Blood and Mud

January 9, 2008
By Alexander Prelipceanu, Hoffman Estates, IL

World War III, World War III, World War III. The earth rattling words play through my head over and over again. I lay in the ancient trench with my rifle resting on my shoulder, letting the sweat drip from my face down the barrel and into the mud, mixing with the blood of my fallen comrades. The stench of death and body odor stains the air. But all these dreaded things elude me as I lay in the cold mud thinking about why I am here, and about my friends and family at home. World War III. I can’t believe this is really happening.

As I sit staring blankly at the ground, swimming in the oceans of my thoughts, a soldier’s boots come into view. I look up from the ground, and stare into his eyes. No soul seems to occupy the kid’s body; his eyes look cold and empty. “It’s time sir.” He spoke in a deathly tone unlike that of a normal, gleeful teen. I slowly stand up, letting the dim morning light gleam off my captain’s badge. I peek my head over the trench, just barely, so I can catch a view of my enemies’ position. My trained eyes squint through the fog of war and across the horrid plain. The suns rays brake through the fog shedding light on the terrible sight. Bodies litter the field from countless other desperate, futile attempts to grab the no man’s land. The General says this charge is going to be different, we supposedly outnumber them and we should finally take their trench. Nonsense, I was told this every fight; I am one of few who have survived so many. This could be a turning point of the war, and I was offered a Medal of Honor, if I survive. A piece of metal, a piece of silver signifying nothing. All I want is to go home…. if I survive.

I snap back to my senses, back to my cold, dead surroundings. I take a long look up and down the trench, savoring what might be my last moments of life. Men lay flat on their stomachs, guns in hands, muscles tight, legs shaking, waiting for the familiar hated signal. I slowly raise the whistle to my mouth, letting the cold metal send chills down my spine. I draw a thunderous breath, and let it flow though the whistle. The sound cuts through the silent morning air like a hot knife through butter. My legs push at the ground trying to get over the trench, but the mud underneath me gives way. As I fall, a bullet shrieks over me where my head would have been if I didn’t fall. I push my unbelievable luck aside and get over the trench letting my heart roar out through my mouth. Men join in at my sides as we charge across the void. Men fall at my left and at my right, leaving only sprays of blood as they collapse to the ground. Fatigue soon creeps over me as I keep sprinting forward through the fog. I soon see the enemy trench in view. 50 yards, 40 yards, 20 yards…I keep pushing, the adrenaline drives me. An enemy soldier climbs over the trench to meet me, but I squeeze on the trigger and he drops frozen in the mud. We finally reach the trench and hurdle in. I land, not on mud, but on the enemies. I rise disoriented and swing at a blur to my right with my rifle. He falls into a lump in the mud. Chaos. Friend or foe, mud or soldier. You couldn’t tell the difference. An enemy captain steps in front of me; we stop and stare each other in the eyes. My equal, with a family, with a house, probably a nice car… he rises his pistol and fires. The scorching bullet sears through my sleeve, narrowly missing my arm. He shoots again but only a click. He’s out. He desperately swings at me with the butt of the pistol but I expertly side step him and let the bullets fly through his back and into an enemy soldier standing in front of him with shock on his face. Both soldiers drop simultaneously into the blood stained mud. I whirl around, staring straight down the barrel of a rifle. My eyes run up the barrel and into the man’s bloodshot eyes. Fear glittered there… and mercy. He doesn’t want to kill me. His moment of hesitation cost him as he slowly slumps to the ground, still staring in my eyes, with a knife in his back. I quickly collect myself after the event and then suddenly, an incredible force launches me through the air… blackness.

I wake up to a deathly silence. My ears ringing like I was just at a concert. I struggle to open my mud covered eye lids. I stare at a blackness of a thousand tiny lights. Night time? I consume all the might still left in my battle torn body to push off a body lying across my chest. I stand up and slowly crawl out of the trench. I stand up leaving my head down, letting blood drip from the rim of my helmet. I don’t want to look. I lift my head and stare across the battlefield, not room to set a foot down. Grey and green coats cover the muddy field. Smoke, fire, blood, bodies. This is war.
But who won? I scramble for the answer while quickly scanning the field. I’m a lone wolf. Who won? What a stupid question. Who can win when any one side loses a life, a husband, a father? Why? I ask the question again, this time the answer quickly coming to me. Greed. Man’s greed for power, land, and glory. I unclip my helmet, the captains’ badge no longer gleaming but now covered by blood and mud. I let it fall heavily into the muddy blackness, letting it slowly be consumed by the mud. I unclip the pistol holster and pull out the gleaming piece. I look at it in a different light. My thoughts of admiration and pride of the General’s gifted pistol are now changed. A life taker, a happiness ender… death. I let my warm tears slide down my face and bounce off the cold silver. I shut my eyes tight and hurl it across the battlefield. Done being pawn of man’s greed. I walk off into the fog, through mud and blood.

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