This is a small piece of what I've been working on, so I know it isn't great. Mostly because there isn't much backstory, at all, but I at least wanted to submit something this week. Sorry for the inconvenience!
There is only one way you will wake up when at war. The sound of gunfire and detonation was what woke Asa. Men in uniform covered in ash and dirt tramped through the mud past her cot. Sergeant Brooks barked orders to Asa’s squadron as they marched.
Asa sat up in her cot, contemplating the situation. She hesitated, then stuffed her wrapped feet into her boots and slipped on her dull green jacket. Positioning her battle helmet on her head, she stumbled to the staff sergeant. As she approached him, he looked her up and down.
“Private Miller,” he said with furrowed brows. Asa stood up straight and saluted.
“Sergeant Brooks. I happened to notice the diminishment of our squadron. It occurred to me to suggest—”
“You will not be joining the squad, Private Miller.”
“But there are only—”
“You will not be joining the squad, Asa.” He gestured to her feet. “You have trench foot, Miller. You can’t go back into combat after only two weeks.”
“But Sergeant, listen. We only have eight troops left. And one of them is stuck in bed all day with trench foot. Sergeant, it’s been two weeks. My feet feel fine. I want to help,” Asa paused. “I need to help.”
Sergeant Brooks chewed on her words for a moment. He sighed. “Fine. But Miller,” he rested his hand on her shoulder. “Please be careful. We need you.” He patted her shoulder and handed her a rifle.
Asa took the gun and smiled confidently, saluting. “Yes, sir!” She hurried to the support trench and found an open spot at the very end. She clambered onto the firestep next to a man with more blood than dirt on his coat and trousers. He wore his helmet unstrapped, letting sit loosely on his head.
It was Kallon.
Long, shaggy hair curled out under his helmet. Though his face was caked with dirt and ash, his bright grey eyes were prominent through the grime.
He barely glanced at Asa. An instant later, Kallon realized who she was and his face lit up. “Asa!” He grinned widely. “Your feet . . .” His eyes dropped to her boots and his elated expression faded to worry.
“Kallon, I’m fine!” Asa laughed and raised her rifle to the parapet of sandbags. She could tell he was concerned for her, but he managed to reduce his portrayal to a modicum and focus on the matter at hand.
Behind the support trench, a gunman hurried into the small concrete building that held a machine gun. Asa squinted under her helmet at their oppressors.
. . .
Asa laid unmoving in the mass of bodies, the stench of blood filling her nose. That smell was all too familiar.
The Keshi had had an unexpected advantage in the War, and Asa's people were on the brink of defeat. How they'd kept going was beyond her, but she would accept what she could get. She looked around with only her eyes, seeing conflagrations of bright red-orange spotting the distant battlefield.
The night sky was further darkened by black, endless plumes of smoke—the continuous gunfire and explosions that fed them destroying everything in their paths. There was no escape. Everywhere she went, the quiet moans of men dying rang war’s harsh song in Asa’s ears, loud and clear. The soldiers were grown men, yet even as they died, they wept and pleaded for their mothers like children.
Asa had barely escaped the enemy’s reconnaissance, finding a fair-sized explosion crater to hide in; holding a heap of crippled corpses, which she now laid in.
The corpses of Squadron Three. Her squadron.
She’d worked hard to bring a friendly spirit along when she joined the infantry. Though her platoon—made up of four separate squadrons—wasn’t all that glad to receive a woman to fight with, her small squadron had always been welcoming. Before the War had gotten to the high demands as it was now, they’d occasionally go on bar nights, getting drunk together at the war camp taverns.
Asa smiled, doing her best to push to the back of her mind the fact that she lay with those same men, now dead and dismembered.
She remained there for hours on end—lingering, trying to portray that she was, in fact, dead. She waited until her muscles were relaxed and her breathing was slow. Then, and only then, did she ever so carefully inspect her surroundings—only slowly moving her head. As she saw nor heard anyone near, she steadily crawled on her stomach out of the crater. Again carefully glancing at her surroundings, Asa continued until she finally made way to a small, crumbled stone building.
She climbed inside and held back a cough. Only three of the walls were still remaining—two of which were also crumbling at the top. The structure didn't have a roof, and was covered in soot and scorch marks.
Asa took the Armalite AR-15 rifle from her back and began her crossing of the battlefield.
. . .
The battle was still in pursuit as the soft glow of the morning sun dusted the mountain peaks. It had only been an hour since Asa left the small stone structure, but she still couldn't find what she was looking for.
She had had to be extra careful. Getting herself caught would defeat the purpose of—
A deep voice sounded from the shadows behind Asa. It was loud and booming, yet somehow soft and comforting at the same time. It was the voice of a commander.
Asa stood there and slowly raised her hands in surrender. She closed her eyes and said a silent prayer that it wasn't who she thought it was.
Maybe I want to die, she thought. This could all be over, I could just sleep . . . I . . . I could—
Just as quickly as she heard the voice, a mind numbing BANG filled the air around her. She flinched, looking down. She was expecting to find blood seeping through her coat, but found nothing. She cocked her head in confusion and turned around to where she'd heard the voice. A man in a crisp grey uniform laid sprawled on the ground ten feet in front of her—dead. Her heart thumped, and she dared glance up.
There in the shadows, she could see the silhouette of a man holding a rifle. An Armalite AR . . .
Asa immediately recognized the figure. It was in the way he held the gun, the way he leaned on one leg more than the other, the way his helmet was carelessly placed on his head with the straps undone.
It was Kallon from her squadron. It was her life-long love.
And he was alive.