Sunday, February 27, 2011

The Ranks

Prompt: This story must have a soldier at the end.



Ve blinked rapidly. The rain was falling hard and thick, dripping into his eyes in continuous rivers. He could hardly see the trainees in front of him. The mud sucked at his boots as they marched downhill. Every time he pulled free to take another step, his stomach dropped as though he might fall forward down the hill.

Ve could hear the other boys groaning beneath their heavy packs and the oppressive rain. A scream broke the air as one of the trainees fell to the ground in the next column. Ve paused, boots deep in the mud. The boy behind him slid, trying to stop. He slammed into Ve, taking them both down the hill.

They careened into the boys in front of them, hitting the backs of their knees. The hill grew sharper and they tumbled faster. An elbow slammed into Ve's cheek beneath his eye, one of the boy's packs fell heavily onto his stomach, knocking the air from his lungs.

They came to a bone-jarring halt at the bottom of the hill. Ve could feel warm liquid which he thought was blood dripping down his neck with the cold rain. His cheek throbbed. One of the other boys was on top of his arm, bending it backward.

They lay still, unable to move. One of the boys was crying. Ve gasped for breath. He still could see very little, even the boys piled on top of his were vague, blurred outlines, obscured by the rain.

The commanding officer's voice pierced the patter of the rain. He was yelling at them though Ve could not tell what the man was saying. Ve's ears were ringing.

The pile shifted. The boy who was on top of Ve's arm rolled, sending excruciating pain through the limb, and stood.

"Come on, boy, get up,"

A faint face appeared above Ve in the rain. It was not his commanding officer, but Ve thought he recognized the boy as one of the older trainees. A hand appeared through the rain.

"Come on, get up."

Ve took the proffered hand. It was rough and wet. Up close, Ve could tell that it was not the boy he had thought it was. The boy's eyes were dark and dull. He was from an upper division. A division that had returned from the front lines only a few days previous.

The boy had been to war. He was a real soldier, not like like the other boys. They were just stumbling through the rain, but that boy, he was a warrior. Ve looked at the other boy as he returned to his place among the ranks.

Ve's arm protested as he re-shouldered his pack and his eye pounded with his heartbeat, but he refused to make a sound. He was ashamed to be among the green, whining trainees. Ve clenched his teeth against his discomfort and continued marching.

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