8th November 2008, 04:27 AM
How long had it been since the fighting had begun? Days? Weeks? Months? The passage of time becomes blurred on the battlefield. When every moment is lived in fear of death, mere seconds can feel like an eternity. I glanced up at the night sky, the moon's rays piercing the pitch black clouds. The lunar light illuminated the charred landscape before me, revealing the bodies of those who had been claimed by the latest skirmish, both enemies and allies alike. The fighting had waned for the time being, but it wouldn't be long before we would push forward once again. At the behest of my commanding officer we were sent out of cover, assigned with the task of locating any survivors. As I walked into the open I felt naked; my helmet, uniform and weapon were more of a target than protection. They certainly didn't seem to help those that lay motionless on the ground beneath my feet. I wondered how many of their lives had ended as a result of my actions. It did no good feeling any sort of guilt though; if I hadn't killed them, they would have killed me or one of my fellow soldiers. In war, notions of good and evil often take a back seat to survival. However, things weren't always like this; back home, we knew that whatever our country was fighting for was right and just. War was waged out of necessity, conducted only to preserve the lives of my fellow countrymen or to liberate the oppressed throughout the world. Now, on the other side of the world, my memory of the way things used to be was fading. With every comrade and civilian that fell, it became a little harder to maintain such an ideology.
Through the darkness, I spotted the remains of a makeshift bunker. The wreckage appeared to have been hit by some form of artillery; what little was left of it was burnt and scattered meters away. Multiple enemy combatants lay dead, scalded and torn apart by the weapon's cruel efficiency. As I attempted to identify the corpses, the familiar sound of heavy, laboured breathing caught my ear. The noise led me further into the bunker, to the side of a critically injured soldier. He lay bleeding, gasping for air within a shelled ditch, clutching at his bloodied side. Recognising my uniform, the man grasped for his rifle, it slipping from his shaking hands and falling out of reach. Even in this state he still sought to fight, to drive his enemy away from his fallen comrades. I hesitantly crouched down to assess his wounds, while firmly keeping my weapon at the ready for any sudden movements. As bad a state that the soldier was in, proper medical care could possibly save him, if administered quickly. I glanced out of the bunker and onto the moonlit battlefield. Multiple friendly survivors were being lifted up and carried back to camp for immediate first aid. However, the innumerable prior days of fighting had proved a drain on both our supplies and our staff. Our resources and morale were stretched thin by constant battle, leading to greater losses than was previously anticipated. The reality was that until extra medical equipment was delivered in, most of our men would go without any real treatment. Many of them would not see the light of the next day.
I walked back over to the wounded enemy soldier, his face now twisted in a mix of pain, bitterness and defeat. Military regulations stated that I was to bring him back to my encampment where he would be attended to and subsequently held as a prisoner. Yet the reality was that at the end of a long and painful trek, the only thing left to treat the soldier with would be dirt and rubble; enemy combatants were of the lowest priority when rationing medical supplies. It made no sense to use resources in saving and imprisoning those who we were fighting against, while the rest of us were wounded, bleeding and dying. One thing I knew though, was that no matter who this man was, and what kind of a threat he posed to my comrades and country, I couldn't leave him there in such a state. Saving his life was out of the question. The only thing to be done was to bring a quicker end to his suffering. I loosened my weapon from its holster and pointed it at the dying man. Throughout my time in the military, I had taken the lives of countless enemies. But yet, looking into the man's face I saw not the face of a ruthless killer, like we had been taught to believe we were fighting, but the face of a scared, defenceless human being. He was young, most likely recruited straight out of college.Not a man, but a boy who had everything to live for and yet wouldn't live to see any of it. I pulled the trigger. With a deafening crack, the gun discharged, forever silencing the sound of his laboured breath. One more life… extinguished. For a brief few moments I looked down at the motionless body of my victim, then turned to resume my search for survivors. The war would not stop and wait for me to dwell on the past. There was still more work to be done.
