My heart feels like a frail, withered flower. Its petals are peeling away with every passing second; with every deafening crash among the monotonous cries of pain and suffering. I move along with a mechanical gait, my countless injuries doing nothing to provoke any act of sympathy from others towards me or my fellows.
A combination of a scream and a hiss to my right. The aberrant dull haze that creeps along the ground next tells me all I need to know. I take off. Mud, shrapnel, decaying corpses. They all pass under my feet in the flurry of panic that's coursing through my veins. I have no time to even reach behind me - to grab the filthy bulk of a gas mask that serves as my only means of protection against this bloodthirsty cloud. To a delight that stays with me for mere milliseconds, I outrun the gas.
I dive to the ground as no sooner do I catch my next feeble breath, I see the green shell of a grenade fly past my ear. The explosion sends my ears into impairment, and the gore splattered mud now caking my face is making its way into my mouth. The metallic taste of stale blood makes me want to retch, but my stomach has nothing to give up apart from acidic bile.
As I lie there, overcoming my daze, my skin picks up the vibrations of fleeting boots on the ground next to me, as my comrades rush to defeat the owner of the hand that threw the grenade. The muscles in my leg somehow get me back to my feet, and my numb fingers curl around my rifle. My brain begins to respond to my physical movements again, and I'm shooting impulsively.
Has time passed by the time the gunfire stops? Has this fight become so customary that I don't even notice my own actions any more?
The sudden stillness contained by the air around me makes my chest ache. The conflicting emotions deep inside my being are so jumbled, that I don't know which one I hurt with. Everywhere, there is war. Even inside my own head. Past the pathos, the part of my brain holding my instincts is screaming at me, giving me orders.
Run, run, you have to run.
So I move onwards. The unnerving silence continues, and despite the stong assumption that the enemies responsible for ambushing us before are no longer a threat, the prickling in my stomach and the tenseness keeping my limbs stiff doesn't leave me.
I reach a trench, and am immediately shot at. The mist hanging from the night above hid our attackers until now. I feel an automatic sense of stupidity for not sensing the trap, and with it, comes the sudden feeling of fatigue. Instead of firing, I launch for the trench. I hit the bottom of the trench with a sickening thud that sends a jolt of pain up my body. I can see the bullets flying above me, and only two others made it to the befouled dugout. I can see someone's limp foot hanging over the edge. A remnant of what was once a man with a beating heart.
The youth next to me doesn't look in good form either; the jagged hole in his chest spilling scarlet liquid onto the sludge he lies on. His eyes lock with mine. And with a last shaky sigh, the life bleeds from his face and the twitching that had been rippling accross his body stops. I look around, in an attempt to divert my eyes from the corpse beside me, only to see the other man's boots disappear from the trench and out into the mist. The gunfire that follows no more than a second later confirms the worst. There isn't a way for me to make it out of here alive.
A shot of sheer depression hits me and settles in my chest, seemingly taking on all the physical properties of weight and mass. I was going to die. There was never any doubt about it, to tell the truth. The moment I first touched my uniform, I knew that I was never going to see my son's fifth birthday. My thoughts now are purely on him and my family. Sitting at home right now, worry etched onto their faces. It hurts to think about them; the anxiety they're feeling. They might not even know what happened to me. With all the major casualties a day, who will really care about me? I am a simple pawn in this bloodbath of a game. Something to be used and discarded.
My hands are hot with blood; half my own, and half belonging to that youth. My rifle feels slippery and cold against them, but I manage a fairly firm grip on the handle. As my finger finds the trigger, I bid a last and silent goodbye to my loved ones. I know they can't hear it, but if these are about to be my last thoughts, I don't keep them from escaping.
The furthur along you go, the trench edge is more like a slope - with the muddy edges worn away and shot off by the raging tempest that is the reality of war. I take a breath, and leap out. I don't think the enemies knew I was there too, because I was able to take a few steps and was even able to raise my gun to one of their backs, before I heard the shot.
I find it odd, as I fall to the ground, that I heard the bullet before I felt it. The searing pain that shoots through me now isn't what I expected either. After a second or two, the pain just ebbs away, and I go numb. I lie on the ground, unfeeling but still conscious. Watching my own blood pool around me through the dizzy blackness engulfing my vision. Maybe death won't be so bad. At least the war will be behind me. At least I'll finally be in peace.
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