“C’mon, load up!” Glen shouted to his little brother, as he started loading his nerf guns with nerf bullets, preparing for war.
Sean followed orders, and ran to his room to grab his own weapons.
Once they had both picked their preferred Nerf guns, they loaded their pockets with extra Nerf bullets, and ran out the door.
“Be back before it gets too dark!” Their mom called after them.
The two boys didn’t need to listen to know what she was saying. They went through the same routine almost every night.
In an age when most kids stayed indoors playing video games, Glen and Sean loved to be outdoors.
The two of them ran into the woods.
Once they were in the tree line, they crouched as if they had just entered enemy territory.
Glen looked at his little brother, and put a finger up to his lips. Sean nodded.
They began to move, staying low to the ground, looking for the enemy, and ready to attack.
Sean stepped on a stick, making it crack, and received a frown from Glen.
After a second, Glen determined that no enemy had made them, and they began to move again.
Most days they would make their way to an open field, where they would live out their ambush. Since it was an open space, when they were done, they could easily find all their Nerf bullets before heading home, but this was not most days.
As they continued their trek towards the open field, Glen kept looking up at the sky. For some reason, it seemed like it was getting darker.
Glen stopped and stood up, which surprised Sean. Usually, they would stay in stealth mode until they made it to the open field, but Glen stopping and looking around like he was lost was unusual.
“What is it?” Sean asked in a hushed tone.
Still looking around, Glen replied, “We should be there by now.”
He didn’t recognize the area at all.
He couldn’t understand it. They’ve made that trek a hundred times, and had never gotten lost. Even when it was dark, they had been able to find their way there and back.
A little nervous, Glen decided they would retrace their steps until they found a place that looked familiar, and then head to the field.
“Let’s head back a little,” he said. “I think we went the wrong direction.”
Glen had never gotten lost before, but Sean wasn’t worried. They knew these woods like the back of their hands.
Instead of being stealthy like they had been, they just stood up and walked normally, wanting to hurry to get back on the right path.
They only had until it got dark to play, and it looked like it was already getting darker, even though they hadn’t been out that long.
After about fifteen minutes, Glen started to get worried. Not only had they not found a place where they could pick back up the trail, but he still didn’t recognize where he was at.
He looked up again, and he felt even more concerned as the light in the sky began to fade. It would be dark soon.
He took a solace in the thought that if he didn’t return home before it was completely dark, his parents would become worried and come looking for them.
Seeing Glen stop again and look around like he was lost made Sean nervous. His brother never got lost.
Sean looked up at the sky worriedly as it continued to get darker.
Both boys jumped when a man in a strange military uniform walked out of the shrubbery and called out to them.
“Gentlemen,” he said. “Thank God we found you.”
Both the boys stared at him, perplexed.
It seemed to Glen that it was too early for a search party, but it wouldn’t surprise him that his parents became worried. It seemed like adults were always worrying about something.
The boys stood there undecided. They wanted to get home, but they knew to be weary of strangers.
“Let’s go,” the man said. “There’s much to do.”
The boys looked at each other, and then back at the man.
Seeing them hesitant, he seemed to get frustrated.
“We’re not safe here, and we need you on the front lines,” the man said.
The boys were about to start walking slowly away, when suddenly they heard a loud crack, and a chunk of the tree above them exploded in a hundred pieces.
The boys became frozen with fear, but the man grabbed them and dragged them off.
After a minute, the boys pulled back away from the man, just as afraid of him as whoever had shot at them.
The man looked at them, annoyed.
“Why are you stopping,” he said. “We have to get back to camp.”
Glen spoke up.
“We want to go home,” he said.
“Home?” The man looked irratated. “We’ll all get to go home when you get to the front lines and use your weapons on our enemies.”
The boys looked at each other, and then their nerf guns. They looked the same. Yellow, orange, and plastic.
They started to walk away from the man, when Sean tripped just as another round flew past where he was standing.
Glen and the man threw themselves to the ground. Glen crawled to Sean to make sure he was alright.
“We’re sitting ducks out here. We need to get moving,” the man said sternly.
Hesitantly, the boys crawled toward the man and followed him as he lead them through the brush.
When they were hidden well enough within the trees, they stood back up and moved at a brisk walk deeper into the woods.
“What is going on?” Glen demanded.
“What do you mean?” the man replied.
“Who are you and why were we being shot at?”
“All I know is that the General informed me that two soldiers were coming to our aid, and that they had weapons that could change the tide of this battle.”
“They’re just Nerf guns,” Glen said. “Toys, and we need to get home.”
“I don’t know what that means, sir, but all I know is that we need you, and the enemy will not stop trying to kill you until they are defeated.”
Tears started to stream down Sean’s cheeks.
“Glen, I want to go home,” he said.
“I know, Sean,” he replied. “Me too.”
Glen sped up to walk abreast the man who was leading them.
“Which way is Sunnybrook?” Glen asked.
The man seem confused.
“I’ve never heard of that place,” he replied.
Glen was about to tell the man again that they had the get home, when the man stated, “We’re here.”
The came out of the woods and before them stood a military camp. Glen and Sean’s eyes grew wide. They had been out in these woods deeper than this, and had never seen anything remotely like what they were seeing now.
They almost tripped over their own feet as the man continued to lead them through the camp.
As they walked through, the boys could hear gun fire coming from off in the distance, making them more nervous.
“Here!” the man said, startling the boys.