The line was breaking. The enemy had advanced quickly, without warning, striking at our installations before we had a chance to evacuate any wounded soldiers and non-combatants. It wouldn't be long till yet another order to retreat came through. Yet still we held steadfast. For the sake of those we fought for; our families, our friends, our country, we refused to back down. Through the scope of my rifle, I watched the battle unfold; my countrymen fell, one after another, under the relentless assault. No matter how many of my bullets buried themselves within an enemy, another would rise to take their place. Yet in spite of these dire conditions, in spite of the unrelenting fear, I felt no desire to flee. I had no intention of abandoning my comrades to their solitary deaths. This was where I needed to be; the only place where I could make a difference. When I joined the military I had yearned to give myself a purpose, a reason to justify my existence. I remember the pride I had felt in serving and representing my country in a way that no ordinary citizen could. I suppose in a way I had sought to be part of something bigger then myself; the military was an escape from the mundanity of regular life. I had never predicted that it would lead me to the unspeakable places it did. But still, even after seeing the things I had in these endless days of conflict, even after having to look death in the face each and every day, I don't regret that decision I had made in what seems an eternity ago. By joining the military, I ensured that the people back home wouldn't have to endure the things we soldiers did and for that I was glad.
Amidst the sound of battle raging around me, I heard a shout from nearby. Turning to my side I saw a soldier pointing up, a panicked look in his eyes. As his words became audible, their desperate warning became clear. I clamoured onto my feet, firmly clasping my rifle, and began to run. All too late. For a few brief seconds, time seemed to grind to a halt. A searing flash of light encompassed my vision, bringing with it the deafening, but all too familiar noise of a mortar blast. The shockwave of the explosion tore at my skin, lifting me off my feet and tossing me into the air like a discarded rag-doll. I felt my numbed body crumple as it collided with the razed ground.
And then..... darkness.
I opened my eyes to a darkened sky. The bodies of my fallen comrades lay scattered around me, their eyes as dim and lifeless as the scorched ground around us. I struggled to stand, my legs giving out and collapsing in a heap beneath me. My side lay split open and bleeding from the blast, staining my uniform crimson red. A deathly silence blanketed the atmosphere, broken only by my frail attempts to draw air into my bruised lungs. The sound of battle had ceased, signalling the inevitable; we had been forced to retreat like so many times before. I had been left behind. Glancing up, I saw a soldier approaching. The enemy. Summoning the last remnants of my fading strength, I reached for my rifle and raised it towards my observer. As I drew it closer to my face, the damage the explosion had inflicted upon the weapon became obvious; its barrel had been blown to pieces. It was now about as useless as my broken body. Defeated, I let the rifle slide from my fingers, it landing with a muffled thud in the dirt. The soldier crouched down beside me and cautiously glanced over my wounds. My mind was reeling; everything started to become hazy and unfocused. He was gone for what could have been a second or an hour and then was back again. He stared down at me, a look of confusion and conflict plastered across his darkened face. My breathing grew quicker and heavier. I didn't have much time left. The soldier drew his weapon. The gun was slowly raised until it drew level with my head. I looked up and faced my executor. His eyes glittered in the dark with a sense of resolve, and yet, a hint of regret. I had served my people and my country to the greatest of my ability. My duty was over. And with a flash of gunpowder, I was granted rest.
8th November 2008, 06:51 AM
8th November 2008, 07:10 AM
One thing I'd like to now mention: although it may seem like two separate and distinct soldiers got shot in this short story, it was actually only one soldier that got shot. There are two differing perspectives of one basic event in this story and that one basic event is the death of a particular soldier. At first, the perspective of the story is that of a man who shoots the soldier in question but then the perspective changes to that of the same soldier who eventually gets killed in battle. I know this might seem confusing, but it was how I wanted to construct this story. I thought I'd tell you all about this as I'm sure that such a thing would have otherwise gone unnoticed.
8th November 2008, 07:20 AM
A black and white world
Perhaps then you should make it clearer in the story, because I thought it was some sort of circular thing. Either way that was very awesome.
8th November 2008, 07:50 AM
Yes I hope you'll write more :)