The whole world slowly spins into the center of the field where I hear the enemy. Balls start hurling through the trees, one narrowly skimming my head. I can smell the paint as it splatters on the tree in front of me. Fear surges but I have nowhere to go except to the next bunker. I hear two different guns starting to fire from my right and use that only to fuel my speed. I slam into the small black barrel that has been the object of my desire for so long. I could not wait to be here yet now I have made what seems to be a horrible mistake.
I suddenly remember what the website said about this course. Ambush: Our most popular scenario field. This large 3.5 acre wooded course has two opposing forts between bunkers made out of pallets, tractor tires and 55 gallon barrels. A team must strategize a way to take over the opposition’s fort without sacrificing their own base.
I feel now as if the opposing team may have out strategized me. The two enemies are now spreading out and doing a flanking maneuver to both sides of my barrel. There is no doubt Seth’s primary motive is to get me, and I know he will be trying as hard as he can to knock me out. My new objective is to move. There is no time to sit and think. I have to get away from this barrel. It was golden only moments ago but I now realize it was no more than fool’s gold. I can only stay here for a couple more seconds before they come and get me as a team. I will then be completely screwed.
Then something amazing happens.
I hear a twig snap and look back. Through the dirt and sweat encrusted mask I was forced to wear I see him. I slowly start to smile. My dad is crouched in the woods behind me and has his gun pointed past my bunker apparently aiming at the guy coming up on the left. I start to move and all of a sudden a thunderous storm of paint slams into the barrel I am hiding behind. This being my first game I try to hug as close to it as possible, hoping it will save me from the onslaught.
I am sitting with my back to the barrel in almost a squat position when I see Seth running into the brush line. I quickly maneuver myself to the other side of the barrel just in time to watch a large man with what looks like a minigun get pelted by 3 or 4 paintballs. They explode in a red mist across his chest as my barrel gets slammed again by another volley from Seth. I fire a couple of bullets toward his general area, but they seem to have a mind of their own as they spray out in all different directions. I realize at that point there is no way I will be able to get my gun to shoot that far accurately. Seth has chosen a great vantage point being the tactician he is. There is no doubt in my mind he has played more than a few times.
From what I am seeing this was an intended massacre and I was supposed to be the sacrificial lamb for the slaughter. Looking back I probably shouldn't have talked all that smack at the start of the game. When our only two other teammates were engulfed in a bloodbath early on it really did a number on what I had thought of the odds.
Dad once again disappears and I decide that I need to set up a new goal.
My new goal is to escape Seth and his deadly aim. There are some barrels across the field that almost look as if they are impenetrable. The only problem is there is no easy way to get there. A flurry of orange balls flies from the woods. Five or six of them seem to be homing on me as I slide back behind the barrel because they follow me and slam into it. I wonder how much homing bullets cost Seth. I sure hope he had to pay a lot because the psychological advantage he now has on me should be worth millions. I am afraid to move because the deathblows to the barrel are leaving me panic-stricken. They sound as if they will be able to rip arms off if I let him get a shot in. I hypothesize the barrel can handle it much better than me and have no intention of testing my theory.
I start to smell the oily grime of my sweat mixed against the small bunker and know I wasted too much time there already. I decide to flush Seth out after he shoots another barrage of death beams at me. I get ready to run and map out my strategy to escape to the next bunker. The bunker itself looks pretty nice from what I can see and I know Seth cannot see any of it. I can only glimpse a small bank of dirt with a wood shipping flat beside it. The bank is about a foot high. I think it can make a very nice defensive base if nothing else. The only problem is getting there.
I want to make a run from here to there but there is so much in the way. There is a tree fallen across the middle. There is very little visibility through my mask and it feels like I am breathing steam at this point. The fog on my mask seems to prove it. I grudgingly stare through the net of grime and hope for an easy way across. Then I hear the bullets glancing across my barrel and know what to do.
I run out with my gun blazing toward Seth as I bound across the field toward my sweet fortress. The unthinkable then happens. I trip over a tree root. It feels like slow motion as I stumble forth four or five steps and then lose the fight against gravity. I quickly attempt to recover myself and make it to cover. I see a nearby log and decide it will have to do for now. I hop behind it and lay as flat as possible against the rough bark. After a couple of very tense seconds I decide it is time to peek my head out. Doing this I see Seth slowly moving through the bushes. I quickly position myself for a shot on him and start a large barrage of my own, hoping I had gotten some of his homing paintballs. I didn’t. I instead reveal a well concealed position.
Luckily Seth mimics my good luck with tree roots. He falls to the ground and starts to fire. I immediately hunker down in my mini bunker. As I do this, however, I feel my chest explode with what feels like 20 bees stinging me. Seth has won. I can smell the oily paint as I fall to the ground. The sweat has nowhere near the stench of this paint. It is not the paint that was so horrible though. It was the feeling of defeat. That, coupled with my chest being now rockier than the field showed me I needed to learn much more about paintball to be able to defeat my new arch nemesis, Seth Reinsager.
Some people might wonder how a simple game can affect a person. I could not have been affected by something more. This fifteen minute game shaped the rest of my life. I became a much more determined and competitive boy. It led to make me much of what I am today including all of my stubbornness. I think it helped me to become a much more rounded individual. Someone shooting me multiple times in the chest actually made me a better person.
Slater Goff, author and son extraordinaire