This is war
The sound of gunfire rocketed in his ears. Each step was greeted by slick sludge that threatened to cling on to his boots forever. Bombs screeched as they whistled through the air. The sky was grey, as though it were painted with dying colours. The rain had turned the ground into slippery mud. It was war alright.
Inside the trenches, men battled with their tears. Fear swarmed their bodies like wasps, and stuck to their twisted faces the way moss adheres to rock. They held their guns close to them like life support, and flinched with each new sound that came.
The sergeant marched back and forward, his mouth moving, but no words coming out to greet him. He watched the sergeant with tormented eyes.
Those eyes had seen into the black pits of hell. He was remembering just hours before. Remembering seeing his mate lying on the ground, spasming in gruesome pain. He remembered dragging him back to the trenches, the bullets whizzing past his ears. He left dragging trails in the mud.
The enemy was shadows in the far distance, their uniforms as grey as the mud and skies. They reloaded their guns, aimed, and fired, taking out the Aussies by the dozen.
The gunfire grew heavier. Someone was running behind him, their boots sloshing in the sludge. They grabbed him by the shoulder, and pushed down. They fell into the mud, leaving the wounded soldier behind. He heard something like a rock splash heavily into the mud, and instinctively through his arms over his head.
Then, boom. He was thrown back towards the trenches, his body acting as though it were light as air, then he crashed down into the trenches. The sound popped his eardrums, and the sound of war melted into the soothing sound of silence.
He looked up slowly, and saw the man who saved him yelling at him, calling him a bloody idiot for trying to save his mate. For trying to do the impossible. He was long dead now, his body parts scattered like white roses thrown by a flower girl.
Now he was here, sitting in the middle of a war. In the far distance, a fire devoured the trees, sweeping through the bushland like the jaws of a massive orange monster. Through the grey clouds came the rumbling of jet planes. They soared through the sky like birds of prey, laying egg shaped bombs. The impact made the ground rumble, and the men each swallowed.
It was time. The final battle had arrived. The men were to run across the land, to their deaths. They were to kill as many as they could, though it would be almost impossible to kill one, as the enemy were as blended in as sugar dissolves in water. They stood by the ladders, trembling. Their knees knocking, their hands shaking, they were petrified.
The order was sent, and up they went, climbing the ladders. It wasn’t long before the first bullet hit a man, and blood cascaded from his back like ribbons. He was dead before he hit the ground. Those who made it up the ladder were soon shot dead like rabbits, as if this were just a fun game for the enemy. Bullets showered, bombs blew up, men died. Many men died that day.
Soon it bodies piled high in the pits, their faces pale and their skin dead cold.
It was hell.
It was his time now, he grip the ladder with unsteady hands, and climbed. The landscape came into view
around him. The fires ripping through the trees in the distance. The bullets raining down on the thick sludge. The grey clouds peacefully trudging over the land. The grass gently swaying in the wind. How could a place that was so calming be now the grounds of a battlefield. The whole idea of war was so bloody stupid.
He started to run, his feet getting stuck in the mud with each new step. He was drenched in water from the rains, and mud clung to his face the way a child clings to its mother. As he ran he thought of his family, of their beautiful faces. He started to cry, the tears wetting the dry mud on his face, one tear out of millions splashed to the ground.
His gun was heavy in his hands, he brought the hilt to his shoulder, and rested it there. He looked through the barrel and aimed at a dark figure, the figure spraying bullets with a machine gun as if he were watering flowers with a simple hose. He didn’t feel remorse for the families he was ripping apart, for the lives he was clawing down.
He aimed, and was about to pull the trigger, his quivering finger over it, ready to fire. And then it hit him. He looked down. Blood formed in a circle through his clothes. He looked up, saw the others that had been aiming at him and the men around him. He dropped to his knees, his mouth in the shape of an O. his eyes blinked twice, then he fell onto his stomach, dropping the gun.
He lay there gasping, and rolled onto his back. He clasped at the wound, felt the slippery blood slide through his fingers. He looked up into the sky, watched the clouds go by. The battle field grew quiet, and he heard footsteps grow closer. The enemy stood towering over him. They aimed their gun right at his face, and pulled the trigger.
His face was mutilated, his badge lost, and no one knew the brave man that died there that day. His unseeing eyes gazed up at a cloud, a cloud that appeared to be smiling at him.