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"...And The Horse He Rode was Red..." --Revelations 6:4
The first vestiges of consciousness came as shrieking and exploding shells, tearing across the sky and kamikaze crashing into the already horribly beaten earth, rattling his teeth and eyes awake to a new world of pain and death. Mud flew through the air over his body lying face up in a shell hole, dirt and small rocks raining over his body and face like a cruel mockery of the real life-giving water that sometimes fell over the no-man’s-land. Life giving the fact that it only took man’s will to fight himself away temporarily. The sky is a study of grays and dark black clouds. A loud whistle splits the air growing in pitch as it plummets to the earth, the steady rat-tat-tat of machine gun fire, someone screams in agony, more rat-tat-tat another whistle, boom, rat-tat, screaming from the dying, whistle rat boom tat-tat scream boom boom crash ratta-tat-tat scream an officer yelling orders, ‘Push Forward!’ ratta-tatta-boom silence. A snowflake, one single solitary snowflake falls from the gray death sky, which is now growing whiter and more cheerful. More fall, the ground turns from blood drenched mud to pure, white snow. The shell craters all seem to melt towards one sloping hillside. Trees grow out of the ground, more and more snowflakes begin to fall. Then some laughing children, boys with a sled go racing by, Come on John, lets go! One yells as he bursts into the scene, he begins to run after them; Screeeeee-ee! BOOM! A shell blows the group of boys, now men in worn and muddy uniforms, everywhere, and his vision is covered with blood. As he reaches up to wipe it from his eyes, the winter wonderland melts into hell again. And he realizes he’s standing in the middle of no-man’s-land, out of the protective walls of his shell crater, and far from the stinking trench of mud he’s called home for almost 7 months. He reaches down for his rifle and a sharp whistle breaks the usual din of the battle, and 30 of 40 men come piling out of the trench behind him, all in a rush, as if the school bell had just rung for summer. The machine gun fire rises a notch, ratta-tattattata! And invisible bullets sweep across the group of chargers, cutting most off at the waist, they double over and fall, the rest of the charge continues, and they leave their fallen brothers behind, lost in the red battle fever. The world becomes red, the sky and earth becoming covered in a thin red veil. A large Turtle comes crawling over and equally large fallen tree trunk, his shell is gray as he lumbers on past John and to where a Knight is waiting, dressed in flashy armor and armed with a long sword. The Knight pulls the visor of his helmet down, and raises his sword. John looks back to the turtle, which has become a gray dragon. The dragon opens his mouth and spits fire at the Knight, cooking him. The dragon starts to morph, his head and long neck becoming narrow and rigid. His facial features disappearing as he becomes a tank, shooting fire out the main cannon, a figure on fire writhing and falling in front of it. The world has once again fallen back to reality. John’s knees grow weak and he falls onto all fours staring at the ground and breathing very heavy. What the hell is going on?! Small drips of blood trickle off his head and down onto the ground in front of his face. John reaches and feels the back of his head, a medium sized lump of metal meets his fingers, he traces its length down to his scalp. Oh my god. Shrapnel. He thinks, I must have brain damage!
He lightly grips the metal and wiggles it ever so slightly, the world swirls through the rainbow. The ground first earth tones, then shaded green and meting into red and blue. Along with the colors there is a deep pain, like a migraine, growing inside his skull. Oh dear God, he thinks, This is bad, this is so f***ing bad! John looks up, as he does his vision swims through part of the rainbow again. He gets up (Purple green red) and starts for his rifle, which he cast away earlier. He reaches for it (Blue Orange Red) and picks it up. He looks up at the sun, and the world becomes dazzling white. He looks down, again onto snow. Only this time much later in his life, a carriage sled drawn by large horses goes by. The horses are a blur of fur and legs and heads, like he’s looking at them through water. He sees himself in the carriage with a girl, he looks around, Where’s the ghost? He thinks having read his Dickens, The spirit of Christmas past? The carriage slides to a halt, and the two bodies lean into each other, just as they meet birds start to dive, growing larger, their wings multiplying, and growing still, growling deeply, he looks back to the sled, which is now an ambulance. A large white cross with a red background painted on both sides and back. The airplanes swoop and dive away, dogfight. John takes a step back and all the sound in the world rises a notch. The already deafening battle din becomes a roar like falling water, then fades to nothing. First he hears laughing children.
His mother scolding him, You’ll never amount! Not to anything!
Then his father, You did what?! The army? You will defiantly die.
Good riddance! Adds his brother. Hundreds of similar voices fill his head, stealing his vision away. He falls on his knees screaming in silent agony as all the thousands of voices buried in his mind come back all at once to haunt him. He looks up, up to the sun. It’s light once again fills his face and vision, drowning everything in white. Killing all the voices at once. When he looks back down again, he sees not snow, nor a forest, nor the battered and scarred earth of no-man’s-land. But white. White emptiness. Benevolently silent white emptiness. But its not really empty is it? No, he thinks, not really. A figure appears off in the distance, and begins to walk towards John. John seems to recognize him immediately, Saint Peter. Peter comes up to John. John asks, “What’s happening to me?”
“You are about to pay the dearest price for your country.” Replies Peter.
“But the visions, the sounds, what do they mean?” John asked again.
“Well, that’s not my place to answer,” said Peter, in the most calm voice.
“Who can tell me?” John persisted.
“You’ll see Him soon.”
Large golden gates appear with a staircase behind them, a sign is on the stairs, it says,
Please, no sliding down the banister. - J. C.
John saw this and laughed hysterically. Back on the battlefield, he fell over laughing in the mud, his life fading. The golden gates opened and John walked through, wiping tears from the corners of his eyes.