In the Trenches

In the Trenches

A Story by Legion
"

This is a story I have had on my mind for many years. Not sure I am completely finished with it, but the main idea is here.

"

 

 

In the Trenches

 

Legion

16AUG08

 

 

Prologue

 

The smell of dirt and death is an old acquaintance for Afanasii. His whole life he has danced hand in hand with the two. They are intertwined in his memory like lovers that have nothing in common but their lust for one another. He smiles at that thought, confusing his captors. Afanasii moves his eyes from the barrel pointing down at him toward his dirt encrusted hands. Hands that have helped carve history, although he does not understand that concept. In the last few moments of his miserable and simplistic life, he remembers.

 

Youth and War

 

His back has grown stronger through his labors. Digging and digging and digging. All those days spent digging. Trenches for miles to see. He was a soldier with a shovel, but not much more than a boy. Sixteen when this began by some standards, but he is unsure of his exact birthdate. Like his family and generations before, a simple potato farmer with hands in the dirt who now has found himself pulled into the machinations of monarchs. An assassin's bullet and historical tensions have ignited the world afire.

"Princip, you instigator of hell on earth. Look what you have done.", he curses under his breath so his brothers-at-arms will not hear him. For several years now, a stagnant war has defined their lives and ended many. The stench of blood and mud encompasses every aspect of their existence.

"Great War indeed. What is so great about it?" Another thought muffled.

So much death and destruction about him. Water saturating everything causing discomfort and ailments. Food is scarce as well. Starvation is as much a reality of death as bullets and bombs are. But not for the rats. Rats eat the decaying flesh of the dead, spreading filth and disease.

So many men lost. Good men. Friends. Men whom he would never have met if not for this overblown fracas.

He reflects that this war is not going well for the tsar. Mother Russia is faltering. Nicholas does not live in the trenches, so he does not understand. Does not know the hardships of this type of reality. It has alienated him from his subjects. But Afanasii understands. He knows this first hand. Lives it daily. He prays that it will end soon, but he puts no faith in mankind so he holds no hope that it will.

There is rumour from behind the trenches that things are not going well for the tsar back home either. Trouble seems to be brewing. His authority has become useless and the people contemplate revolution. Perhaps it will bring much needed change. Perhaps it will end this conflict. Perhaps.

Afanasii turns his attention back to his every day routine of survival.

 

Digging During the Great Terror

 

The Treaty of Brest-Litovsk had brought Afanasii back home, but what was to come in the following years he deemed worse than the war. At least in the war, the enemy was not his own government. Lenin, after the overthrow and death of Nicholas, had slowly put the country back together again with much struggle. There seemed to be hope (dismal or not) for the country.

But, unfortunately, Lenin died.

The tyrant Stalin took control with a ruthless hand. The communist party now infiltrated every aspect of life and Stalin used that to his advantage. His paranoia grew and soon incorporated the skills of Afanasii. With shovel in hand once again, he began sculpting the trenches for the burial of the purged "enemies of the people". A job he despised, but it was better than the gulags or handing his shovel over to someone else to be used for him.

Afanasii wept for his Mother Russia. He wept for his comrades. But those hands, his hands, continued to dig as he lived on.

 

Captured In War

 

Time rolled on and another great war had come. Operation Barbarossa delivered Afanasii into captivity under the Einsatzgruppen. The Germans had been marching across Russia hell bent on destruction and conquest when Afanasii reluctantly crossed their path.

He was captured on his farm west of Leningrad. They were not kind. He was assaulted repeatedly and then herded, along with other prisoners, towards an imminent doom within a nearby forest. The cold that raked his body was bitter. As bitter as the thought of what was to come. The group halted in a clearing within the wooded area. Shovels were passed out among the prisoners. Orders given to dig were expected. Along with the others, he once again put shovel to earth and moved so-called mountains. He knew the routine.

Once the trench had been dug, the prisoners were ordered down into it. He followed.

 

Epilogue

 

Beaten and bloodied, Afanasii once again stands against an old enemy of his beloved Russia.

Staring down at his dirt encrusted hands, he ponders his life. So much time down in the dirt. So much shifting of soil. From gardens of potatoes to gardens of decomposing flesh. What was it worth and who will remember his work?

The crackle of gunfire ensues and he falls further into the trench, mixing blood and earth once again. Falling into his legacy.


© 2008 Legion



Author's Note

Legion
I checked for spelling but may have missed some spots here and there. Some of this may not be exactly accurate historically, but I tried.

