The street looks deserted, but I know it's not. Random radio blares disconcertingly into dim and my heart pounds like a timpani. Like a cannon. This is no place for an artist I think. I hear people moving, but the sound bounces off the concrete walls and I can't tell where it comes from. It's disorienting and I feel like I am surrounded. I probably am surrounded.
From somewhere behind me I hear shots. My stomach plummets. This is it. It's started. They'll be hunting me now and my first thought is to hide, maybe to try to offer my friends some support. But I can barely remember who my friends are, and sitting still, backed into a corner, waiting to be found seems foolish, so I run. My glasses fog, I can barely see and my feet are much too loud. My steps seem to beat out Morse code that says here I am, here I am. My breath is ragged as I run, and I slip in something viscous on the ground. Sheer force of will keeps me on my feet and moving. The gunfire increases. Nearby, someone yells I'm hit.
This is it I think. Ahead I see the tunnel and just beyond that a line of people with rifles. In the flickering streetlight and the dark I can't tell if they're friends or foe, so I ignore them. I have to. I sprint for the doorway, knowing it's my only chance. The orange line. The orange line. Just make it to the...
Pain blazes in my shoulder. I stagger and shock courses through me but my legs keep going. And then I am across the orange line, in the tunnel where I know they cannot follow. Sweat rolls down my face. I am shaking.
At the end of the tunnel I pull up my mask and muster the courage to look at my shoulder. White is splattered along it. Just a graze. A friend is headed back out. To the dark, to the street. You coming? they ask. I stand in the hallway, frozen. I should go. I should go back in there.
But I can't.
I can't play paintball anymore. Laser tag maybe. But paintball is much too real. My imagination is too vivid, combined with the tangible sting of the paintball bullets. It muddles my brain. I think to myself I need to get in better condition, in case of zombie apocalypse. I tell the man behind the counter that they need vests and roles for media persons, like a war correspondent. Or even a medic. Non-combatant roles, so I could be out there with less risk of being paintballed.
When I watch movies with any action, I cover my eyes. It's too real. My empathy and imagination make it too real.
I do not like paintball.
My friends do, though, and I had a great time high-five-ing them and talking about the action, from the safety of the non-combat zone. I thought maybe I would like it. Aaron thought I would like it too. I like games like capture the flag. I'm competitive. But add in that promise of pain and it's a zero sum game for me.
I should probably try to toughen up.