The Trenches

Bob huddled down in the trench and clung to his bolt-action rifle. Rain fell from a muted sky above, and everything around him was muddied and wet. His boots were heavy, and his socks squished when he walked. His pants, his shirt, his jacket, his frayed gloves were all heavy with dampness and caked with mud. He shivered as a cold gust of wind coursed through the trench, and for a moment he forgot about the explosions. His weariness overtook him, and in that blanket of cold and tired, bleak sorrow, he forgot about the war that would never end. His eyes drifted closed, and his mind flew from the prison of his body and sought refuge in distant memories. The golden fields of his parent’s farm, fresh bread used to wipe up a meaty sauce, laughter with brothers and friends.

A soldier passed back and kicked his boot, and his retreat from the war was gone. “Up,” said the soldier. “We’re attacking again.”

Bob sighed and hints of fog formed from his breath. But it’s so cold, he thought. His body ached as he stood, and the small places where his limbs folded and found temporary warmth were exposed again to the cold wind. A shiver tore through his thinning frame, and a raspy cough clawed its way up his throat. The soldier looked at him with eyes darkened with apathy and moved on to the next man where a similar scene was repeated.

Bob turned and tried to scale the side of the trench, but the mud and water sent him sliding down again. It’s God’s will, he thought, that I shall fight no longer. He has sent the rain to stop the killing. He slid to his knees and rested his face against the sloppy gray soil. His eyes drifted again as he tried to find those sacred memories, but the crack of fresh gunfire split the air. He jolted upright, mud clinging to his face, and clawed his way to the top of the trench.

The landscape was a waste. The gray sky rained down upon a barren land of gray soil and dead bushes. Barbed wire zigzagged in every direction. Bodies lay strewn across the ground. Bob no longer saw them as dead soldiers. Instead, they had become possible locations for cover, for both him and his enemy. A quick shot rang out and Bob ducked down a bit, but he was surprisingly unphased. He would never realize it, but he no longer cared if he was killed. He looked down the span of his own trench and saw the group of men scaling its side. The soldier who had kicked his boot, some poor soul promoted through the frankness of necessity and attrition, cautiously led their way. Bob watched them from a faraway place in his mind.

When Bob looked back toward the field, he saw a man watching him. The two met eyes, and neither ducked. Instead, they stared and saw the other for who their enemy truly was. Young boys, far from home, hungry and cold and being slaughtered in some foreign land for an oligarch that lived in a jeweled home. Bob found it odd that the young man looked so similar to one of his brothers. <em>I guess some people just look the same</em>, he supposed. <em>I wonder where he’s from</em>. He thought to call out and ask him, but he suddenly became concerned that his idle adversary didn’t speak English.

Just then, the leader of the small attacking squad sounded the charge. From all directions, guns starting firing. Bob fired his, and so did the other man.

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