Synopsis: Alexandre is a cowardly 19-year-old stuck in the trenches of western France during WW2. Accompanying him is his longtime friend Sebastion, who Alexandre is in love with it. With the impending invasion on the forefront; will the love one feels overtake the pride for one's country?
These Cold Days #1.1
It is day forty-eight of my time on the battlefield. Off in the distance, the crackle of gunfire is a haunting reminder of just how close the axis is to our frontline. Guiding my eyes down the length of the stock and up to the nozzle of my weapon, Sebastian is crawling out in the bolt hole to get the tin of food... why can't he just butter bread instead of doing this dare. His body drags apprehensively molding the narrow escape even further beyond the trench. I peer to my left and right at all the other soldiers waiting for… waiting for gunfire in our direction. I am glad I have yet to be picked to go out there since when you go out there, you run the risk of getting a bullet to the temple. Once you are in the burrow, there is no going back if the enemy starts shooting. If you are lucky to live, you are rewarded with food for the bravery. You'll never get me out there unless my life depended on it. Have people lost all common sense? I thought the reason for this war was to save lives, fight off the opponent, and return home for tea. I get it, we are all hungry and this weeds it out. Who deserves to eat. What I'd give for a baguette and fresh soup right now. Yet, as I watch from this fortified trench, I can't help but feel a surge of fear erupting in my chest for Sebastion. People will remember his name, his balls of steel if he lives that is, and grow notorious. However, if he were to get killed, he'll take all our secrets and childhood memories to the grave.
My arm rattles with the adrenaline; the fear of what could happen and can happen bellows in my head. I stare vacantly at my grime-covered hands, stained with yesterday's mud. I lower my rifle, I turn in behind the sandbags to conceal myself. My mouth is dry, fingers cold. I clench the butt of my gun in the crook of my arm and blow heat on my numb fingers. Tremors travel down my limbs, and the panic is apparent. I can't let people see I am cracking I affirm. I don't want to be sent back, I do not wish to be separated from Sebastion.
Reluctantly I look down, in the soft slush, I notice my right boot is untied. Staring at the section of lace, I trail the measure until I meet the aglet. The tip of the shoelace glowed from the sludgy surface where a worm wriggled to get away from our stampede in the trenches. In more ways than one, even the minuscule creatures of this battle were facing tough times.
I recall a time when Bastion and I were young; when he jumped in front of a dog. A vicious hound that was snarling and showing teeth. Sebastian was my hero that day. His right arm bears the mark of a canine, a set of bite marks that should have been mine, though all the same he willing took the outcome. Yet, with him risking his life for a tin of frickin’ peeches, I can’t think of anything other than the worse possible outcome. Who will protect me from stray dogs then? I was never a strong fighter, not even as a boy, and now at nineteen, I am surprised I am still alive.
Father always said I'll never be a tough man, I'd be a lesser guy. A guy who prunes rosebushes or writes fancy words to sell. I'm proving him wrong every day I remain out here in this desolate land.
Except, negative thinking at a time like this only welcomes terrible things, and in a time like this we need all the hope we can muster. Therefore, I reflect on how it will feel when Bastion comes back in, safe and sound with the food in his hand. I’ll be able to look at all his pretty despite being trapped in this sewer. Perhaps, Sebastian will let me hold him, privately of course, but still, a hug would change everything… and with that click… my mind is set.
Frustrated, I crouch down, pinching the insect and dropping it to the wall of the mud-pit and set about tying my boots. In one cuff, over to the next, I tie a knot. Somewhere in the middle of the breather, I seem to have regained a calm stance.
Okay, I can do this, psyching myself, firmly taking the rifle in both hands. Launching up I rise from the shadows as dust projects by the left side of my face.
The flying bullet lodged itself into the embankment high above the trench spewing clay and sand over us. I dropped down, clinging to wall all in fear for my own life. Yet, the fear I felt flood back with the realization of Bastion out in the open.
Then in rapid succession, a torrent of lead carries through the air tearing up the dunes and walls. I find myself unable to move in shock at the first direct fight with the enemy.
More to come soon
Prompts used in this chapter - battle, cold, dare, butter, conceal, worm, narrow, frustrate