These Cold Days - #1.2
I can't hear myself think... It's so loud. I have never heard anything like it before, yet I am unsure how to describe it precisely. It seems as if someone took a nail and drove it into my ear, and only when the point breach's the eardrum then does it sting. How can it be, silence disappeared in a flash and replaced with sounds of torment, anguish, and fear? Next, a humungous BOOM sucks the air out of my lungs, and I collapse onto my ass in the ditch, the riffle piling against my knee, my helmet sliding off. Another BOOM came, only a fall of sandy shale rained. A fragment hit me on the crown of the head.
Petrified, I let loose my rifle, shielding my arms over my head, wrapping them as tight to my skull as I can. A sharp pain burrows beneath the scalp, traveling downward in the center of my head. With my wound stinging; I hyperventilate, gag on every second rush of air. My ears rang; no longer can I hear the world outside my head. Everything is hurting, something wrong… what is happening?
Searching through the crook of my arm, I glance over to a fellow comrade… The man’s not moving, he’s remarkably still. In fear of my own safety and his wellbeing, I nudge with my elbow as his shoulder to draw attention to the fact they are dropping or firing bombs at us.
I can tell from the distinct thud coming from the single vibration when one goes off.
“COVER YOUR HEAD,” I scream.
The guy does not listen. Instead, I reach out with one hand, keeping my other arm covering my noggin. I wiggled the man a little… no movement, so, I compress on his shoulder, pulling him toward me, until he slopped in my direction.
My eyes locked with his; one lay completely lifeless with his faint glassy blue eye peering back at me. Nothing hinted the man was dead, not even the faded, dry mud at the base of his eye socket. Except, the other eye sopped in bright red blood, with large grey slate embedded in the center of where his blue eyeball used to be. A fatty clump of flesh bulged from either side of the foreign object with a glimmer of hairs from what once was his eyelashes. I keeled over in my sitting, sensing an immediate evacuation of my stomach contents.
In fear the same could happen to me, I wrap my hands over my head again for protection. Just, the sick I waited for never came. Instead, I find myself reckoning how long it should take for the enemy to spill the top, and I realize I am in one of the worst places as they can see me the moment they get to our trench. Understanding I have to move when I don't want to; I'd much rather die in peace if so be it. Though I don't think my time on this earth has been paid in full, I still have many things to explore, and do and… and Bastion. Where is Sebastian? I must find him… Did one of those missiles get him...? With each question, my hyperventilating grows worse, until the thought crosses my mind that if I die, I’ll never be of any help if he is alive.
A tidbit of courage comes from a deep place inside my chest with the desire to live. I don’t want to die yet, not like this, not here. In the dirt and mud like a dog.
Gripping my rifle, I reach out, put my headgear back on. I continue to shade myself from flying shrapnel, not that I believe it will do much good. Debree going and falling at that speed ought to be able to slice through my helmet and hand like a knife through butter. Still, I press away from the dead man beside me, my heart aching, ready to burst from my chest. Fresh tears leak from my ducts as I crawl like a dog by some injured, scared of dying and dead soldiers. I make for the burrow going away from the frontline of the trench. As I crawl down a sludgy dip, I knee through murky water, the jagged rocks beneath the liquid pressing up into my knees, effectively hurting me. On the other side of the puddle, the entry point for the ditch Sebastian worked his way out to for the food hung above my head. Do I really need to check, I hear a faint voice drown out my recent thought of getting out of here? I tilt my neck, looking to the dip in the earth above. What if I took one look…? I can confirm if he is dead, but is it worth getting shot and exposing myself.
The whistle in my ear had now turned to a hum, the remnants of weeping and screaming men carried over the explosions and gunfire. I can do it… I can look, I know I can, I press, hoping to add some bravery.
Climbing up, I haunch down waiting, psyching myself up to peek over. Soon I take a gulp and shot up, my eyes follow the direct line out as far as it can go. Nothing. I lose the power of my legs and topple back cracking my back off of the wall behind. I cry, and a tremble floods through my body due to my boldness. I breathe out, somewhat in relief. What does that mean? The spot seems relatively untouched. Could Bastion get out without getting hurt? For some sad reason I was expecting him to be there, spewed like fine splice onions, but perhaps, and it is a long maybe, just Sebastian could have crawled all the way around the loop and came out at the far end of the ring further up the trench.
A flicker of hope warmed inside my chest. I find myself pushing on; hand after hand; dragging knee after knee. I sweep the corner of the trench heading back toward the living quarters, I clamber over some loose trench board and peer ahead at the semi-empty pit. Those who are brave enough to remain are firing back, at what I ask, not daring to look back. My eyes scan all the soldiers who are pinned to a wall firing out toward the enemy. I shift my attention to the embankment; a man crawling belly first looks down into the pit. I see him, he sees me. I go to reach for my gun, he does the same, yet, he lifts his body slightly high, and a spurt of blood rushes from his neck and out through his throat, essentially toppling him down the wall beside me where he bleeds into the mud.
In the chaos, I inch onward determined... I could've... I could've... Di... Shaking the thought, I pass by some men I know, others, not so much. Until I see a young dirt ridden blond pressed to a wall, knees tucked in tight to his chest, where he stares ahead zoned out, oblivious to it all. It Bastion… he alive.
I drag myself toward him; the pain in my ear fully dissipated that I hear myself calling, "Bastion."
I approach one of the many temporary homes carved under the landscape to keep up safe for months at a time. Sebastian lifts his head, searching in my direction, making sure his hearing is not deceiving him. His face said it all, the bravest person I have ever known is scared. Yet a longing for a familiar person beckoned him to me. Like that he leaped forward on all fours and dragged himself to me, likewise, me to him. I approach the dugout, then came from heaven a great BOOM in front of me, hurling a vast degree of dust and other assortments into the sky, and effectively knocking me into the dugout.
As the dust rose, settle for a second, accepting my fate. I feel myself to see if I am still alive, I check around me… I'm still here. My chest rattles, I'm going to die here, ain't I? Trembling I go climbing back out, only the entrance caves in.
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