It could have happened when I fell into that pool of black mud. Perhaps it happened when I tripped over a tree root and crashed into that stump. Maybe it was when I got shot in the head three times in three seconds and hit the ground hard.
I don’t know.
But I do know that my knee pains like hell though it isn’t alone. So do my shoulders, my neck, my elbows, the other knee and the base of my spine. In fact, the only articulated part of me that doesn’t hurt is my left ankle, but it was all worth it to take a village, overrun a fort and storm Omaha beach.
I wasn’t sure what to expect when we arrived at the Combat Zone but I knew it spelled trouble for me. Was I going to keep up with these twenty-something fit guys I had in the car? I needn’t have worried: of course I wasn’t going to keep up, but you know, I discovered that paintball isn’t that sort of game. Yes, it’s true that for the first five minutes I thought I was going to die of a heart attack or by throwing up, but then my old native cunning kicked in, alongside my second wind.
[Note to self: get fit, you lazy bastard]
It’s ok, old guys. You won’t drop dead, and you get to shoot at your friends and family.
When you first arrive at Combat Zone, there’s a worrying feeling that you’ve dropped into some deeply dysfunctional survivalist hide-out buried deep in the woods of rural County Limerick. Jesus, how did the Michigan Militia get here?
There’s some sort of an old tank parked by the barrier, but on closer inspection it turns out to be an airport fire appliance. Look, Skeeter! That ain’t no gun. That’s a foam cannon, just in case a 767 gets itself shot down in these here woods. By the Commie Liberals.
We stand around for what seems like a very long time, but that’s an illusion created by the fact that it is is a very long time. We stand around in our standard-issue green camouflage fatigues and look: there’s a bunch of girls. Great. We’ll have no problem with this crowd.
Oh wait. They seem to be Polish or Russian or something and they all have their own body armour. Great. We’ve met the only Spetznaz paintball unit in Western Europe. If they don’t hit us with paintballs, they’ll rip our livers out with their bare hands. My day has taken a dip for the worse but I’m here with my son, his friends and his cousins. I must protect them, even if it costs me my own life.
Carry on without me. I’ll hold this crazed Russian trained killer for as long as I can. Save yourselves, boys.
What really happens? A bunch of nice guys split us into two groups. Odd numbers one side, even numbers on the other. I end up with Bullet which gives me a little lift. We’ll get through this together, Son.
The nice guys explain in great detail how important it is to leave your helmet on when you’re inside the fire zone. Obviously. These little projectiles are travelling at over a hundred miles an hour and it’s all fun and games till someone loses an eye. They explain that it’s all about enjoying the experience and they also explain that they’ll be there watching at all times to make sure everything goes well. I’d love their job. It’s pretty stress-free, apart from dealing with fools who remove their helmets in the fire zone. Who wouldn’t want a job that involves shooting at enemies in a wood?
We’re looking at the map where it’s all laid out. You’ve got the Omaha Beach reconstruction, if Omaha Beach had trees and landing craft were ok with forests. You have the drop zone, the fort and the village.
Village? Did somebody say Village? Excellent. Does this mean we can inflict atrocities on the civilian population?
Eh, no Ted. You’ll be shooting at people with guns and they’ll be shooting back.
Not even a little bit of looting?
Damn. So it’s tripping over roots, falling into quicksand and getting shot?
I loved it. Every last minute of it. I brought my boy home safe and that’s all that matters. Pity about the guy who ended up with a bandanna around his temple and a Colt .45 with a single bullet in the chamber, but he was too far gone even before we got there.
Pity about the atrocities though. War is hell.