The Mud

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They didn’t tell us it would be this way. They filled our minds with naïve notions of patriotism and honor and love. But there is no love here—on a battlefield, miles away from home. There is no honor in what we do. Only shame. Only death. They lied.

“Leave him,” the captain yells wearily as bullets rain down upon us. “He’s dead.”

“No he’s not,” I say quietly to myself.

I run forward through the stagnant air, thick with bullets and fire. A nearby explosion knocks me to the ground, and I momentarily lose hearing, but I stand up and keep going. Gas bites my lungs, but I put my mask in place. Although I’m choking, I keep going. The mud pulls me back, but I leave my boots in the ceaseless mire. And although bare-footed, I keep going.

Corpses litter the ground around me, half consumed by the endless mud. The blood of battle stains my naked feet; the splash of gore saturates my clothing. I ignore the groans of the corpses so readily assumed dead. I ignore the incessant blazes of fire that surround me, the wind of a thousand bullets. I ignore the shame that I feel, and I push forward through pain and sorrow and death.

I reach him as another bullet embeds itself in his chest. I catch him as he begins to fall, but my arms are weak, and I fall to the ground beneath him. I sit up despite the threat of hundreds of screaming guns. He looks at me. His face is covered in blood. His broken features are hardly visible under the scarlet shroud.

“I’m gonna get you out of here,” I tell him as I remove my mask. I don’t care about the bite of gas anymore—or the blast of bombs or the strike of bullets. He’s dying; my closest friend is dying.

“Tell my parents I love them,” he stammers weakly. “Tell them I’m sorry; tell them I did it all for them.”

“No,” I say quietly. “No. You aren’t going to die. I’m gonna get you out of here. You aren’t going to die. You can’t die.”

He smiles bitterly. I can barely see his mouth beneath the blood that covers his face. I gently wipe the blood from his cheeks as I try to suppress a tear. He gazes up at me. I look back into the eyes of my friend. They are brown, intelligent, thoughtful.

“Tell my sister that I love her,” he whispers softly. “And tell Anna that I love her, that I would have married her.” He falls silent for a few moments. His features contort with unbearable pain. “Tell them all I miss them, and I wish I could be with them.”

“No,” I say. “Stay with me.” Again he smiles that ineffable smile. I wipe the blood from his face once more. Time freezes around me. The noise of battle and the screams of death are nothing to me.

“Stay with me Jordan,” I say desperately. “Stay. . .”

But I trail off as his head falls onto my shoulder. I look down into his brown eyes, but his gaze is distant, empty. As I hold his vacant corpse in my lap, my only wish is to sink into the mud, to sink into nothingness.





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