It was the summer of 2009. We were two friends who had grown up together, almost as brothers. My first recollection I have of Gavin was when we got into a fight over a yellow Tonker-Truck in kindergarten at 3 years old. I won that fight, but it was just the first of many. Our constant need for competition and to challenge each other would be a running theme for the next 30 years. Whether it is athletic achievement or academic achievement, our need to pit our wits, ability and even our very lives against each other has never ceased. In the years we have known each other we have literary come to blows, sworn that our friendship was at an end and issued fatwahs over such trivial subjects as video games, drinking sessions, women and pretty much every sporting event that can be played by able bodied Welsh men. During this time I have suffered alcohol poisoning, almost drowned on my own vomit and nearly broke my back in an attempt to keep up with my much physically larger friend on our wild day trips. But his challenges to me have not gone without incident either. He has fallen through a ceiling, lost jobs due to Muppet porn I sent him via email and has even suffered compound fractures resulting in my highly cynical and brutal football challenge; where after being barged off the ball by his sharp, savage elbows, I proceeded to chase after him and sweep his legs from behind, sending him crumpling onto the hard concrete where he would stay until the ambulance arrived.
People have often remarked that if they didn’t know we were friends, they could easily mistake us for mortal enemies. But then they just don’t get it. We don’t compete and try to beat each other due to a deep sated hatred; we do it because it’s just really, really funny making the other person look like a loser while you look like a rock star. I have no interest in destroying the man, any more than he truly wishes to destroy me; we both just really want the upper hand and the ensuring bragging rights. Sometimes it does get out of hand of course, but for the most part it is just a really intense rivalry that will probably continue for as long as we are friends. Truth be told, it is probably the main reason why we have been friends for so long. Most friends are just random people you hang out with and talk to now and again, but Gavin…. Well, he’s the one person I can hang out with, talk to now and again, but also, and I cannot stress this point enough, also try to destroy. It keeps us on our toes, keeps us sharp and ready for the next round.
When Gavin announced that he was making his way to the alter before me, I felt a slight twinge of envy as he had beaten me in this one particular competition. But despite my loss I went through the motions of congratulations and platitudes. I would achieve something of a counter victory though as he, as is tradition with such events chose me to be best man at his wedding. My joy with this news was tempered somewhat by the knowledge that he had originally wanted me to be “co-best man” along with a friend from Scotland. Sadly his so called “friend” couldn’t make it down to Wales for the nuptials, so all the responsibilities and traditions of best man fell solely on my shoulders.
|You don't have enough hair to be a best man. Prick.|
Deciding that my victory of becoming sole best man was too much to bare without some sort of retaliation, Gavin decided that if I were going to be sole best man, then I would pay for it dearly. His first master stroke was telling me that I would have to cross-dress for the special occasion. Well played Sir…. Despite being about as Scottish as a vegetarian diet and sensible alcohol consumption, Gavin decided that he would have a Highland themed wedding and I (as best man) would have to match his kilted attire. “Fine” I thought. I have great legs, I can pull this off. But then the son of a bitch executed his coupe-de-grace. Generously offering to buy me the correct kilt pattern for his wedding, I was somewhat pleasantly surprised and humbled that he had loosened his purse strings long enough to consider my needs. My feelings of good will did not last for long. Though he still maintains his innocence to this day, for some reason he bought me a kilt that I would have struggle to fit in when I was a lithe, slim 16 year old with a 28inch waist, let alone a somewhat out of shape 32 year old I had slowly morphed into.
“I honestly thought that was your waist size.” He lied.
No matter. I would not let him win this one. Over the next 2 months I cultivated a serious case of anorexia, managing to shed an impressive 25lbs. It was hard work and honestly, there are periods of several days where all I can remember is a hazy darkness and semi lucid visions of a pizza chasing me down a street. But I fitted in that damn skirt and looked bloody fabulous.
But before the wedding. Before the vows were said. Before I offered to take him to the airport in order to fly to Brazil, I would have one final chance for revenge. Deciding that this would be one of my last opportunities before he became a married man (and as such pretty much dead to the outside world), I would arrange a stag party that would be give this eating disorder causing git the send-off he truly deserved.
When you are the age we are, you grow up watching shows and movies such as The A-Team, Terminator and Robocop. These purveyors of ultra-violence lead to our almost primal fascination of guns and shooting things. Sadly as shooting at each other with real guns is somewhat frowned upon and now limited to the few human hunting reserves of Africa, I decided that we should participate in the next best thing.
Deciding to keep the stag-do small, the party consisted of just myself, Gavin and our mutual friend Ryan.
|The last photo taken of 3 old frinds before the horrors of war changed us forever.|
I had made but one critical error in my otherwise stellar preparations for the trip as I had fallen into the trap of “Stag Party 101” and made up special hats for everyone with their names on. This in itself was fine, but the point I didn’t really pick up on was that it might not have been the best idea to order bright red baseball caps when trying to conceal oneself in green foliage. To say these special hats made us stick out somewhat was something of an understatement.
