The Valkyries

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Literary Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic
When you go over the top, your mind stops working.

I think that this one needs some work doing on it still, but I uploaded it anyway to see if anybody has any helpful suggestions and criticisms. Of course, if you think it's fine the way it is, do say!

Submitted: February 23, 2008

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Submitted: February 23, 2008

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When you go over the top, your mind stops working. Lightning cracks and thunder bellows, explosions and gunfire, blood, guts, and bullets spray at you and you run. In the all encompassing hell of war, all you can do is run. You don’t know up from down, left from right; you stumble, tripping over your fallen friends, blinded by sweat, blood, tears, smoke and dirt, and you run toward the waiting German machine guns, you run to almost certain death. You clamber over body parts, barbed wire, rotting corpses left to the birds; mud and blood cake your legs and if you go down you hope to God it’s because you’re dead, because otherwise you have to get back up and carry on running. When you go over the top, your mind stops working.

This is what I was thinking as I walked toward the front line, surrounded by comrades all with pale faces, colour drained from their eyes. We walked in silence and our hands shook as we clutched our rifles, our knuckles white as we squeezed too tight, and my mind was already elsewhere.

From the old clock tower, the eagle kept watch as ever. His bright eyes glinted and he screamed across the desolate brown landscape as I looked at him. The tower stood still, having by some miracle, or grace of God, avoided the shells that rained down on the thin stretch of land at all hours of the day. The rest of the village was ruins, or even less; mere piles of rubble, unrecognisable as remnants of habitation.

He screeched again, and bent, tearing a chunk from some indescribable piece of meat, having long since turned carrion; not from want, but from plenty. His voice echoed in the eerie quiet, like the harbinger of my doom.

I was jostled and my gaze was broken, and when I looked back he was gone.

Without warning the German guns began to fire once more; their distant bangs and whistles punctuated by nearby explosions and the splatter of dirt raining down, and everybody pressed up against the walls of our trenches. Our guns though, remained silent, and presently the order came through to stop being so cowardly and continue in our advance toward the forward trenches, which everybody did, with the stoic resignation of men who have known for weeks that they were about to die.

In silence we trudged forward, through the stinking mud and shit, sometimes sinking up to our knees as we fell through the rotten planks, our boots filling with ice cold filth. We never usually noticed it, as we’d lived with it for months now, but the knowledge that we were about to run to almost certain death made it somehow less bearable.

***

When you go over the top, your mind stops working.

I ran forward clutching my gun tightly, and in my periphery I could see men falling, caught and torn in barbed wire, thrown backwards in the shockwave from an exploding shell. I could see men falling, blood exploding from their chest or head where a bullet found them. I could hear men crying, over the gunfire and explosions I could hear them screaming in agony, crying, sobbing for loved ones, for God, for somebody, anybody, to rescue them from their pain. I could see mud and body parts raining down across the battle field. I could see craters filled with bones. I could see death holding a cruelly curved scythe. I could see that the sky, like the earth, was brown. I could see the General sitting in a comfortable chair sipping tea as he ordered more men to be sacrificed to the Gods of war. I could see the eagle bravely swooping down for food, and carrying away whole corpses. I could see there was more than one eagle. I could see lots of eagles. I could see that this was Hell.

When you go over the top, your mind stops working.

I could see that they didn’t look like eagles.

I tripped over something that I didn’t want to see, and landed face first in the mud. A shell landed meters away and the shockwave from it tore the shirt off my back. The world went silent apart from a shrill ringing in my ears. Mud rained down, half burying me, and then something heavy landed on me, and I lifted my face out of the mud to see an arm lying across me, the flesh torn and ragged, and the bone splintered where it had been smashed by shrapnel, just below the shoulder. The owner of the arm staggered about in front of me, dazed and confused, his other arm still gripping tightly on his gun, and he stared into the clouds of smoke with all light gone from his eyes. A spattering of bullets caused his chest to vent blood like several small geysers, and he spun and fell, dead before he hit the ground.

I lay there, too afraid to rise and face my mortality, and watched as an eagle swooped down to claim his corpse.

I could see they were far too big to be eagles.

I lay there, too afraid to rise and face my mortality, and watched as a giant winged wolf with a woman on its back swooped down to claim his corpse.

When you go over the top your mind stops working.

The woman was huge, Amazonian, muscled and lithe, with a strong, noble face. In one hand she held a giant golden spear, twice the height of a man, and as thick as your arm. She wore gold and leather armour patterned with runes, and a helm that curved round her jaw, its two sides almost meeting under her chin. Her eyes were fierce, and her lips tight, the pale skin of her forehead furrowed in a frown, and she reached down and picked up the man with her free arm, with the ease of a man plucking an apple from a tree. She laid the body across the wolf’s back, nestled between its huge wings, and kissed him gently on the forehead. The wolf beat its wings once, and I felt them brush against my face, as it soared effortlessly away.

Your mind stops working.

As they disappeared into the clouds high above, the dead man sat up.

I could see all cross the battlefield wolves and riders swooping down and carrying away the dead.

I stood up, dropping my rifle and staring up at the wolves circling high above. My mouth was gaping and my eyes wide. My face was coated in mud, dripping into my open mouth and eyes, and bullets whistled past my head, unheeded.

Looking down, I saw that the dead man’s body was still lying on the ground in front of me.

Stops working.

It was a sniper that spotted me, standing alone in thick clouds of smoke, staring around myself, looking up at the clouds. I saw the bullet in slow motion as I turned my head, and time nearly stopped. I felt it push through my skull, felt the bone splinter and crack, and felt the wave of pressure liquefy my brains. I felt the bullet pass all the way through, and burst out of the other side, fountaining blood and grey matter, and I watched as the light faded into blackness, and before I fell, I didn’t feel or see or think anything anymore.

I felt a kiss on my forehead bring light back into my mind. I felt naked and cold and felt fur beneath me. I opened my eyes to see great wings on either side of me, and a beautiful warrior woman before me, twice my height, with biceps as thick as my thighs. She smiled down at me as we ascended through the clouds, and as I sat up we flipped upside down, and suddenly came to land in green and grassy fields, with blue sky above us, and animals frolicking, and men and women all looking happy. The warrior woman looked about her and smiled again as I took a deep breath of the freshest air I had ever tasted.

“Welcome Warrior,” She said, “to Valhalla.”


© Copyright 2017 Sam Halfpenny. All rights reserved.

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