One Sunday, Jabati tells the boys to take the day off training, and to pray to their god, because they might not get another chance. The boys play soccer and swim in the river, and then are marched off to get their weapons. The boys are given headbands and instructed to shoot anyone who isn’t wearing one of the same color, and the boys begin to understand they are in for real war. One of the boys falls over, overburdened by the ammunition he is carrying.
The boys don’t understand at first what they are in for, playing as if they were in for more training. That one of the boys can’t even carry his ammunition establishes both how ludicrous and tragic it is that these boys have been made into soldiers. It also shows how little the soldiers actually care about them as boys: what they care about is having numbers, not whether these boys live or die.
The boys agree to stick together no matter what, and then, as they move out, are given white pills which they are told will give them energy. Sheiku and Josiah drag their guns, as they are too heavy to carry, and in fact taller than the boys. Beah says he was never so afraid as he was that day. The soldiers form an ambush near a swamp. Beah says tears run down his face even though he is not crying.
The boys promise to each other is made without knowing what lies ahead, and is ultimately therefore useless, especially in light of how unprepared they are. If the boys can’t even lift their guns, they are nothing more than targets. Beah’s tears show that he has not been desensitized yet: he is still a boy, even if he is forced to act as a soldier.
The army attacks the rebels, and a gunfight ensues. Beah is in shock and unable to fire his gun, until he sees Josiah and Musa die. He tries to save Josiah, one of the youngest boys, standing up in the process, putting himself in extreme danger, although Josiah is clearly beyond help. Beah then begins to shoot angrily at the rebels, imagining all the horrible things rebels have.
Beah doesn’t remark on the effectiveness of the ambush, or even understand what is going on around him. He is too horrified by the loss of his friends, especially Josiah, who is so young. And yet this pain and horror pushes him into anger as his “training” takes over and he channels his rage against the rebels into violence.
The fight goes on until nighttime, and the soldiers form another ambush, killing more rebels. The trees seem to be praying, and a cricket tries to sing, but no other crickets join in. Blood replaces the water of the swamp. After the battle, Beah kicks over bodies angrily and takes weapons and ammunition. He regrets dragging Josiah to training now that he is dead. Back at the village, Beah feels empty, and when he does sleep, he dreams of trying to save Josiah, only to be held at gunpoint by a rebel. When he wakes he shoots off an entire round of his magazine. Jabati and Gadafi throw some water in his face and give him more pills.
Beah is transformed remarkably quickly from a frightened child into a killer, with no regard at all for life or death. Nature, meanwhile, seems to have been overwhelmed by the violence. That Beah feels guilty about waking Josiah and has nightmares shows that a part of him is still horrified, but the army gives him pills to push him further into hopped-up anger—to cut him off further from his past and past-self.