36 Hours – Part 12

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A gunnery sergeant arrives and asks for me. I stand and go with him to the firing line where he directs me to my little sniper hole. “Southwest, to the left of the wire,” he says. I look where he indicates and frown. “Mortars,” I say, sighting down my scope.

“Are they trained on our position?”

I flip down a few lenses and adjust the sighting but find no way of knowing for sure. I shrug. “I don’t know sergeant.”

“Pick off any crews that come to man it, I’m alerting the Captain.”

“What’s up?” Kat asks a moment after the sergeant has gone.

“Mortars setting up along the line by the forest,” I say, nodding toward the area we’d been gassed the night before. “He wants me to pick off any crews I find.”

Kat hisses through his teeth and tosses his cigarette into the muck. “Damn them. Half a day to go.” Continue reading

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36 Hours – Part 5

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

36 Hours – Part 2

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