Having to decide between wearing the hats and making ourselves more visible, or having no protection on our heads and taking direct hits to the scalp, we decided to wear them and hope that the limited protection they offered would be worth the added visibility. This was a mistake of such epic proportions; it could very well qualify for its own blog entry.
We began the games in good spirits. We played on the same team, the brotherhood of war and combat strengthening our bond. Things started well and our cunning, experience and ruthlessness make short work of the enemy. But it was to be something of a false dawn. We had taken early victories and sustained no injuries or hits. This was to be our undoing. Thinking ourselves above our enemy, we got cocky.
As the games progressed, so did their difficulty. Our enemy were positioned waiting in their heavily fortified base as we stealthily and carefully advanced on their command position with the intention of capturing their stronghold. Everything went fine for the first few minutes, then we realised that there might be a problem.
All of the previous games had been out in the open. Being seen wasn’t really an issue if you had cover, but this new game was different. The fortified base was surrounded by thick ferns and bushes, with our objective being to advance through the foliage and take them by surprise. However there was just one small issue.
The sight of bright red hats bobbing through the undergrowth must have come as a pleasant surprise to our enemy, but one which they gratefully accepted and then proceeded to shoot the living shit out of.
There is a reason “Paintball” has the word “Pain” in it. Using our hats as target practice, the enemy proceeded to crack our skulls open with unnerving and worrying accuracy. 200mph balls of luminous death cracked into my skull as I ducked for cover and tried not to worry if the red stuff dripping down my face was blood or paint.
I fell to the floor behind cover and howled in pain, fuelled by anguish and torment. Ryan was already lost. A casualty of war forever to be remembered and celebrated on this day every year hence.
|He laid there, motionless and slug like. It was his only defence|
Myself and Gavin quickly ducked down as our cover received a pebble dashing of death.
We were outnumbered, outgunned and now low on ammo. Figuring out that they could sell 5 times more paintballs if they only counted torso hits as “kill shots”, taking repeated hits to the brain counted for nothing at this particular paintballing complex. Though when I say they counted for nothing, I of course mean that in the sense of the rules of the game and not the worrying buzzing sound coming from my now one working ear. The pain felt white hot and pierced my skull, penetrating every nerve and synapse in my brain. But for all intents and purposes I was still in the game, as was Gavin.
|I should have probably raised a white flag at this point|
There was only one thing left to do. I looked at my brother in arms and told him that if we were going to go out, we were going to go out like men! I devised a plan that would recall the finest of last ditch, heroic assaults. Executing the Young Guns 2: Blaze of Glory tactic, we would go all out in, well a blaze of glory. One final push, one final insane attack.
He would take the right flank, I would take the left. We shook hands and said our farewells as we prepared for one final stand agains the forces of evil (blue team).
|And save me a throne in Valhalla!|
The words of the Bon Jovi classic reverberated in my shattered and broken skull. We leapt from our cover and charged the enemy.
|What the fu.....|
The spirit and memory of a thousand action movies overtook me as I flew towards them using, what felt like at the time, my own personal Matrix bullet time effect. My first shot was one in a million. I somehow managed to explode off the affixed paintball container from the first sentry’s gun, sending his paintballs falling to the floor.
A total look of shock and amazement was etched on his face as he viewed this approaching assassin of death flying towards him. This original look of shock however was nothing compared with the one that replaced it when my next bullet slammed into his forehead, spraying out paint, blood and brain chunks and sending him flying backwards and out of the game.
|DIE YOU F%*&$@G IMPERIAL DOG!!|
I continued my amazing advance and took out another two enemy soldiers.
I could not believe my luck and skill as I headed towards the enemy stronghold in order to begin the final attack with Gavin and execute our pincer manoeuvre, allowing us to take this base and kill those bastards.
I charged deep into enemy territory, fearless and without mercy. My recklessness and valour may have been out of place given my location, odds and bleeding ears, but I knew that with my best friend by my side we would have a damn good chance of coming out of this alive.
Yes, my best friend.
My best friend at my side.
At my side…..
It had suddenly dawned on me that since leaving the cover we had both been using, Gavin had vanished. I looked back and saw his head peak up over a wooden slat as he gave me a little wave.
I was undone! My friend and fellow soldier had left me to die behind enemy lines. The unmistakable whack of paintball bullets began to slam into my spine and neck. More enemy fire found contact with my soft, damaged flesh as I was riddled with water soluble death. It was all over for me in this game. I fell to the ground and did my best Platoon death scene as I embraced my contemptible fate.
But there was yet another game to go, one final conflict to fight. This time it would be different. I swore as I fell to the ground in the last game, as I watched Gavin, safely hidden behind his fortress of shame as he laughed at my demise, that I would have my revenge on those who had left me to die.
The final game of the day was to be a little different to the others. It would start out normally enough, team verses team, but after 5 minutes it would descend into an all-out death match where it was every man for himself.
