The Beast of War
John Smith attempted to yell over the song of men dying and the almost constant sound of the Vickers and the Luis machine guns except for the short 7 seconds that it takes to reload their massive gun.
“I’m out, give me some god damn Mags!”
And just like that two, three inch metal cartridges flew in his direction from his friend Jacob Johnson. Johnson was one of the first people that met Smith when he had first enlisted. Johnson and Smith had become friends almost immediately and always trained side by side and always spoke about honouring their country and getting all different types of medals for killing all of the Germans. The thing is, neither one of the could imagined in their worst drams what war was, there is no glory, honour, and certainly no pride, all they could worry about was staying alive.
“Mags!” yelled Johnson simultaneously throwing another cartridge to Smith. Smith miraculously caught all of them; he took one and left the other three in his pocket. Placing the cartridge in the chamber he pulled back the short bar to c*** the gun, with a force that he imagined could have made the whole lever break off, but of course, it didn’t. As soon as he let of the bar he knew that his 1401 Springfield rifle was ready to shoot.
His head rose above the trench and he was the dreadful battle ground. Bullets were glowing as they zoomed above the trench from the Mousers from the other side. The mortar strikes from both the American and Germans made an eerie whistling sound just before they hit the ground, but Smith knew that he was safe from them from where he was for two reasons. First the mortar strikes only go a certain distance and he was well out of the range, secondly there was a kind of smog that had settled across the battle field and in between the German and American trenches stood 50 meters with a mini-trench in the middle where the artillery continued to hit. And because of this smog both sides could only see faint outlines of their enemies and that’s what they would aim for. Smith raised his gun and thought that he was a slightly darker spot in the smog from the others that he thought was a person and shot, not being able to see whether or not the bullet hit its target.
“Forward! Forward!” yelled the Sargent form the back of the trench. Johnson was up and running towards the mini-trench ahead against his will. Smith attempted to follow but while pulling himself up from the trench, the soft muddy dirt collapse and Smith fell back into the mud of the bottom of the trench and the empty cold shells that shot out of his gun when he fired giving a sort of an eerie feeling to the touch of his face. Smith was badly winded and struggled to get up, and fix the now jammed gun. And upon looking above the trench he saw Johnson standing in the open firing blindly into the fog with three others. Against all instincts Smith forced himself out of the trench determined to help his friend.
* * * * * * * * * * * *
It was a warm summer day in the French-American military camp with Smith and Johnson just meeting each other. They had gotten along fine on the flight and became the best of friends, the thing was nobody knew the type of person that Johnson was, and he had left that part of his life at the previous army base. There were always rumours going around about Johnsons past but only Smith knew the reality.
Johnson was known to be a stereotypical American with pale skin that highlights his light blue eyes along with his brown hair, but the only defect that he had was the deep scar on his left eye all the way down to the tip of his chin, and because of this feature it made him look tougher than the rest of his platoon members. But it had been a mystery on how he had got the scar and he intended for it to be that way until he meet Smith, and he knew that he was somebody that he could trust, and Smith kept great pride in keeping this secret, a secret. Johnson was a good man and a great solider, but nobody’s perfect and he too had a dark side. Johnson was a racist and a very bad one as well, he couldn’t stand them, the blacks, and he simply couldn’t even stand to look at them.
He didn’t even consider them to be humans and treated them like animals, trying to live in a civilized world. At his pervious base him and some other soldiers from his platoon got together and used to go to different groups of the blacks and would tease them and throw rocks and together things at the same time yelling racial slurs. But one day they had had enough and simply could no longer find the power to ignore them anymore and started a fight. The thing was that all of Johnsons “friends” ran, leaving him alone to fend for himself. Years of hate were bottled up inside them, they didn’t hold back, and they let Johnson have it all. Johnson did put up a fight but it didn’t last long, soon they over powered him and the four people in their group gave him the beating of his life. Two held his arms behind his back at 90 degree angles and who looked like the leader pulled out an army issue blade that was sharpened to a razor. The knife approached his face and he pulled away, but another one of them held his hair and chin to keep him from moving. He brought the knife close to Johnsons face and ran it down his cheek, not cutting but just to show that he had a weapon, just tantalizing Johnson. Then he turned his hand bringing the sharpened part of the blade to his face and Johnson at that moment looked into his eyes and realized that the blade wasn’t just a threat.
