He should have killed me. He was younger, he had the training and he had been in peak physical condition.
I’d followed a three man squad into the trees, chasing rustling and snapping branches. Within minutes we were lost in the forest, now the hunted.
There was a burst of fire. Branches rustled, splinters flew everywhere. I was knocked flat. I didn’t black out, and the pain I felt was more like an elbow in the back than anything else. But I was on the ground and I couldn’t move.
I was pinned by a large Frenchman, I think his name was Claude, and there was movement in the forest. The shooter or shooters were heading toward me. There was a shotgun on the ground, just beyond my reach, and a root that I could get hold of. I pulled myself a little out from under the body and it moved, rolling off me with a groan. I fought the urge to shout and pulled myself a little further, until I could get my hand around the stock of the shotgun.
The shooter, I was sure it was only one now, was nearly upon me. Judging by what I could hear he was behind me and to the right. If I twisted I could get in a shot, and free my feet. So that was what I did.
I shot a tree. I don’t think I did it fatal damage. My target was to the right of it. He recoiled from the haze of splinters and shot fragments and stumbled on a root. I rolled into a sitting position and threw the gun at him. My throw was more accurate than my shot, catching him on the back of his head and sending him to his knees.
Before he could stand I’d covered the distance to him and tackled him to the ground. I had my left arm around his neck, crushing and twisting as best I could, and my right arm and body weight pinning his gun arm. The assault rifle fired a burst then clicked on an empty chamber. I could put all my effort into subduing him now. My right arm gave my left extra leverage.
Too late he started fighting my grip. He was already losing coordination. His movements became less violent until they were little more than twitches. Eventually these stopped as well. I kept the death grip on his throat a while longer, staring into the trees. When I let go I would have to step back and look at what I had done. And accept that it had felt good.