The Rifle

January 23, 2018
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The soldier marching in the front row of his unit was perturbed by the captain’s command to abandon all injured or diseased men. How could he possibly leave his colleagues, with whom he had trained for the past three years, behind to die? His squad leader was dull-witted though, and would probably not notice there being one or two less men. The soldier made up his mind. Tonight, he would desert his post to head back and save his friends.

The skies had turned orange and the clouds faint when the troops finally stopped to take a break by some willow trees. As he chewed on his last slice of ham, the soldier contemplated a plan that would save all four of his injured comrades. No, that wouldn’t be possible. A lone man could at most carry two men, maybe only one. A search party would have formed by dawn, and soldiers would be on his heels by early morning. It would take until dawn to reach yesterday’s base. The soldier made up his mind; he could save only one friend. But which one?

“Get up!”
The soldiers picked up their gears and assembled into long rows. As he marched once again, the soldier made sure to study his surroundings for his trip later in the night. He reminisced in the memories he had of his dishonored friends. He had known Bill the longest; they were acquainted as children because of their mothers’ friendship and quickly became the closest of friends. As kindergarteners, they would often engage in juvenile games typical of boys their age. As middle schoolers, the two boys would do homework and hike the hills south of their small brick homes together. The summer they turned 17, however, Bill distanced himself from his old friends and instead started to spend more time with a notorious gang of mischief-making boys. Bill and his new group of friends went around town scaring younger children and graffiting on the homes of respectable families. Worst of all, Bill dated a girl whom the soldier had secretly long admired.

The soldier scowled. No, he could not forgive Bill. Bill would not be saved.

By now the soldiers reached their final destination for the night. They gathered leaves to level out the rough dirt floors and finally crawled into their sleeping bags.

Lying down, the soldier went on to consider his three remaining friends. Their names were Jack, Joe, and Bob. He had met all three simultaneously at a military camp for teenage boys about five years back. The soldier still remembered the first day he met them. Jack, being from a poor family, was dressed in dull, tattered clothing. His hair was greasy, and his limbs were thin as sticks. His younger brother, Joe, was even thinner and wore torn rags. Jack and Joe would always stick together during trainings and mealtime. They would even snuggle up next to each other for bedtime. The hardship they experienced during childhood under impoverished, abusive parents made their bond unbreakable.

The soldier sighed. He could not possibly separate those two. He would have to leave Jack and Joe behind. Now, the only remaining option was Bob. Keeping Bob in mind, the soldier steadily escaped his sleeping quarters. From there, he made sure his rifle was loaded. He figured he may need it.

In truth, the soldier was not all that close to Bob. But Bob’s dashing good looks, lavish fashion, and military genius earned him the soldier’s utmost respect and admiration.

It was dawn, and the soldier must had been walking for around 8 hours, when he heard a crackling sound. At first, he thought it must be the winds rustling against the fallen leaves. He quickly realized, however, that he was being followed. Panicking, the soldier started to sprint. He made his way through piles of stacked woods to spot a familiar opening. This was it.

There lay Bob, clinging onto dear life. He painfully reached out for the soldier. His teary eyes were pleading for assistance. The soldier could hear the footsteps of his pursuers clearly now. To his shock, he could hear them from all directions.

He picked up his rifle and shot into the helpless pile of bodies. What little life remained was wiped out now. The soldier laughed. He knew all along it would end like this. He was too much of a coward to face battle. He could not bear the screams of men and the piercing sounds of bullets. Saving his friends? The soldier chuckled. That was nonsense, an excuse to escape this nightmare of war and death. As the footsteps became louder, the soldier took one last look at the morning sky. He would join his fallen comrades in honor now.






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