Part 1: In matters of War, Truth, and the Illusion of choice

Part 1: In matters of War, Truth, and the Illusion of choice

A Story by words at play

A story I wrote that ended up being far longer than I originally thought. So, knowing no human has the attention span to read it all, I split it up into four parts. This being the first. Thank you!

"Right across the river. The whole f*****g army. Every single one of those.. things." Greig spat out the last word with anger and disgust. The fear he tried to hide slipped between the cracks and could be heard behind his bravado. The room hung heavy with the words, they weighed on each mans shoulders. A cloak of iron, tearing the thin strands of hope that kept them up and moving.
“Your orders are to cover the main force's retreat and aid civilian evacuation in any way you can. The retreat will be in full effect tomorrow at nine hundred hours. General Adam Tinseck gives you his greatest thanks for the service you've done your country and knows in the future that..." Mern cut off the messenger, a thin boy of what looked like 16. The military was recruiting them young these days. According to law they weren't allowed to enlist anyone younger than 18, but lately recruitment had been conveniently overlooking the age of enlisting soldiers.
"Save your breath."  He sounded exhausted and a grim understanding resonated in his words. They'd be covering a retreat they wouldn't survive to join. They all knew it. Once word had reached them that the entire army was lying in wait not even five miles from where they were everyone knew they had to leave. Three platoons worth of soldiers against the whole of their forces. It was a miracle they hadn’t already swept into the town and brushed them aside like a few annoying flies. The plan was to attempt to evacuate as many people as possible, military and civilian alike, before the impending attack crushed them. They had already been sending away high importance personnel and innocents under cover of dark.  When they made it obvious that they were leaving the enemy would come roaring in and kill everything they could get within their crosshairs. Once the boy had laid three tenuous knocks on the doorframe and they'd seen the flimsy paper clutched tightly in his thin hands, four hearts went cold in unison.
"No, Let the kid read it. Let's hear what the general has to say to dead men." Daenth held his rifle between his legs as he inspected the inner workings of the weapon, twisting it around and checking every possible angle as he sat on a blown out wall. He had looked at the messenger boy once as he shuffled through the threshold and unfurled his paper to give the men their orders. Only that one time, then he gave his attention back to the rifle he cradled in his arms. Though now he had a reason to check the firing mechanism and double-check the clip release. Preparation. Nobody knew he was even listening until that moment "I want to hear this future he's talking about, and how the F**K it relates to us. So please, finish."
 The messenger’s young face took on a sickly white hue and he looked around the room for someone to tell him to ignore the angry man and leave. The silence answered him well enough. His voice shook as he read on.
"a-and knows i-in the future that you will continue to serve your country with such infallible courage." The boy clenched up like someone waiting to be beaten.  
When Mern gently laid a hand on the boys shoulder he jumped away like it was a rattlesnake instead of a brother-in-arms. With an embarrassed face the boy regained his composure.  
Mern made a small laugh "Keep those reflexes boy. They'll keep you alive out here." He got a quick nod in response and the boy headed for the door at just under a run.
"I suppose you'll be running with the rest of them, wont you messenger boy?"  Daenth slid off the wall, his rifle clanging against the concrete. The messenger had just laid a hand on the doorframe when he heard. If someone in the room could have seen his thoughts they would've seen the burning impulse to sprint away from the room flare up and envelope his every synapse, then they would've seen the splash of duty and discipline quench that impulse just enough for him to turn around and answer the question.
“If I'm ordered t-to sir." the boys face was so pale he looked liable to collapse
Something between a growl and a laugh came from Daenth's throat "If you're ordered to. You know where orders get you?" He had walked across the blown out room until he stood inches from the sixteen year old. He snaked an arm around the boys shoulder and made a grand sweeping gesture of the room around them. 
It was corner goods store that kept itself tenuously afloat until the war settled into the area and a stray tank shell blew a hole in one of the outer walls. Soon after that a messenger, not unlike the one in Daenths grasp, hid behind the counter after being seen by a patrol. A few tense seconds passed and he heard a small metallic clinking noise then saw a grenade roll next to him. That’s how another of the walls was blown out. Now all the store had left to offer its customers was a view of the river with the army massing on the other side and just enough cover to convince yourself you were safe. 
 "Right here." He continued "Being told you're gonna die by some little kid who craps himself at the sight of his own shadow. Yet HE'S the one who gets to live while you have the honor of dying for your country." His face made it clear that the words honor and country left a bad taste in his mouth. 
"He's not the one who gave the order Daenth. Lay off." Braide finally spoke up. By rank Braide was commanding officer of the squad. The previous four had all died, each in slightly more gruesome ways than the last. Braide had survived for ten days, gaining on the current record of thirteen.
"Oh no. Of course he's not. He'd never have the guts. He's fine with hiding behind his precious orders. At least the boy had the guts to come here. The goddamn general didn’t even have the balls to do that. Had to send his f*****g carrier pigeon." He turned to face Braide. Braide had been leaning up against one of the two remaining walls when the boy walked in. He was staring over the water at the mass waiting for them on the other side and when the orders started being given it took him a moment to look away. Once Daenth began to close in on the boy he stood up a little straighter and shifted his own rifle to his side, laying a hand on it. Now he was completely off the wall with his rifle resting tense in both hands.
It didn’t go unnoticed.
Daenth smiled, bitter and angry. "What are you gonna do? Shoot me? Go ahead. Not like it matters, now does it? In fact why don’t you shoot all of us? It'd save them over there a few bullets."
"I plan on costing them more than a few bullets when they come my way." Grieg growled from the other side of the room. "For all this talk of cowards you seem eager to roll over and die."
Daenth looked over him with a calculating eye, as a lion looks at a gazelle deciding the quickest way to chase it down and kill it. Grieg met his gaze, unflinching with smoldering anger. For a few seconds their eyes locked and the world stopped. The boy stuck in Daenths arm let his legs go limp and ducked beneath his grip. He bolted for the door but was caught by his necklace after two steps.
Daenth broke his eye contact with Grieg and yanked the boy back viciously. A horrid retching noise came from his throat as dogtags closed around his neck momentarily.
"No, not eager. I have no say in my dying or not. But what I do have a say in is how I die. And I don’t want to die defending gutless b******s like this." On the word gutless he threw the boy to the floor. He hit the ground with a heavy thud and stayed there, only moving to curl up into a ball. 
"What the hell does this prove, huh?" Merns voice was cold and hard with the anger that can only come from being helpless. "That you can scare a kid shitless? The only thing you've proven is that when faced with pressure, s***s like you lose their mind."
"You're right. Words don’t prove a thing." Daenth brought up his gun and cocked it in one smooth motion. The gun clicked with effortless malice. 

© 2012 words at play

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Added on October 17, 2012
Last Updated on October 17, 2012
Tags: War, Choice, fiction, drama, introspection, humanity


words at play
words at play

The fields of justice, CA

If ever there was a man who could write a world into existence, please direct me toward him. I could use some lessons. more..