The man lead them through a tent flap, were they found themselves standing before a beefy man standing by a table, looking at map, and smoking a cigar.
“Are these the soldiers that were sent to us?” the man asked.
“Yes, General” the man that lead them replied.
“Good,” the General started. “Welcome. We’ve been waiting for you. I hope you’re ready to perform your duties.”
The boys didn’t know what to say. The world seemed as if it had been turned upside down.
“We’re just boys,” Glen stated again.
The General stared at them harshly, and said, “You’re soldiers.”
“We need to get home,” Sean said. “Our parents will be worried.”
The General and the man continued to stare at them like they were speaking a different language, and then finally the General spoke.
“We don’t have time for this,” he said. “Colonel, take them to the front lines and have them use their weapons to defeat our enemies once and for all.”
“Yes, sir,” the man who had lead them there replied.
Before the boys could say anything, the Colonel pushed them outside, and herded them onto a jeep that had pulled up.
The boys tried to resist, but ended up finding themselves sitting in the backseat of the Jeep, whimpering.
The Colonel, seeing them upset, softened a little and tried to encourage them.
“Look, soldiers,” he said. “You’ll be fine. When we get to the front lines, we just need you to use your weapons, and then you can go home. It’s that simple.”
Still whimpering, Glen replied, “These are not special weapons. They’re just toys.”
He held up his nerf gun, showing the man it was just plastic.
“It doesn’t shoot bullets,” he continued. “It shoots these soft bullets that don’t hurt anyone!”
The man continued to stare at him.
“Just do what you were sent here to do, and then you can go home,” the Colonel said.
Glen didn’t know what else to say. Part of him wanted to jump out, but he still had no idea where he was, or if someone would shoot him or Sean once they were free.
Before he could decide, the Colonel said, “We’re here.”
They had come to a stop at the top of a cliff. The boys were once again herded off the jeep.
They were led to the precipice, and what they saw blew their minds.
Below them was a major battle with hundreds, if not thousands of men firing back and forth. Bombs were exploding and they could hear constant gunfire. Men yelled, but could be barely heard over the explosions.
Glen and Sean looked out over the battlefield with awe.
“See those mortars over there?” the Colonel asked, pointing toward where the mortars were firing, followed by an explosion on their own side. “Fire your weapons there first.”
The boys looked at each other.
Glen spoke first, yelling at the man. “These are toys!!”
The Colonel gave a look of frustration.
“Just do it!” he ordered.
Glen became angry himself as nobody seemed to be listening to them.
“Fine! I’ll prove it!” Glen yelled in defiance.
He walked closer to the edge, held up his toy nerf gun, aimed in the direction of the mortars that the Colonel had pointed out, and pulled the trigger.
The sound was deafening. The gun exploded, and after a few moments, almost all the mortars that he had aimed at disappeared in a puff of smoke.
Seeing what Glen’s gun had done, Sean smiled and brought his own nerf gun up, aimed, and pulled the trigger.
The nerf gun made its winding up noise as it fired two rounds in succession. Just like Glen’s gun had done, the targets it had hit evaporated in a puff of smoke.
All three of them looked down as the enemy forces could be seen running away. The battle had been won.
From below, they could hear their own soldiers begin to cheer as they saw the enemy flee.
A smile crossed the Colonel’s face as he turned to look at the boys.
“You did it, gentlemen,” he said.
He led them back to the jeep, and returned to the tent where the General awaited them. The whole ride through the camp and as they entered the tent, they were surrounded by cheering soldiers.
Once the boys were inside the tent the General looked up at them with a broad smile.
“Well, soldiers,” he said. “Thanks to you, we all get to go home safely. You fought with honor, and I know when I speak for every soldier here when I say ‘Thank you’.”
At the mention of all of them being able to go home, the boys’ smiles dropped.
The General noticed.
“Colonel,” the General said.
The Colonel came to attention.
“I believe it’s time to get these boys home, wouldn’t you agree?” he asked.
With a broad smile, the Colonel replied. “Yes, sir!”
The Colonel led the boys out of the tent.
“Let’s get you boys home,” he said once he was out of the tent.
The boys wearily smiled, but followed him, not sure how they were supposed to get home.
The Colonel led them through the woods to where he had first met them.
“Well, this is where I leave you,” he said. “It’s been a pleasure to have served with you.”
The boys looked around unsure where to go.
Sensing their confusion, the Colonel helped by saying, “That way, Gentlemen,” and pointed behind them.
“Thank you, sir,” Glen said, and began to walk in the direction the Colonel had pointed.
Sean followed him.
As they rounded a tree, the sun came out, and it was early dusk again.
They turned back and saw that the Colonel was gone. They walked back to where they had left him, but there was no trace of him.
“Ow,” Sean said, as he looked down to see what he had stepped on.
He bent over and held up a plastic toy soldier for Glen to see.
A weird look crossed Glen’s face, and he briskly walked past Sean.
Sean turned and followed.
When they got over a short hill, they saw hundreds of toy soldiers on the ground. They were standing straight up as if someone had placed them there.
They walked around looking at them amazed.
“These must have been the soldiers we helped,” Glen stated.
He walked past the first group of toy soldiers, and came across another set of toy soldiers. The second group were all knocked down, and were covered with black burns. It looked like someone had used firecrackers to blow them up.
The boys looked at each other in wonder.
Their parents were never going to believe them.