, slow" replied the man and I did as I was told, knowing that if I refused I would die. I realise now it was kind of pointless worrying about that. I turned around and struck him with the crowbar in my hand, my heart now racing faster than ever. As I threw one of the grenades I had grabbed into the cargo truck, I knew I was being foolish but the genocide had to stop. I had ran as fast as I could, trying to get away and a few seconds later I'd heard the explosion behind me.
"Yes!" I thought "One to go…"
I heard Yuri yelling after me. "No, Vi!" he shouted. I felt sorry for him in a way. He'd always had to look out for me, keeping an eye on my next move. "Sorry brother" I had thought "I have to do this otherwise I couldn't live with myself."
The terrain felt hard beneath my feet as I raced to the next truck, my breath catching a little in my throat. I had panicked as I heard the all too familiar sound of a gun being prepared for use behind me.
I wasn't going to make it.
The soldier opened fire on me and in a split second, his bullets pierced my flesh. It was agony, even worse than going through withdrawal symptoms in rehab. I realised when I was crawling in the dirt that I had been reduced to the dog I was so scared of becoming.
I collapsed onto my back, now determined to end the tyranny of this country. With shaking hands, I pulled the pin on the grenade, not caring that I would end my life. To me, I had died a long time ago. I wasn't living… I was leading a pathetic existence as the fuck-up I always was. As long as I died as a martyr I would be happy.
Yuri stood over me, looking down on me as he always did. He forced the grenade out from between my fingers and put the pin back in its rightful place, stopping it from blowing the place up. I could have punched him, or at least swore at him but I couldn't muster up the strength.
Even my last attempt at turning my life around failed. Fucking Yuri was always ruining everything. I remember when we were kids back in Ukraine and he used to always pick me up when I was down. I wish we could go back to that, but now it was too late. I was dying; I knew it. The African sun shone down on me, feeling hot against my skin and burning my eyes. "Just let me go" I thought "There's no use for me anymore. I'm pathetic."