My friends and I took our weekly airsoft matches very seriously. It was quiet. Too quiet. The only sound I could hear was my own breathing. Silently, I scolded myself for that. Chances were, if I could hear it, they could hear it too. I couldn’t see where PJ and Luke had run off to, meaning I was most likely the only one from my team stuck in this part of the park.
Now I would have to be extra careful not to get myself in the enemy’s crosshairs, because I was not about to lose this for my friends who had lobbied so hard to get me on their team.
I checked my magazine to make sure I had plenty of ammo pellets left before slowly beginning to stalk across the dirt path I’d been using as a guide through the compound. My booted feet didn’t make a sound as I picked carefully through the underbrush, keeping one eye on the trees and bushes around me. Looking back on it, I wished I had been a little more agreeable to PJ’s idea that we should bring walkie talkies with us so we’d be able to communicate even when we were split up.
Unfortunately, when he’s proposed this plan, both Luke and I had laughed in his face. Which is why I now had no way to contact the other guys on my team. I groaned inwardly as I wracked my brain for any notion of where they might be lurking or hiding.
After a while without making contact with my team members, I was beginning to worry that I might be the only one left in the game. As I wandered stealthily through the woods, I began to hear sounds the seemed to be coming from the trees. Every time I ducked for cover and took a look around, though, there was nobody there.
I tried to continue creeping through camp in search of my teammates, but I could tell the sounds were getting louder. I was certain my friends from the other team were closing in on me. Leaning my back against a nearby tree, I took a second to gather my thought and my courage before taking a deep breath. Then I took off.
I laid down some cover fire into the branches on both sides of the path as I sprinted down it toward the center of camp. I could hear loud footsteps crashing through the forest behind me, so I didn’t slow down for a second. When I reached the center of camp, I immediately took refuge in an old shed that offered the most cover of any of the structures in the clearing.
I kicked the door shut behind me and began looking for the perfect vantage point where I could set up my gun and take out anyone that might be advancing on my hiding place. I had just begun setting up my weapon in the spot I’d selected when I felt a hand on my shoulder, nearly jumping out of my skin in fright.
“Easy, easy,” came a familiar voice, “it’s just me.”
Whipping my head around, I came face to face with an apologetic-looking PJ. I put a hand over my heart as I sighed in relief.
“Christ, PJ, don’t sneak up on me like that during a game,” I reprimanded him, patting his knee so he’d know I wasn’t really angry, “We could probably use those walkie-talkies right now, huh?”
“I tried to tell you guys!” PJ gushed in exasperation.
“I know you did,” I said with a guilty grin, “I’m sorry, buddy, we should have listened to you.”
“Thanks for saying so,” responded PJ, ”but now we’ve got a bigger problem on our hands. How do we get out of here?”
“Good question,” I groaned, taking a peek out the window and spotting a few figures shifting through the trees, “Any chance Luke’s out there to give us a hand?”
“Nah,” PJ answered, “I heard when one of them tagged him about half an hour ago.”
“Well then it looks like it’s just you and me, pal,” I told him, “So, how do you propose we distract Mike and the boys?”
PJ seemed to consider this for a moment as we both watched the shadowy shapes taking positions around our little hideout. They his eyes lit up.
“Listen,” he began excitedly, “What if we set up a little distraction in the dugout over there?”
I looked down to see the firecracker PJ was rolling around his hand, and a mischievous grin spread over both our faces.
“I don’t know how you got that in here,” I said, giving my friend’s shoulder a smack, “but I like the way you think.”
A few minutes later, when I heard the firecracker begin to snap and bang and saw PJ dart for the woods, I quickly followed suit, taking off into the tree line. Thankfully, I was pretty sure the other team couldn’t see me anymore; the only problem was that I couldn’t see them, either.
I slowed to a silent walk through the trees as I swept my gaze over the treacherous terrain. There was a suspicious rustling sound just off to my left. In my head, I weighed my options. I could run, I could hide, or I could fire at will. I didn’t love the idea of hitting a little defenseless animal with a pellet that would certainly leave a mark, but as the rustling kept coming right at me, I decided to take my chances.
I dropped to one knee, took aim, and fired. Then I heard a pitiful little yelp and watched helplessly as PJ came tumbling through the bushes. He was rubbing his thigh where I must’ve hit him, and soon enough, I was mirroring his actions where I’d been hit myself. Mike must’ve heard the commotion and had come running just in time to nail me with a pellet. As PJ looked at me, he mouthed “walkie-talkies,” and all I could do was laugh.