He is aiming a rifle at us. I don’t know where my rifle came from, but perhaps in the confusion I’d picked it up. I fire once, almost blindly. A hole appears in the man’s chest and he falls face first, landing with a sickening crunch in the mud below. I stare at him, his hands splayed before me as if prostrate, his backside high in the air, his neck bent in an impossible angle and the blood that runs like a river into the muddy water.
Kat touches my arm but the attack is on us. More Johnnies crest the trench, firing and throwing hand bombs. The crack of rifle fire cuts down several of them right in front of us before they can fire, while others leap into the trench to escape. Kat is on them quickly, working with his knife. Continue reading →
The man next to Shiod dies. He is hit by a shell that explodes not a meter from us. In an instant we are covered in dirt. It comes over us like an ocean’s wave. My ears and mouth are especially vulnerable and are filled. Kat digs me out and I, gasping and spitting, help Shiod. Vanmere is spared from the whole of it by a stroke of luck.
The dead man lay where he’d previously stood, but only his lower torso and legs remain. The rest is gone, blown away in a blast that leaves the rest of us shaken but otherwise unhurt. I stare until Kat shakes me back to myself.
It comes with the earth shaking like a thing alive, followed by a darkness so absolute I am blind. I am swallowed by it, enveloped and embraced by it, a darkness that is utterly without sound or motion. I am frozen in its depths, unable to draw breath or let loose screams.
Then by flashes of light I am made deaf by explosions and see my friends as if through still images. We look at one another with white faces and thin lips pressed tight. In these moments of absolute light there is a complete absence of life. No movement, no warmth and no sound but the crashing of ordinance. The barrage is the only life we know.
It goes on for an hour. I am convinced it will go on forever. The wet mud and cold are the whole of my existence. I extend no further than the falling of the next shell. Continue reading →