It has been pouring rain for hours! Men could notice it due to the large number of earthworms that has come out. Temporary gun-powered lighting allowed them to observe the little creatures. The earthworms were escaping from water; nevertheless, some of them have been swimming desperately in little puddles formed by the footprints of hundreds of boots. The puddles looked like seals stamped on letters made of the ground of mysterious maps… urgent massive letters that came but will never reach their multiple addressees. Addressees who didn’t ask for this notification.
It was twisted fun to see the pitiful earthworms try to get out of their temporary cells while the bomb tremors provoked scaled-down landslides from the walls of the footprints and made them fall back there. It was exactly the way those men felt. It was easy to feel insignificant at war with destiny and someone else’s will.
The night sky was lit every now and then by bomb fire. Soldiers were expected to be brave, emotionally unalterable. When the explosions got closer, old soldiers stood still, some moved around to kill anxiety while checking damages, but rookies cried with shame or cried out “no more”, like crying children being bitten in punishment for their actions. It was hard to be strong within a horror play written by ignorant sadistic politicians.
“Dude, it’s been a long time far from home, you know.”
“18 months so far…”
“Really?! That means that I just got here, 10 weeks!”
“I see. Where are you from?”
“Hey guys, shut up. Some of us need some rest and want to sleep a little. Would you mind?”
There was silence for a moment.
“Sorry, I interrupted you. I didn’t mean to… you know, disturb you. It’s been a long day, and I’m guessing it’ll be a long night as well. Do you have any cigarettes?”
“Sure, no problem. We understand. At this point, everybody is picky.”
“Picky? Ha-ha. You picked up a good term.”
“I think what we need are a shower and a beer.”
“A beer or two!”
All of them chuckled. Not only the heavy atmosphere didn’t allow them to enjoy their chat, but also the sound of rain was too loud to listen to each other. The conversation was cut again.
It has been a long day, indeed. The mixture between blood and mud has printed its smell in the trenches. It was like if an international brand had prepared the latest fashionable scent for soldiers with the name of “Sudden Death”, wives and fiancées will have their hearts broken, guaranteed!
Another bomb flew freely through the crying dark sky to light the men’s conversation one more time.
“For God’s sake! When is this insane rain going to stop? It’s driving me crazy.”
“Yeah, it’s getting on my nerves.”
“Insane? The rain? Then you don’t know what madness is, pal. Just stay longer and you’ll see.”
“Yeah, Corporal, he’s damn right! You’re blaming the only thing that has washed our sweat, it’s finally brought some comfort to our existence. Don’t you think so?”
“Whatever you say, Sarge.” Then he said to himself: “I’m just too tired to argue. I just want this to come to an end.”
Another bomb hit the end of the trench this time. A couple of privates died instantly. Their limbs were thrown everywhere by the blast wave. A minute of confusion. No one got used to explosions despite the full practice they have had for months.
“How many killed?”, someone asked.
“Only two souls this time.”
“What were their names? Do you know?”
“Does it matter?”
“Yeah, man. It makes no difference…”
“You’d better not know names… there’s no use in that.”
“I guess you’re right. Poor fellows!”
“All right, all right. Everybody quiet… understood? That’s an order.”
Men froze both their chatting and their emotions once again. Soldiers have learned how to frost hearts. Maybe that was their way to avoid fear and despair or maybe that was their way to keep their hearts safe and healthy for their families back home. Watching war slaughter was no man’s sport; besides, it killed their minds, too.
A man tried to light a cigarette to calm himself down. Too much rain! He brooded over his immediate reality for an instant.
“Hey, Sarge!... Sergeant!”
“What now, private?”
“Sarge, I believe you should talk to the Lieutenant… you know, we must do something.”
“Now you’re the one giving me orders, right?”
“Sorry, Sarge. I’m just saying… We’re dying here, the enemy is going to destroy us little by little and we’re not even complaining. It makes no sense to me. I mean, I am willing to give my life for my country, not wasting it. I want my soul to go to Heaven, not to be taken by this hell. We must…”
“Sarge, the man is right!”, many men protested in support.
“Mm... Is that what you all think?”
“Quite frankly, Sarge, all of us have the same thoughts.”
“I guess I can talk to him then.”
The sergeant got up and walked slowly toward his lieutenant; in fact, the lieutenant was planning a new strategy with the colonel.
“What’s new in the front, Sergeant?”
“Sir, I have been talking to my men and they…”, the sergeant explained his men’s way of thinking. Their discussion took a while. Finally, the three officers announced to their men that action was going to be taken as soon as it stopped raining. They would attack directly. Every soldier adjusted his helmet and took his rifle and pliers to get ready for the fight.
“All right. Ready? Remember: we’re here to defend freedom. Our nation is counting on us. You are its bravest children and its dearest hope. Nobody dies tonight, nobody retreats. We have work to do, a mission to accomplish. Understood?”
“Sir, yes, sir.”
The Colonel was not known for saying great motivational speeches. After all, he was a military man; he acted like a hand grenade: to the dead point!
“Steady… wait for my signal.” The Colonel looked at both sides. “Steady… on my mark.” He was not quite sure about it. Then he said: “Go and kill those sonofabitches!”
Troops started to move stealthily toward the enemy position, an unknown enemy made of known people. They were moving through the wire obstacles with difficulty. Pieces of flesh cut or bitten by metal. No hope. No freedom. They were shot and killed, one by one. Blood was strongly running everywhere. Their corpses were hanging, nailed by the wires, like torn flags of world shame that built nonsense history. They were hanging like wet clothes waiting for the sun to dry them. Those soldiers fought and died because one unwise and greedy man decided to. Their army had no other chance, just to respond to the military attack.
There is no real winning in war: on one hand, the pain of a family when dead soldiers are dressed up as heroes in the defending army; on the other hand, just profit for a few ones because soldiers of the attacking army are just a workforce for cynical rich individuals who want more power.
Back on the battlefield…
“We must regain our position. Understood?”
“Sir, yes, sir”, the new troops exclaimed.
*This short story is dedicated to the kind and peaceful people of Tibet.