In the Trenches

Men rotated in and out of duty, but Flint never left the front. He stayed there, wearing his mask, watching men die. Sometimes they lay in the ankle deep mud for days before they were carted out of the trench. From time to time the call of “GAS!” would come yelling down the earthen hallways. Flint would be quick with his gas mask, cinching it so tight behind his head that his eyes felt as though they would burst from their sockets. The white or beige gas came creeping in over the lip of the trench, like a cat might slink along a wall, and it hung in the air for hours. Once, and thankfully only once, Flint had watched two men put their masks on incorrectly. They began to cough and sputter as mucus ran from their mouths and noses and eyes. Then the mucus turned to dark, syrupy blood. They twitched and shuddered and collapsed in the muck.

And always, the exploding of mortars and the pop-whiz of bullets.

There came a day when Flint’s entire squad had been rotated out. He, however, remained. The lone fixture, more like the steadfast pilings that held up the walls of the trench than an actual soldier. He had only once ventured a glance above the trench: barren and scorched earth stretched in all directions. Between the enemy trench and his own lay coils upon coils of barbed wire. Overhead, beyond the low-lying clouds, he could hear the whirs of aeroplanes.

He slid back into the trench, knowing that on the other side were men who were just like him, watching their compatriots die by unseen hands.

The whistling of the falling mortars called through the night, and Flint’s sleep was fitful. Phosphorous flares soared into the ruddy night and bloomed brightly for minutes on end, casting the world below into a sickly yellow so that every man looked waxy as a corpse. It didn’t rain much, but when the rain did fall, it came hard.

………….

While Flint had been at the front for months, these new soldiers were fresh, lively. They were, however, all familiar. By some strange trick of fate, Flint’s section of the trench was soldiered by his foes. Flint couldn’t help but wonder if perhaps they had been put together on purpose, some sort of cruel joke. There in the trench were The Great Escape and Dire Wolf, The Bowery Boys and Turn of the Century, Andrew Carnage and Bank Job. And, cruelest of all, the Sphinx. They stood before him, faces shaved, and suited up in Uncle Sam’s olive drab regulation uniforms. “This has to be some sort of joke. Some cruel parody. Am I sleeping?” Flint was livid.

“Afraid not, Osiris,” said Escape, “We’ve all been slogging in these trenches for too long for this to be a dream.”

“How long have you been out here?” Flint spun the cylinder of the revolver in his hands.

“Seems like months now. Last time I saw a calendar it was June,” Bank Job spoke up. He squatted in the mud, testing the sturdiness of the trench’s wall.

“And you’ve been together?”

“Not until right now,” the Sphinx muttered from the back. “Yes, I’m thinking what you’re thinking as well, hero: someone has arranged for this.”

Flint spat into the mud. He raised his revolver at the Sphinx, “Lucky I don’t kill you where you stand.”

“Put the enmity aside, hero. There’s time for that later. We’re all wearing the same colors at the moment. And I’m fairly sure that they would love us to be at each others’ throats right now.”

“What are you getting at, Sphinx?” Dire Wolf stepped between Flint and the Sphinx, visibly uncomfortable around the revolver.

“What I’m getting at, Mr. Wolfowitz, is there is clearly someone pulling our strings. It’s no coincidence that we’re all here together: the lone hero and his ten, deadly antagonists. If any of us dies, we will be doing a favor for the US Government. We’ll be cleaning up their own mess for them.”

“What mess?” Wolf’s eyes betrayed his confusion. The other men were crowding around, trying to hear the conversation over the sounds of battle that loomed overhead.

The Sphinx gestured to all of them, “Us. The Men of Act–”

A mortar hit the lip of the trench above them. The Sphinx’s words were lost in a shower of mud and metal. The dirt fell heavily upon all of them. Flint gasped as the weight pummeled into chest. His legs were squished and trapped below the earth that piled onto him. In the grey light, Flint struggled to make out any other survivors. He twisted and pulled but his legs would not come loose. The whizzing and popping of bullets was louder now. And closer. He laid himself as flat as he could, hoping to blend in with the dirt around him.

 

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One Response to “In the Trenches”

  1. Some dude in DC Says:

    Flint is a survivor, but this looks grim.

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