In the Shadow of Monte Cassino

In the Shadow of Monte Cassino

A Story by Marlowe147

A tale of war and disillusionment.


We’ve been holed up for 12 days. The enemy is dug deep into the hillside. Much like the serpente arrotolato. They lay with machine death. We have the advantage of the high ground and crumbled walls. And, since they have already dropped payloads to level the hill, there are all the ruins of archways to hide under. The planes still come but deliver no longer.


The enemy, they carry surprise with them. They have the fog that crawls the mountains edge and makes it impossible to see even shadowed figures. The rain comes in short downpour and is black with ash, as dark as the storm clouds.


There is no food in this place. No animale. No slaughter to roast over bountiful fires. The only water comes from the rain that drips from the splintered plaster of the roof. But this water that drips, none drink. No one dares break to sip at the falls. All are complete focus. As a result our lips are dried and cracked.


What that can do to a man. No sleep. No sleep for fear of never waking. It invites madness. Follia. War is no longer about victory. Nor is it about surrender. Nor is it life or death. It is simply war. A battle we fight with our own wounded minds. Fought in each little fessura. Fought until bloody. Bloody like the mine own hands. Calloused and scarred. Torn unnaturally by the ruinous landscape.


The Monte Cassino.

Our grave.


A monastery at the summit of a mighty hill. The home of holy men. It has been reduced to brace and macerie. The dusted ash was swept by the breeze into thick walls of dust.


It was but a fortnight ago when Geraldo was found in the sacristy, which served dual purpose as a confessional. He was slumped over with drool-blood dripping from his cold lips. The back of his head was gone. His rifle had fallen a short distance from his right hand. We took him down off of the wooden box seat. After carrying him outside, to an oasis of patched dirt amongst the stone, we dug. We dug silently in the dry and stale air.


That night was one of tranquillo. We were posted beneath what was once the opening to the Nave of the monastery. We sat around the fire, the fire ablaze in the center, each avoiding the others vacant stare. Outside the thunder roared, a ruggito del leone.


Of course we all wish for vittoria dolce. Just as we wish for our comfortable beds and our comfortable women. And the comfort that the afternoon breeze gives, like the solace of welcoming arms. After all, they are one in the same. And so is everything else.


During the ambush that rushed us here, this place looked to be sanctuary but now…now, I believe this is where we die. Perhaps it looked that certain way because of it’s santita, it’s holiness. I suppose anywhere would look this way if one were chased up by rattling morte. We cannot escape this. And so we lay to wait for the inevitable.


It’s either this or the desolate cracked wasteland that the hill has become. One could attempt to scramble down the mountainside. And if the enemy snipers were asleep they might even make it to the base of it. But after that there is nothing. The only cover, the only protection out there are the charred twigs that were once trees. Nothing would be better. Then it would be a clean death. Quick.


And now as they march up the stony hill, I wait to see the glint of sun off of their fucili. Finally, it’s there in front of me. I squeeze the trigger with gentle deliberation. But there is nothing. No great boom, no smoke. Why won’t my damn hands work? It’s this dannato malfunzionamento fucile! Why?!


And still they charge.


They are now close enough. Their hands work. A burning pain in my stomach. Sharp molten steel cuts through my spill’d guts and I knew at that moment what we had been fighting for. It was overwhelming. An iron taste, bloody at the mouths corners. It began to rain. The rain touched my dry lips and eroded face. The ruvidezza of my hands washed into softness. Again, the thunder like the ruggito del leone.


I lay and looked into sun and then closed my eyes. When I opened them again in the clouded sun was the face of God and he said nothing.

© 2010 Marlowe147

Author's Note

There is a bit of italian.

serpente arrotolato: coiled snake
animale: animals
follia: madness
fessura: crevice
brace: ash, cinder
macerie: rubble
tranquillo: tranquil
ruggito del leone: roar of the lion
vittoria dolce: sweet victory
santita: holiness
morte: death
fucili: rifles
dannato malfunzionamento fucile: goddamn broken rifle
ruvidezza: roughness

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this was really beautiful, it captured the broken spirit and disillusion of a tired soldier, and i liked the italian thrown in there for added effect. and i loved the last sentence. great short story.

Posted 14 Years Ago

I really enjoyed this and learning some itallin.
This is wonderful

Posted 14 Years Ago

I absolutely loved the images in this piece. I felt as if I was really there. Great work. Oh, and thanks for the Italian translation! XD

Posted 14 Years Ago

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3 Reviews
Added on May 5, 2010
Last Updated on May 5, 2010



Waltham, MA

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