Freedom's Price

January 5, 2009
He awoke out of deep slumber only to feel shafts of pain searing his nerves.
Laying on a canvas stretcher, the sullen crash of artillery beat a cadence in the back of his mind. Towering above him, the grim, frowning crags of Mount Suribachi stared down across the beach. Iwo Jima. A dead volcanic rock where thousands were receiving their fiery baptism into the deathly rites of combat.
His tortured breath rasped spasmodically. Agony radiated from each wound, but that was nothing compared to the torture his mind was putting him through. Like a hellish movie, scenes replayed themselves. He saw himself struggling to reach the crest of the beach and belly-crawling through a forest of charred sticks towards a pillbox. Next to him, dragging the 30-caliber machine gun along, was his best friend Alan. Then the world erupted in roaring fury as the Japanese inside the pillbox rained down fire on the exposed Marines. He was screaming into Alan’s ear, trying to direct his fire. Then he looked over and saw his friend’s face, so peaceful, so serene.
So bloody.
Now he was running, red fury surging to his eyeballs and pounding in his ears. He was charging the pillbox, yelling like a fiend, lugging Alan’s machine gun awkwardly, perching it on his hip. He felt the first bullet punch into his shoulder, lurched, almost fell. But he kept running. The second caught his opposite arm and he spun drunkenly, staggering forward to the viewport of the pillbox--shoved the barrel in, and held down the trigger.
Dear God, the screaming. Would he ever forget?
The grenade came from farther up the hill, landing at his feet. He stared at it vacantly for a moment. Then came an interminable instant of panic.
Then it exploded.
The shrapnel tore through him and pitched him backwards down the slope. He remembered the strange feeling; knowing there were holes in his body, but no pain. Spreading stains leaked from the holes and dyed his fatigues a dull crimson. Still no pain.
Then the pain shot through every nerve and he slipped mercifully into unconsciousness.
Now he stared up into the unshaven face of a Navy corpsman-a medic. “Hiya, kid. Just lay back, we’ll have you patched up here soon enough.”
The young Marine gasped raggedly, fighting for air. Glazed eyes gazed past the medic’s face vacantly. The boy’s countenance was stamped with sorrow, the despair of an old, broken man. Tears traced white paths through the grime on his face. His torn hand sought and found a small silver cross, crusted now with dried blood.
One word, despairing and harsh, knifed into the silence.
The corpsman shook his head. “I don’t know.”
He would have spoken again, but he saw the young man slipping further into shock with each passing second. Quickly, the corpsman inserted an IV into the boy’s arm, life-giving plasma dripping slowly into emptied veins.
“Hang on, kid, you’re gonna make it.”
All around them, medics labored feverishly, trying to save the broken and torn as young lives drained into the black sands of Iwo Jima. The wounded Marine saw all this but took no notice. Over and over again, he charged up the hill, heard the dying screams of the Japanese soldiers. And he saw Alan lying there in the powdery ash, his body twisted and broken. A dry, barking sob escaped the boy’s cracked lips.
“Alan! God, why?”
He looked up at Suribachi’s frowning crags, the brooding stare of the mountain pressing down into his soul. Suddenly, his dim eyes caught a flash of bright color. At the summit, six Marines strained to lift a twisted scrap of pipe into place, hoisting a defiant banner above the blood-soaked wasteland below. Crimson, white, and navy blue, a small flag flapped out strongly, shining like a beacon to all the tired, hungry, hurting Marines below. A roar like the ocean’s swell ripped from men’s throats as they cheered the Stars and Stripes till they couldn't rasp another joyous sound. The battle for Iwo Jima would rage on for another bloody month, the war for months beyond that. But the victory was already theirs.
The young Marine’s head dropped back to the canvas, tears running freely again. He remembered the flag he knew best, the flag that used to fly in front of the old church in town. He remembered the day he and Alan had signed their papers, then burst out of the recruiter’s office, shouting at the top of their lungs, pounding each other on the back.
And he remembered Alan’s face, finally at rest, slumbering in death.
Turning to the corpsman, the young Marine forced his dim eyes to focus on the grizzled face before him.
“Sir, I think I understand. But I wish--I wish…”
“I wish too, son. But there’s just not another way.” The navy corpsman swiped a grimy sleeve across his face and returned to his task. He jabbed the needle of a morphine styrette into the boy’s arm. “Gotta get you back in working order, kid. You’re going home.”
The Marine gripped his cross as he sank back onto the rough canvas. His eyes closed as pain’s grip finally relaxed, and a faint smile played across his lips.
He was going home.