My Review

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Featured Review

Legion, this is an outstanding piece! Wow!

I am not only impressed by the exceptional writing
itself, but also by the story you've created to
tell a piece of history. Such a tragic tale...
and time. You've re-created it with such talent!

Definitely a favorite!
What an outstanding read this was... thank you!


Posted 9 Years Ago


4 of 4 people found this review constructive.




Reviews

I'm blown away! I can't even begin to describe how this makes me feel, but I will try my very best to do this justice. It is by far the best short story I have ever read- it is like a mini novel that should be expanded into a movie, (although I'm sure hollywood would destroy it with patroitic melancholy and unlikely romance!). It's beauty is in its simplicity and the history lesson it conveys to the reader while describing the effect of history on the everyday individual. If this is not already published then it should be- I'm speechless at the skill you have used to put this together so compactly. Top marks and an eternal favourite, thanks for the recomendation- feel free to do so again- anytime. Take care, spence

Posted 8 Years Ago


2 of 2 people found this review constructive.

I like this one too. I like stories and poems that come full circle like this. Another fine read. I have been contemplating writing some fictional stories. I used to do that when I was younger but I lost them in a flood no less. The stories I have now are all nonfiction about my youth or relatives etc. Maybe reading your work will spur me to get off my duff and do it? Thanks for sharing

Posted 8 Years Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

"He reflects that this war is not going well for the tsar. Mother Russia is faltering. Nicholas does not live in the trenches, so he does not understand. Does not know the hardships of this type of reality. It has alienated him from his subjects. But Afanasii understands. He knows this first hand. Lives it daily. He prays that it will end soon, but he puts no faith in mankind so he holds no hope that it will"

This was a fantastic shot you wrote here, Legion! The terms used are great, which enhance this piece even more. I love the lines that I posted up above.... the last lines to be more exact. What a great message! Talented you are, for this walk I took back into the past with you was great, yet extremely tragic!

Posted 8 Years Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

"Infinite regress
A causal distress
No spiritual link
Time all out of sync
No need for a God
In this Nietzschean stink
No thunder a raging
No hell all a blazing
Just infinite modality
In all its totality"


The first stanza of my poem "Pandora" fits this piece like Adam does to Eve. This is essentially what I had in mind when I wrote that piece- the futility of it all- at least in this mans life and millions like him- The Kafka flavor of the piece was delicious. One great short. - I wouldn't change a line- a very powerful and philosophically illuminating piece...

my warmest
bob





Posted 8 Years Ago


1 of 2 people found this review constructive.

Where do you come up with this? Your brain is somewhere completely out of orbit to have written something like this! Very sad, but realistic account of a young man's life as a slave. When most people write of great lives or even remarkable accounts of average people, you chose to write an account of a horrible and painful life of someone that no one will remember. This is very creative and special! I loved the description and it adds to the affect of his final moments. Incredible and I'm snapping in applause!

Posted 8 Years Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

p.s. Your opening was spellbounding..........don't rush the ending. Instead of an epilogue, make it part of the story.

Posted 9 Years Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

Ah..........you seem to be rushing your own story between Digging...and Captured.... Why did you do that? Did you not have confidence that your reader would keep reading? A good story will always keep the reader reading and this is one of them.

Where did you come up with the name Afanasii ?

My overall critique would be to combine some of your sentences. In places the writing was too chopped up by small sentences.

Posted 9 Years Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

Brilliant!!! And I wish you would do something to lengthen your body of text. A prologue and epilogue don't usually preface a short, but I guess there is always a first time, do you think you have enough to put together a vovella of fifteen thousand words? You have done your research. Stalin walked hand in hand with Hitler and you are so correct in saying that this war gained momentum when Lenin died...all war is wasteful. Your protagonist is very believable because of your writing skill and your narrative is spot on...
Please consider lengthening? You have something wonderful here.
Kudos!!!!
Helen :-)

Posted 9 Years Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

This is very good, Leigon.

You are very talented.

Posted 9 Years Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

wow, great mix of history and narrative. Your characterization and diction are wonderful as always. tons of kudos to you!

Posted 9 Years Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.


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Added on August 17, 2008
Last Updated on August 21, 2008

Author

Legion
Legion

Nowhere near a BBQ pit!



About
I write about various topics. Mostly I write poetry/songs. I took my screen name from a concept album/epic poem I wrote years ago titled "Legion's Legacy: Tales of the Damned" which was inspired by .. more..

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