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Dash'd With Wandering Isles of Night

Dash'd With Wandering Isles of Night

A Story by Anor

"Wake up."

I don't want to.

"Please, wake up! Please, please, please!"

I'm not listening.

"Damn it, why won't you wake up? Please! Just one! I only need one!"

Why are you so loud?

Jack's eye slightly twitched open. He became aware that he lay on his back, and he looked up for the sky. As he found it, he gasped. It was not the clear, blue, vibrant sky that he remembered. A haze of smog eclipsed the light of the sun and lent a hellish look to the atmosphere. Staring into the dismal scene, Jack's other senses came back to him. He heard a dull thudding from far away, and the sounds of sharp gunshots cutting through the dreary world. Then the smell hit him. It was the unmistakeably vile reek of the recently dead, and Jack's mind was suddenly jolted into action.

Thousands upon thousands of recollections flooded his mind, scenes of war, of bloodshed; soldiers marching proudly in bands, great guns firing into the distance, meeting the enemies in battle, being shocked by how afraid they had seemed...

The surge of memories became too much for him to bear, and a sudden impulse caused him to retch, his head lolling sideways. His eyes grew teary from the sudden movement, and he shut them. Opening them barely a second later, he found himself face to face with a corpse. He tried to scream, but it was lost somewhere in his throat and only a small yelp came out. As though triggered by it, there was a sudden flurry of movement from behind him, and a voice called out.

"Who was that? Please! Who was that?"

Jack tried to open his mouth to answer, but the words simply would not come. With immense effort, he managed to move himself slightly upwards, into a sitting position, and a shape came running towards him.

"My God! Blessed God!"

Jack was about to raise his hand in a gesture of greeting, but found himself cut short and breathless as he was pulled into a powerful, desperate embrace.

"Oh God... The Lord be praised. Thank you! Thank you ever so much."

The man was crying, silent tears leaking down his rugged cheeks. Jack felt vaguely that he should be embarrassed, but he pushed away the thought and raised his arms to hug the man back. For some reason, he too needed this moment of brotherhood, of reassurance.

For minutes the two stayed there, the dull thudding of shells falling far away falling on deaf ears, locked in a desperate embrace, the one out of thankfulness that his solitary trial had ended, the other because he was yet too shocked to realize what was happening.

Jack felt the pressure on him loosen, and the man pulled away. His face was dirty, smudged with mud and blood and tears, but there was a light in his eyes that made him seem like an almost holy being. The landscape of his face was dominated by a dazzling smile, made no less sincere by the broken teeth and dirtied lips.

"I can't tell you how glad I am that you're here. I thought everyone was dead." 

"What happened?" Jack was surprised when his voice finally emerged, albeit broken and crackly. "...Were we fighting?"

"We got hit", replied the man. "They caught us off guard, dirty buggers. Shells and gas. It was hell, hell and flame. Everyone was screaming and dying. Everyone died. Except me. And now you. I'm so grateful. I'm so god-damned grateful I could shout!"

Jack took the news in stride, it was all too much to mean anything to him. He slowly turned his head around, observing the new world around him. He was in a trench. The bodies of the dead were littered around him like leaves, and a steady stream of blood meshed with the dirt to form a squelchy, mud-like substance.

Hell? It seems about right

He jolted back to the present situation as the soldier spoke again.

"What's your name?"


"Well Jack, I'm Doyle. And now that there's two of us, we might just be able to work out a plan to escape."

There was a hopeful look in Doyle's grimy face. Jack wondered why the same positive emotions chose not to possess him. It just seemed a bit pointless. Not to hope, of course. Jack had no issue with hope in particular. But to waste time on actually tipping the scale that was so delicately balanced on indifference? It seemed to be a most tragic farce. He dimly wondered when he had begun to think like this. His thoughts had not been so apathetic in the past. Perhaps the attack had startled him into an elevated plane of thought. Was that why the horrendous sights all around him failed to make an impression on him? In that moment, he became self aware.

Amidst the muddy marshes of the dead, within the flames of an unholy battle, sits the philosopher king. He surveys the wounded earth with a weary eye, judging not by emotions that come to man cheap and plentiful, but instead with the divorced apathy that allows for that most beautiful of beings, absolute objectivity.

Doyle did not seem to have noticed the slightly glazed look in Jack's eyes as he dissolved into thought, and spoke again,

"I've been looking around. I don't believe that there's any fighting going on behind our trench. It might be worth the risk if we ran for it." A determination had come into his voice now. It was obvious that he Jack's appearance had provided him with the grit needed to execute the plans he had been making. "What do you think? Should we go for it? Doesn't seem like anybody's going to come and save us."

