The Nameless Soldier This work is considered exceptional by our editorial staff.

November 15, 2010
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I fall quickly into step with the men next to me, marching as one, aboard the already heaving, crowded ship. The constant drone of flies can be heard in the intense heat as the sun beats down heavily on the soldiers’ closely shaven heads. The machine gun is like a dead weight against my already aching shoulder, but I stand strong, determined and proud, proud to kill those that have killed our men before. We stand in line, united against one enemy – Abaka, the evil ones. Their name is taboo within our platoon, never spoken for fear of being cast to hell, a strong belief amongst our people. The spirit doctor who is travelling with us prays for those who have already succumbed to death. “May you find God’s light.”
I watch as the hulking ship distances itself from the shore and moves steadily out into the vast ocean, at present a dusty blue. This soon turns to an tremendous blackness which mirrors the darkening skies. The trip across the sea will be a ferocious, unforgiving one. We are met with frequent storms and rain hammers abusively onto the cold wooden decks whilst there is forceful lightning that strikes the masts, causing them to splinter and drop silently into the deep water. The men have to remain on deck and so resort to clutching onto the sides, each one mouthing silent prayers in the desperate hope of staying alive. I retire to the compact cabin at the bow of the boat, hoping to avoid the storm.
When last night’s blackened sky and the vicious heat again becomes oppressive, I venture cautiously onto deck to stand with the other recovering men who stand stooped and water-logged, their clothes drenched with the ocean’s icy water. But before I can reach their hopeless bodies I am thrust to the side by a strong hand. The man who pushed me stands breathing heavily before me, his olive skin and dark eyes prominent in the dewy glow of the sun. The muscles in his arms ripple as he cracks his knuckles threateningly, his face darkened by anger. “You do not belong here,” he spits the statement at me like venom.
“You are wrong. Do not resent my presence.” I attempt defiantly, raising my face to his. “I will not and cannot leave.” I turn back, to return to the soldiers, when I feel a sharp blow to the base of my skull and collapse to the ground, the scent of blood sharply stinging my nostrils. Feebly, I reach up to feel a congealed substance seeping from the deep wound on my brow and when I take my hand away, my fingers are scarlet with fresh blood. Before I can face my opponent, he is next to me, his short breaths close to my ear, hot against my neck. “You are mistaken for coming here; I hope you pay for your stupidity. Do not contest me or I will hit you even harder next time.” He pulled away abruptly, his arms swinging emphatically as he strode away.
I only great confusion and an intense bitterness over his reaction to my presence on the ship but merely cast it from my mind. I didn’t need protection from anyone. I attempted to get to my feet, stumbling slightly, but regaining my balance. As I rose, I caught sight of a small island appearing on the horizon, hazy in the distance and my pulse quickened aggressively as adrenalin ran through my body. I am ready to fight. We pull abruptly onto the shore and orders are shouted from every direction. We collectively stride off the ship and gather on the sand. Instantaneously indistinguishable black figures are running at us from a distance, the sounds of machine guns shattering the still air. “RUN!” The leader of our troop roared above the gunfire before sprinting off into the gathering darkness. We moved as one indomitable force, weapons held high and tribal shouts governing the inevitable chaos.
I ran and ran and ran. Branches scratched my face and arms as I pushed through the large mass of trees, plunging through the deep undergrowth into inky darkness. My solid gun hit me over and over, bruising, breaking, tearing at my skin. Droplets of blood pricked my sweating body before I fell heavily over a fallen trunk, my dirt ridden face hitting the solid, earthy ground.
I glanced nervously around me, panic consuming me as men lay broken around me, blood seeping from countless wounds, a dirty red. The deadly cross fire passed rapidly over head, artillery fire cracking through the still and stuffy air. Heavy military aircraft began to circle menacingly above me. I feel a thundering terror streaming through me, overwhelming and sickly. I roll sharply onto my back and struggle to sit up, but am instantaneously hit down again as a man is flung against me, his blood smears across my bare, vulnerable skin. He is still alive. His mouth opens and the bloodless face rasps “ should here.”
From the distant barrel of the pointed gun I see the sharp, silver bullet slam into his chest before I can answer and he plummets to the hard, hot ground. Fragments of dust drift up into the humid air around him, making me choke uncontrollably as I clutch the man’s collapsed body, whilst my arms violently tremble from the effort to remain upright. The man’s face stares soullessly up at me, emptied by death. Guttural sobs escape me, echoing in the deadened atmosphere. The air is pungent with the stench of a bloody war. I am twelve years old, a nameless soldier. Looking down I see red, oozing steadily from my stomach. “May you find God’s light.”

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