They say war changes a man. Once you have participated in and committed acts of such savagery and hate, you are never able to unsee what has been seen. It stays with you.
|The horror. The horror.....|
Every time you close your eyes, every time you go to the hardware store and see pots of paints, the flashback hit you. From that day on an innocent tin of emulsion was like a naked, murdered Vietnamese body to me. My experience in the last match had given me a worrying thousand yard stare (that could have either been severe emotional trauma or a worrying eye condition that had been brought on by repeated blunt trauma) and a lust for blood that could only be achieved through crushing your enemies, to see them driven before you, and to hear the lamentation of their women.
The game started in a pretty standard normal way, teams attacked, teams defended. I made sure I kept myself close to Gavin, but not too close.
|Soon my friend. Soon....|
I let the war go on around me. I conserved my ammo and maintained position waiting for my chance to seek the high court of battlefield justice. I stayed close to Gavin, just close enough so I could see the fear in the traitors eyes when the time came.
After five minutes a marshal blew a whistle and announced that it was now a free for all and all rules were off.
Gavin, upon hearing this decided it would be funny to take a pop shot at me. His effort missed, but he had now given me all the excuse I needed to utterly destroy him.
|Oh no you di'int|
He had no idea what I was planning and unbeknown to him he had made a crucial error in his defensive positioning. During the first five minutes of the game, his position and covering made him well defended against forward attack, but not attack from the rear. It probably never occurred to him that someone would attack him from behind or indeed that that person would be his best man and life-long friend, and that man would bring the 4 horsemen of the apocalypse with him.
After his first pot shot at me, he giggled and gave me a look that said “What do you expect? I’m trying to shoot you, you would do the same if you could.” Then it suddenly dawned on him that I could and that I would be doing just that. He suddenly realised just how exposed and vulnerable he now was to my wrath. A sudden dawning and realisation crept across his face as I raised my gun towards him.
For the briefest of moments our eyes locked in a second that told the story of a life time. He could see there was no soul within me now. It had been lost on the battlefield where he left me to die. I was no longer the guy who he had grown up with and had known for over 30 years. I was now death incarnate and I was riding a horse of justice and revenge. There was nowhere for him to go. He was still under attack from forward positions and was on the edge of the game arena. He looked to his right and saw the fence some 15 foot away that signalled the boundary, if he could reach the fence he would be out of the game and I would no longer be able to extract my revenge.
I had no intention of giving him this opportunity however. Even before he could raise himself from his seated position and advance towards to the fence like a punch drunk boxer desperately trying to save himself till the bell, my bullets started flying towards him. He took the first few hits well, but winced and arched in pain. Managing to crawl onto his hands and knees he started his slow advanced towards the fence.
Still taking shots from forward positions, he foolishly decided to lie on his back in a desperate attempt to return fire on me. This was a tragic mistake that would stay with him for the rest of his life. He was now unable to get up and make a run for it as my bullets kept him pinned down on the ground.
I advanced further upon him. My trigger finger a blur of fury. Taking careful aim from all of 3 foot away, I made every precious shot count.
|*no caption needed*|
Ignoring the bullets whizzing around my head I unleashed the full extent of my hatred. From just a few feet away I unloaded over 200 bullets into him. He started to scream, the full realisation of what was happening suddenly dawning on him as he desperately tried to crawl further towards the rope, his progress hindered by the fact that his body was now just a pulp of blood, bone and paint. He attempted to raise his own gun in some feeble attempt of defence, maybe more in reflex than attack, but as soon as his fingers were exposed, I took aim on them and turned them into what looked like overcooked sausages that had burst open in the middle.
Now racked with tortuous pain, he continued to crawl on his back towards the rope as I bared my teeth and cursed at him in 4 different languages in order to ensure that his soon to be daparted spirit would never find peace. Turning onto his front he wiggled and flopped like a drunken bull seal on a beach as he continued his pitifully slow advance towards the rope.
The rest of the group had stopped playing at this point. They just stood in stunned silence at the horrors being committed in front of them. A small child, not old enough to understand the complexities and brutal nature of man quietly wept; falling to his knees as he looked to the sky in questioning of an unloving God that would allow such a thing to happen.
All attempts to conceal his pain and anguish had long since left his crippled body. All Gavin could hope for now was the sweet release of death. But it would not come. I made sure of that. I wanted his pain to last a life time.
He screamed at me to stop.
“FOR THE LOVE OF JESUS, STOP!!!”
He somehow managed to drag his bloody mess of a carcass to the boundry fence as a marshal came to his aid. The marshal looked at me with a mix of awe and disgust.
The Marshall would later tell us that he had been in the actual army for 20 years and had served in many real life bloody wars when in service, but this was the most brutal, terrifying and shameless war crime he had ever seen committed.
He later erect a plaque to the “Massacre of Heatherton Sports Complex”. He would leave a single rose upon that site, on that day, every year, for the rest of his life.
Gavin didn’t really talk to me on the way home for some reason. Maybe he was in shock, or maybe he took a bullet to the larynx.
|So i'm still best man right?|
All I know is you NEVER leave a man behind, you never make him cross dress in a skinny kilt and you never mess with me when it comes to mother fucking paintball!
If you do…. I will make you pay.