"Why not?" Jack replied. There was a blankness in his voice which made his words seem even stranger than they should have done. Doyle looked at him strangely for a moment, and then spoke again.

"We should take whatever we can before we go. Don't have any idea how far we might have to run before we get to friendly folks. We... We should probably take from... from-" He gestured towards the corpses timidly. 

"Loot the bodies." The tone was there again. Doyle glanced at him, askance, but then nodded.

"Yes. Exactly. We'll leave in some time. Take only what's necessary. I'll meet you here. Good luck, Jack. If God preserves us we may just get through this.

He set off towards the piles of the dead, Jack's eyes trailing him until he disappeared among the fallen. He then turned and began to coldly sift through the bodies nearest him, searching them with surgical precision.

Within an hour's time, Jack and Doyle were at the appointed area again, ready to leave.

Doyle opened his mouth to speak, but Jack's voice unexpectedly cut him off.

"There haven't been any shells for a while. Either the fighting's stopped or they're moving closer to us. If that happens, we're dead."

Doyle worriedly furrowed his eyebrows, "Be that as it may, I don't think we have anything to do except stick with our old plan. We're a bit short on options here."

"Why are we trying to escape?" The words hovered in the air moments after they had been spoken.


"You said we were pressed for options. Why don't we fight?"

"Jack... There's two of us. If we charge in there we'll just get killed. There's no point."

"You became a soldier, didn't you? You enlisted."

"Yes..., but that's differe-" Jack cut him mid-sentence.

"-Why is it different? Your duty is to fight. Queen and Country. If you're going to have ideals, what's the point of betraying them the moment something becomes shaky? It seems rather pointless."

Doyle looked strangely at Jack's face, with an unreadable expression.

"I came to fight, but not to die."

"You came here fully expecting to die. Nobody goes to the front lines with high hopes. It's only by a freak of nature we're still alive."


"-No, it's not. There's no difference." Jack felt something inside him rise as he continued his brutal speech. Was it pleasure? Had this battle given him a sadistic edge?

"If you continue to run now, you'll be a coward. And you'll be a traitor. Is it worth it?"

Doyle grimaced sourly, and then, in a voice dripping with barely restrained rage, he replied. "Yes. You couldn't let this just be an escape, could you?"

Jack smiled, the first time since before the attack, and recited : 

"The very source and fount of Day
Is dash'd with wand'ring isles of Night"

Doyle looked on at him, and a sudden grin appeared on his face.

"You know what? I really don't care. It doesn't matter what you say, does it? We're still escaping."

"If you insist."

Their eyes met, and neither could understand the other.

Doyle and Jack were sprinting frantically through the shells and the guns and the smoke. Jack's prediction had turned out to be correct, and they now ran for their life through the hellish wasteland.

"I can see a regiment!" Doyle shouted, pointing wildly in the distance as he ran.

Jack followed his finger, and saw a British regiment about a quarter of a mile away. Could they hold out that long?

"We can make it, Jack! Damn it, we've come too far to stop now!"

A bullet whizzed behind them, and there was a loud crack as it struck Doyle in the shoulder. He screamed agonizingly and fell to the ground.

"Jack!" His voice was a whimper, and Jack turned and saw him. Blood poured out of his now useless arm, and Doyle could barely pull himself to his feet. "Help me."

Jack was dimly aware of the hostile troops closing in, and his sudden lack of time became pressing. "Please..." Doyle's voice cracked pathetically.

He looked up at Jack, and there was a gleam in his eyes again. He truly expected that he would be helped, that they would reach safety together. It was possible, of course. Probable, even. Doyle was looking at Jack with an expectant sort of comradeship in his face. Perhaps he was remembering how they had embraced when they first met each other in the trench. Jack saw it in his mind as though it had happened aeons ago.

*I'm afraid not...*

Doyle held out his hand. "Come on. We can do this!"

Jack gave him one last, lingering look, and then turned away and began to walk, slowly picking up speed.

Doyle's face contorted with fear as he realized the futility of his situation. "Jack! Please! From one soldier to another. If you leave me here I'll be killed! We were the last ones! "

Jack turned one last time, and spoke in a bitter, cutting tone.

"And do you really suppose that I care?"

Perfect. That was perfect.

© 2013 Anor

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Added on November 28, 2013
Last Updated on November 28, 2013



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