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

No matter the accuracy, it's close enough and an excellent story with a very strong and passionate character. The link to him farming and digging his way through life was very ingenious. Only a farmer would know the dirt like Afanasii would and appreciate the ending of his life, returning to where he started.

The ending was brilliant, ironic, but brilliant. "Live by the shovel............."

Well written!!

Posted 9 Years Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

Well, I can see by the others comments that they would agree with me that this was well written. However, for me, some places seemed to lack the same passion with the character. I love the irony in the story. I love irony period, but I found it interesting that he would dig the graves of others, so he may live.

Thank you for sharing this piece.

Well done!

Posted 9 Years Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

Excellent story!

Great lines:
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.

Need a comma after done, before "
"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.

Is it tzat or tsar?
He reflects that this war is not going well for the tzar.

Trenches
Nicholas does not live in the trenchs, so he does not understand. Does not know the hardships of this type of reality.

Great line:
Does not know the hardships of this type of reality.

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

Trenches
With shovel in hand once again, he began sculpting the trenchs for the burial of the purged "enemies of the people".

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

Repeatedly
He was captured on his farm west of Leningrad. They were not kind. He was assaulted repetively and then herded, along with other prisoners, towards an imminent doom within a nearby forest.

Great tension here:
He was captured on his farm west of Leningrad. They were not kind. He was assaulted repetively 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.

Excellent ending! I like the contrast of potatoes to humans, as if they are nothing more. I like the theme of dirt throughout the piece.
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.



Posted 9 Years Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

and this is lyrics for Kalinka (translated Snowball tree):
[edit] Russian transliteration
Kalinka, kalinka, kalinka moya! V sadu yagoda malinka, malinka moya!

Akh, pod sosnoyu, pod zelenoyu, Spat' polozhite vy menya! Ay-lyuli, lyuli, ay-lyuli, Spat' polozhite vy menya.

Kalinka, kalinka, kalinka moya! V sadu yagoda malinka, malinka moya!

Akh, sosyenushka ty zyelyenaya, Nye shumi zhe nado mnoy! Ay-lyuli, lyuli, ay-lyuli, Nye shumi zhe nado mnoy!

Kalinka, kalinka, kalinka moya! V sadu yagoda malinka, malinka moya!

Akh, krasavitsa, dusha-dyevitsa, Polyubi zhe ty myenya! Ay-lyuli, lyuli, ay-lyuli, Polyubi zhe ty myenya!

Kalinka, kalinka, kalinka moya! V sadu yagoda malinka, malinka moya!


[edit] English translation
Little guelder rose, guelder rose of mine in the garden, raspberry, little raspberry of mine

Ah, Under the pine, the green one, Lay me down to sleep, Ah, lully lully, ah lully lully, Lay me down to sleep

Chorus

Ah, Little pine, little green one, Don't rustle above me, Ah, lully lully, ah lully lully, Don't rustle above me

Chorus

Ah, you beauty, pretty maiden, Fall in love with me, Ah, lully lully, ah lully lully, Fall in love with me

Chorus


Posted 9 Years Ago


2 of 2 people found this review constructive.

a nice portrait of a russian guy; great job. I thought it could be more stretched (longer). I liked the line "Afanasii turns his attention back to his every day routine of survival." -------don't we try daily..? I perceived this as an abstract of a great story, even a book when you put enough stories behind stories, I 'd love to read something like this. I was smiling, thinking, interesting, what is the perception of slavonic soul by Americans. I thought in the paragraph Captured in war - you meant Einsatztruppen instead gruppen? if if "Gruppe" then "... under his Einsatzgruppe" in singular? you also could say Mamushka Russia. do you know this song?
Kalinka - Russian Red Army Choir

Posted 9 Years Ago


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LSS
Thank you, Legion. This was such a good story I had to go back and reread it, in case I had missed some of it. It was just as good the second time. Thanks, Its always a pleasure to come to your site.
Lar


Posted 9 Years Ago


3 of 3 people found this review constructive.

You have pulled off another great piece! I loved this one, in fact I love all of your writing legion!

Posted 9 Years Ago


4 of 4 people found this review constructive.

You took me there Legion :-) As Orlando said, the thought of digging one's own grave... I dreamed that once...literally....I was in a hole digging my own grave as my brother sat and watched... Brilliant symbolism and heartfelt imagery... Exceptional story. Two lines remain with me today..

'So much time down in the dirt. So much shifting of soil.' Indeed...

Posted 9 Years Ago


3 of 3 people found this review constructive.

Well there certainly was a lot of digging in the 20th century. Millions and millions of men would have been able to relate to this in some way as it stirred memories of this or that type of earth, useless shovel. I imagine some may even have taken a pride in it...and been sad when they saw their work ruined. But it is the last trench here that really stirs the emotions. The thought of digging one's own grave. How strange a thought. And yet they did, thousands did. The strangeness of the psychology. The casual triumph of those standing around watching, boredom even. And the sheer contrast with the feelings of those doing the digging. I wonder how many times men refused to do it. A spade is quiet a weapon. How many times did men throw themselves at their murderers to be in one last act of defiance? Or were they just too crushed? Ach, can you imagine the cruel taunting that must have gone on? And it happened in the 1990s in what was Yugoslavia...and will doubtless happen again somewhere. Your story's very evocative stuff.

Posted 9 Years Ago


4 of 4 people found this review constructive.

I have to agree with Dani, you have really pulled off a great story and a good look at the life of one ordinary guy in the midst of the chaos of mother russia's wars. this really was fun to read and it has novel quality written all over it brother. seems you are one hell of a good storyteller. great job bro.

-DeAn

Posted 9 Years Ago


4 of 4 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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