Mods, I know this is over the posting limit, but I'm posting this purely for the competition, because I never made a thread for it, I just used it in the Newbie Competition, so you can lock it if you want to.

This is the first chapter of a book I'm writing. I originally used this in a Newbie Comp and never posted it. But I need to post it for the purposes of the popularity comp, so here 'tis.

It's pretty long.

They say life slows down when you’re about to die. They say you remember certain things; your life flashes before your eyes.
For me, nothing happened. The hail of bullets was interminable and even though I was only 18, I wasn’t scared. I knew I was going to die, and I was at peace. I mean, I joined the army for a reason, and if I died, well, I knew the risks. But then, the clanging of the bullets against metal and the gurgled screams of dying or wounded men transformed.
I was transported back to Christmas Eve nine years ago. My family and I had eaten a tasty dinner and I was in the bathroom. There was hail tinkling and clanking on the window, as if to say, hello, hello. It sounded friendly, and me being seven years old, I embraced the fact that Christmas spirit even affected hail and rain and snow and all these cold things, which make people uncomfortable, but make people happy at the same time. I just finished brushing and was gargling the water in the back of my throat. My father came in, and just watched me as I finished my routine in a way that only children could. As I was spitting out the water, I shook my head and roared, like the tooth brushing lion that my father told me stories about to get me to brush my teeth; and as the spittle sprayed over the mirror, I saw the look of joy, contentment, and laughter on his face. I went over to him and gave him a hug, mashing my toothpaste-covered face in the recesses of his warm, green and red Christmas sweater.
This was the happiest moment of my life, and I was somehow reminded of it by the battle noise of Baghdad. Tears came to my eyes, and I ducked my head to avoid letting the veterans know I was crying. I was crying, I knew, for what was lost, but to them it would seem I was crying for what I would lose, probably very soon. That very movement saved my life as a rocket propelled grenade flew over my head, and exploded into the rest of my platoon, annihilating my friends, transforming my comrades into little bits, and propelling them outwards towards the fringes of the battlefield.
Me? Well, while I avoided the death, I received something almost as bad. I was pitched forward into the mound of dirt before me. The blood from the platoon members splattered me, and I was suddenly struck with survivor’s guilt. But more than that, I was struck with a rage, a rage at the bastards who killed my friends, my mentors, and my comrades. Or was it the shame and depression about what I had lost? Was it revenge or simply a subconscious wish towards an end?
Whatever it was, it motivated me and I charged at the group of Arabs that had attacked us, ducking behind cover, not slowing down. Not from the bullet that slammed into my shoulder and punched through my flesh, not from the boulders that I kicked in my mad rampage towards revenge. The enemy was taken by surprise by my bold—albeit mostly foolhardy—move and were taken aback, unable to comprehend the situation, which is when I raised my assault rifle to my shoulder, pulled the trigger, sprayed, and prayed for them to die.
It worked, and here I was, a 16-year-old man, standing over the bodies of an entire group of enemy soldiers. As soon as the dust cleared, we saw we had won, yet saw the price we paid: our friends, bodies lying bloody and mangled in the dust, eyes open, staring at the oblivion. My eyes were frozen, looking at the damage caused by this man-made device, which had the power to undo godly creations.
And then I saw those I had killed. Their mouths silently gulping for the air they would never receive through the holes in their necks, spilling out their sanguinity. Gasping for air, and life, they silently struggled for what they would never achieve. I looked past the gore, and I saw a group of people, fighting for their beliefs, which was all the more dangerous. What was I doing here? Fighting for nothing, I just came as a means of escape. Then I saw the children. The Arabs had used their children to fight for them, and to shield them from harm. They were so fanatical that they brought their family with them, the family they ate with, lived with, and shared the air with. Suddenly, I was disgusted. I tossed down my gun and my lunch.
When everyone caught up to me and saw how many men my gun had killed, I was labeled a hero. But the rest I remember through a haze of tears. I was crying over the bodies of my friends when I was dragged away, not really resisting, not really awake, towards the base. As the Humvee bounced over the rocks at high speed, my head bouncing up and down like flotsam caught in the tide, I was thinking of everything all at once. My inability to cope with my issues had caused this, I was certain. It was time to face my problems.
When we got there, I was treated for my wound, iodine splashing against my wounded shoulder, but I wasn’t paying attention and didn’t feel the burning sensation of alcohol scouring the wound. All I felt was the heartbreak over my lost friends. Because of my actions, I was to be given a medal, a purple heart, for exceptional bravery and courage in the face of danger.
But I didn’t deserve a medal. Those men were brave; they were risking their lives by helping Americans. I was being cowardly; I was taking the easy way out. I didn’t consciously kill those people; it was instinct and luck. I wasn’t trying to survive, just the opposite. I was just too damn cowardly to pull the trigger myself. I was too cowardly to deal with my problems. My courage came from my fear.
I was numb, unable to move, unable to function, unable to comprehend the carnage I had seen, the carnage I had caused. Sitting on my bed in the infirmary, staring at the whitewashed walls, all I saw was the playback of the same fifteen seconds over and over and over. All I saw was blood and death and, and the cold. The cold assaulted me like a bouncer trying to hustle me out of a bar. I was too young; I was not ready. But then I thought, is anyone? Is anyone really prepared for all the **** out there?
The nurse ran into the room. My eyes slowly closing, my vision slowly fading, my body freezing, I could feel the closeness of death, the refuge I was seeking. The cold slowly faded away, yielding to the burning purity of the incoming warmth. Suddenly, I woke up for the first time in three days. Searching for my haven, I found it in the electric shock emitted by the defibrillator as my heart stopped. A waterfalling sensation of blood roaring through my veins elated me as I felt the endorphins rushing through my brain. Suddenly, I felt alive as I received the aphrodisiac that I had been waiting for, what I needed to survive. A momentary nirvana, seemingly enough to grasp me and haul me out of the personal hell I created. Seemingly. Memories were enough to re-initiate what I had felt before. My nirvana was far, far in the past as my present and future were dominated by the corpses carted back to Washington in pieces. My friends were returned to their families in pieces; no whole bodies remained. Yet as I reflected later, and as I like to think about these awful situations, they remained whole. And they were the only ones.