Join the Discussion

This article has 68 comments. Post your own now!

turkey123 said...
Sept. 4, 2012 at 7:54 pm
that cute so cute
andrew b said...
Feb. 1, 2012 at 8:53 am
very good I made a connection to the book Indestructble because he also gets blow up by a gernade and survies.
andrew b said...
Feb. 1, 2012 at 8:51 am
Very good story i made a connection to the book
TannerB said...
Feb. 1, 2012 at 8:46 am
Great story! The flashback helped me understand the characters better.
Tyler c said...
Feb. 1, 2012 at 8:45 am
This is the best story I've ever seen it seems so real .
Hunter D said...
Feb. 1, 2012 at 8:44 am
Very good story, real and inportant facts that really made the story that much better.
Inferno11 said...
Jan. 31, 2012 at 11:48 am
Very very good story It was hard to follow at first because so many things were happening at once, but I loved it.
PenPaperAddiction said...
Dec. 24, 2011 at 1:58 am
Your short written work is intriguing and you did it without having to add some sappy love or magic or fictional creature aspect. Romance and mystic can be great, but sometimes stories like this- about war and gore and pain and suffering and raw emotion- can be a breath of fresh air. Because it's reality in its truest form. Bravo!
AngryDrRoadkill said...
Nov. 10, 2011 at 1:33 pm
Very impressive. Good narrative and hook. Anybody wholikes this should check my work: The Sword. similar setting and story.
NeVassa said...
Aug. 14, 2011 at 1:38 pm
writerfreak21231This teenager is a 'regular' and has contributed a lot of work, comments and/or forum posts, and has received many votes and high ratings over a long period of time. said...
Jul. 14, 2011 at 2:04 pm
It was an awesome story!!! Great job! i just wrote two stories called nightstalker and the beast. If any of u read them please post comments if u liked them or not or if i should change anything. Thanks! :D
LiesAreLeadingMeAstray said...
Jul. 1, 2011 at 12:34 pm
marvolus structure. i...i just plain love it!!!!
iamonecoolradiator said...
Jul. 1, 2011 at 11:48 am
One of the best written I've seen here so far! Really good vocabulary and strong structure!
YellowRose79 said...
Feb. 9, 2011 at 9:12 am
This story was very good, i enjoyed reading it. Ibu Jima is one of my favorite war stories (my dad is a Marine) and i loved your retelling. Keep up the good work!
PrettyPurplePen said...
Jan. 20, 2011 at 11:43 am
This story was AMAZING!!! I absolutely love the riveting action and the constant excitement! XD
LASwan said...
Dec. 18, 2010 at 11:35 am
Fantastic writing, my friend. This is some of the best of this site. You deserve far more exposure.
JacobC said...
Nov. 23, 2010 at 4:37 pm
This is the greatest story I have ever read on TeenInk.  You are a great writer.
doubleblacklover said...
Nov. 23, 2010 at 11:18 am
The short and stunty sentances add an awesome affect. I use it too. I don't lie those long flowery extra poetic descriptions making the story way too fake. This was AWESOME.
doubleblacklover replied...
Nov. 23, 2010 at 11:19 am
sorry, i wrote lie but meany like!
Lizette said...
Nov. 23, 2010 at 8:12 am

I swear i almost cried...i loved how discriptive it was, and how it all just sort of flowed.  Keep it up!


Site Feedback