BOOM! He woke breathing fast and deep. Dust was in his mouth, making it impossible to swallow without the feeling of thumb tacks being poured down his throat. He looked up at the gray colorless sky, the trenches towering over him as if he were in the grave. The walls seemed as if they continued to grow on and on without end. Even the sky spiraled up, like it was being pulled into some strange infinity just beyond those gray clouds. He could see dust blowing over the top of the trench walls and noticed the barrel of his colt poking barely over the edge. What had happened to the rest of his squad? What about…

BOOM! With this, he burst to his feet like a race horse leaving the gate. He looked around but all he saw were those damned dirt walls, those colorless dirt walls. Oh how he wanted to climb out just to feel the autumn breeze, or the brief flicker of pain as a sniper picked him off, anything. He felt numb from the chest down, yet he was still able to stand and walk, even though it was only in circles. His chest burned with fear.

BOOM! This one struck the roots of his nerves. The impact it had on him was crushing, yet he stood tall. How? His ears weren't working right. One side of his head was ringing horribly and the other heard nothing but the distant whistle of bombs and the low boom of the impact. He covered his ears and closed his eyes, trying to escape this hell. His head pounded as he leaned against the grave’s wall. Then he saw it. Oh God have mercy he saw it! Lying over the edge of the wall and into the trench was some thing, smiling. He was smiling! Half his chest was gone and his arm was below him, but he still smiled and stared with empty eyes and real hatred. God that smile! He was a predator who'd cornered his prey and decided to toy with it. Staring with those hollow soulless eyes, he stared right back at him. He stared for what seemed like hours at that mangled shell of a man. His eyes were cloudy, yet he could still feel the piercing judgement the thing had towards him. He was alive and that man was not, and both were jealous of the other.

BOOM! He screamed. He screamed until his throat was full of rusted nails. He screamed and screamed and stared. He stared death right in the face and screamed. He would not be taken by this thing. No one but himself was allowed to take his own life, his own soul. He pulled out his knife from his belt and pressed the side of it to his neck. The cool steel calmed his burning skin. He pressed lightly, then slowly pushed more. The soothing chill became a sharper pain with each second. In a moment his head cleared and he felt at peace. He would wake from this nightmare with one quick motion. He wasn't afraid of the smiling man anymore, he was really his friend, soon. Just one more second.

BOOM! Everything went black as his head fell forward and slammed the ground. His left shoulder cracked and he felt nothing in his arm. He felt a sharp pain in his right eye. Blood starting to pour down his face. His knife dug into his face and eye like a rabid dog tearing into a helpless rabbit. His head felt as if it were being compressed with immeasurable pressure. It would burst at any moment. He could see nothing but muddled shades of grays, browns, and blacks in his left eye. Oh God this is it, this is the terrible end. Why didn’t he just go blind? Why would God damn him with one eye cut deep and another that could never focus again? He looked around, but saw nothing but gray and brown blurs. His head hurt in every corner. He breathed in the sulfur dust which tormented his lungs, denying them the ability to fully expand. He pushed himself up to his knees like an injured child. The bombs were still falling all around him, yet none would show him mercy and strike him. “I’m here!” he thought, “Yes, right here! Please.” It slowly began to rain as if God was weeping for all the death and hatred caused by His own children. We all knew we weren’t his children anymore, if we weren’t already.

As the cadence of the bombs slowed to a halt, he sat there, completely alone and unknown to the world, and cried. A memory was flickering to life in his mind, one that filled his emptiness with a brief, but somewhat pleasant, sense of nostalgia and longing. He was with his mother in church. It was the first time, too, and he had just turned eight years old. The small church was hot and smelled of fresh Autumn leaves. He remembered his strange fascination with one statue. It was of a cloaked woman kneeling to pray with a sword thrusted into her back and out of her chest. Strange. The preacher’s words he couldn’t understand in the memory, but one phrase rang through his mind: deliverance. Deliverance. Deliverance from here. Deliverance from evil. As the memory faded and he returned to grim reality, he repeated the word in his head, “Deliverance.”

A hand suddenly yanked him to his feet and he heard someone yelling from miles away. He looked at the man, but saw nothing but a blur of colors still. They walked through the labyrinth which was man's’ unforgiving grave. They turned left and right, but he soon lost track of any direction. Tell him you were travelling up towards the sky and he’d hold it to truth like the words came from God Himself. They walked for hours, days, miles, centuries, decades it seemed. Nothing made sense to him, except the fact that he was moving to somewhere. They soon reached an incline and he felt that slight breeze he’d wished for for so long. He’d made his way out of the grave like a maggot becoming a fly. They hauled him into a truck, where he collapsed and finally fell unconscious. He dreamt of nothing. When he finally awoke, he was lying in a hospital bed. His sight improved in his left eye, and he could see brief flashes of shapes in his right. Both couldn’t focus on anything directly though. He laid in that bed for days, then weeks, maybe months. He heard snippets of distant conversations from doctors and learned he had only dislocated his shoulder and sprained the arm. So why was he there for so long? Had they forgotten about him, or simply not cared at all? It didn’t matter, he paid no attention to the few nurses and doctors that interacted with him.

One night, when he was finally allowed to leave the bed on his own, he clumsily made his way to a bathroom. He washed his face and soothed his burning throat with water that tasted more like lead than actual water. After this, he hesitated to look up, for he knew he would be looking someone he’d long since forgotten about straight in the face, someone who had died back in that towering grave. He soon gathered enough courage to face this stranger and looked up. In the mirror he saw himself, nothing but a muddled blur with black lines scribbled in every jagged way across the stranger’s face.