Panorama

February 7, 2009
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In the cold, snowy taigas of Russia, the cold hearted sun began to forfeit to the icy touch of the rising moon. The last peeking rays of the sun sent oranges and reds spiraling into the sky, framed by clouds that lined the horizon. A slight breeze began to accelerate, spasmodically beating against the rare shrubbery and saplings that dotted the smooth landscape. If you were to stand in the motionless panorama, you would suffer the overpowering feeling of standing in a picture.
In the winter of Russia, little was expected to move. The birds had migrated south, and the biting, gnawing rodents had fled to the ground in search of shelter. Other animals had died an icy death long ago. All that was left were the insects.
The only evidence of any human presence in the area was a large oil pipe, shifting through the scenery as a snake would through a garden; dodging the scarce undergrowth and small hill. If you were to search the ground beside the oil pipe, you would find two sets of footprints, heavily depressed into the mud, and occasionally disappearing into the hard permafrost that formed the ground. If you were to follow these footprints, you would come upon two heavily dressed Russian soldiers patrolling the country's largest source of income.
Both bore burdensome dark-brown coats. Encircling the right arm of both hard-faced men were red armbands with the Russian flag sewn so that it face outwards. The only difference one could tell from the two men, whose faces could not be seen under the heavy hats that cloaked them, was the type of weapon each carried. One carried the fierce AK-47, while the other bore the weight of a small, but daunting, scoped rifle. Sporadically, the pair would stop, and the sniper would scan the horizon for any indication of threat. Every time they stopped, a jovial smile would spread across the sniper's face, and they would pick up their gear, and move on.
But they were oblivious, and helpless, against the silent ghost that hunted them not far away. Under a suit of leaves and twigs, grasses and snow, the tip of a barrel protruded. Under the artificial hill, the American sniper began to sweat. Spotting the two Russians through his scope, he lay down the rifle, and removed a radio from a pocket built into the military-grade camouflage.
'Command,' whispered the American into the radio, 'this is Foxtrot, reporting movement along the pipes. Permission to engage Tango's?' There was silence.
'This is Command, Foxtrot,' uttered a gruff voice over the transition, 'are you at the latest checkpoint.'
'Copy that Command,' replied Foxtrot, 'I am currently at checkpoint Kilo Romeo waiting for orders on engagement.' Again, that dreaded silence.
'Permission granted, Foxtrot.' The sniper began to put away the radio, before the voice interrupted him. 'Oh, and Gil...?'
'Yes?'
'Keep this one clean. Command doesn't want to clean up anything again; ya hear me?'
'Copy that Command,' Replied Gil as he once again made the action to stuff the radio into the pouch.
Raising his rifle, he once again settled his sights on the two enemies that followed the pipeline. From his rifle's barrel protruded a long silencer, more for stopping the bullet from passing though the victim, and into the pipe, than for actually silencing the shot.
The sniper stroked the trigger with his finger, resting the cross over the head of the Russian sharpshooter. Waiting there, Gil began to feel the worms crawling through his clothes. He had been lying in the same position in the same location for almost 28 hours. It was only natural that the worms and beetles would find him, and call his warm body home.

He squeezed the trigger slowly, continuing to follow the Russian, until...
Gil cursed. The dull, silenced shot from his rifle had missed the Russian sharpshooter, and instead traveled into the neck of the gunner holding the AK-47. As his comrade choked on the bullet in his neck, the sniper dove behind a mound of grass and twigs, crowned with green moss. And there both snipers lingered, neither willing to move or breath. If any more time had passed, as it could have, both may have suffocated waiting for the other to make a mistake, and let loose a puff of air.
Seconds continued to pass, and Gil was becoming impatient. He, slowly, removed the silencer from the tip of his rifle, and returned to watching the mound that was his enemy's only defense. It was approaching a minute of held breath. Still, Gil watched for the signal; the sign; the location. Then he saw it.
A whisp of breath floated into the bitter air from behind the twig wall, cloaking his enemy. Gil looked through his scope with distant eyes, peering out at the area of the wall behind which the warm breath had been loosed. He squeezed.
The bullet passed through the hill of twigs, grass, and mosses, finally hitting the target in the heart. Dust and bits of debris fell around the dead Russian.
Gil removed his protection, and shook out the insects back onto the ground. They writhed on the ground, surprised that their warm hill had just abandoned them.
Darkness had already surmounted up over half of the sky, leaving the remainder a morose gray. The sun said its goodbyes, and hid its face from the world once again, leaving the moon to dance with the angels and stars. Never had there been a more beautiful night in the taiga than this one. Gil, however, had no time to dwell upon this holy vision.
Before him lay two dead Russian guards. The gunner lay, wide eyed, with a bewildered look upon his face, and both his hands at his neck, trying to stop the blood. The sniper lay hunched over, with his back to the mound, and a bullet hole gouging him through the chest. Gil stood over them, a heavenly spectacle crowning his image in the horizon. His eyes were motionless, dark as the jet-black sky above him, and holding no remorse.
He turned and picked up his rifle which had been leaning against the mound, and slung it over his shoulder with a blank look on his face.
A loud noise sounded, ringing through the taiga like thunder, followed by a flash like lightning. Gil felt a bite in his shoulder, and flipped. Crimson blood spilled out upon the permafrost, and gathered into puddles, unable to penetrate the frozen earth. Gil watched, helpless, as his attacker came upon him.
He was dressed similarly to the other Russians. The same type of brown coat. The same type of large hat. The same blood-red patch that was sewn to his arm. Gil could only try to crawl away, but the strong Soviet grabbed him by the collar, and threw him down. Looking up at his captor, death only looked back in the form of a scared, battle-worn face. The hard eyes of Death looked back at him without remorse, mercy, or hope. Fear filled the once merciless being. Death was now staring at him, where he had pointed Death to others.
The Russian stared at him for a few seconds with those cold, deathly eyes, turned, and walked away. Gil bowed his head, and cried the last few hours of his life.





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