Fear, pain, disgust, and pleasure illuminated in the leaders eyes. And a sort of crazy bloomed from his face, and for that little moment he realized what he was doing and what he was making of this people and that was when he realized that they were people as well. Johnson put his mind in a better place and closed his eyes waiting for the pain. He thought about his family back home and about his wife and kids, but the moment the blade started cutting his daydream turned into a nightmare. As the blade descended down his upper cheek a of his wife appeared in front of him and she looked as beautiful as ever, then she let out a smile and Johnson saw her teeth all rotten from front to back as though painted black and falling out, and in that moment he snapped back to reality and realized that he was screaming and quickly pulled away. Then the blade slipped and from his cheek it cut all the way down to the tip of his chin just curving at the end making the cut even bigger.
From then on the “jokes” had stopped he remained quiet for several weeks not talking unless a higher rank was talking to him. He no longer talked to his friends from the platoon because he hated them for running and even sent in a request to move to a different platoon, and it was granted. That was how he got into Smiths platoon, and how they had become the best of friends.
* * * * * * * * * * * *
Smith was still meddling with his gun that had broken and jammed while sitting with is back against the fight. He found all of the parts and followed the procedure that his Sargent had taught him back at bass camp. He put all of the different parts back into the Springfield, but before doing this he took out the jammed bullet which was much easier since the gun was missing parts and he could just fit his fingers in to take the bullet out. And after cocking the gun once more he heard the sound that assured that the gun was ready to fire, or so he thought. He pulled himself back up and peered over the trench. He spotted Johnson on the floor in a prone position and shooting into the smog, or that’s what Smith could see, he thought that maybe up there he could actually see the targets. Johnson looked back for a second and saw Smith looking at him and gave a quick nod, but then a huge amount of dirt was blown upward and through the dust and dirt he could make out a faint outline of Johnsons body flying up and hit the ground 10 meters from him. He realized that Johnson wasn’t dead and simply looked at him with his eyes so full of pain the Smith turned to his side and threw up into the trench. He started to run out to help Johnson and started to run through different types of explosives in his mind.
A mine could be a possibility but he had never truly seen a mine that strong before and crossed the option out of his mind. A grenade would too be too weak and wouldn’t have thrown him back and certainly not at that angle. An explosive from the air would just have blown him into the ground. Smith was realised from his deep thought and realized that he was walking slowly through the chaos of the battle and that his Sargent was yelling at him to get back. Smith also realized that he was in shock and that he had only advanced three meters. He started in a crouched jog but only mad made it about two meters before stopping dead in his tracks and seeing the beast come out of the smog. The huge beast moved on what looked like conveyer belts and was wearing metal armour. Smith froze and stood strait up and entered a whole new level of shock and couldn’t move and just stared as the metal beast approached him. He studied it with his eyes and saw that on the side of the beast the swastika was printed on. The snout of this large beast was huge and elongated, and as Smith made it looked like a large barrel of a gun.
There was now only six meter separating him and Johnson but ten meters from the beast, the beast continued to advance and Smith realized that Johnson was directly in the way of the beast, but Smith just couldn’t bring himself to move. Smith looked at it and studied every aspect of this great beast and as it got closer he looked back at Johnson and realized that his friend was getting crushed by the conveyer belts of the great beast. Johnson’s eyes locked with Smiths and he saw a type of hopelessness that he had never seen before in his life. And over the sound of the guns and artillery he could hear the sound of crushing bones and as Johnson turned away Smith saw that the other side of his face was burned to oblivion and now there was nothing there just red bare flesh. And then Johnson let out a blood curdling scream of pain and at that moment Smith could no longer look and moved his eyes back to the giant beast that just looked bigger standing five meters away from it. The snout of the beast looked directly at him and he stared directly down it smelling the burned out gun powder.
At that moment he felt a sense of hopelessness that he saw in Johnsons eyes, and that is only when he truly understood the saying, nothing in life is guaranteed but death. Smith did the one thing that he was trained to do and put his gun at his waist and shot at the beast the bullet just barely leaving a scratch, and after that single shot the gun fell apart because he had simply not placed a pin in and he didn’t even look down to fix it, he kept his eyes fixed in the snout of the beast. He took a deep breath and saw a light at the end of the tunnel and new that it was all over. Everything that he had worked for in life was just thrown away and useless.