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The Burden

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The man known only by the name of Smith trudged down the trench. The sound of gun fire was louder than usual even though it was coming from far out of sight. The mud seemed darker and Smith sunk further in it than he had before. Smith had always known that he would have to bear a heavy burden at some point, but this is not the way he had never wished for it to happen. He’d been in the small hell hole for just over two years and had never thought the he could experience anything worse than killing a man face to face the way he has.

The Boy was a 16 year old school boy thrown into an adult’s world of killing and dying by the delusion that he could fight for his country, make new friends and begin his rite of passage to manhood earlier than his fellow peers. Even from day one in the hell hole everyone knew that he wasn’t going to last long, including himself. His first run into no man’s land was by far the most horrifying time of his life till that point, watching man kill man knowing full well that each would have family and friends back home.

The Boy didn’t remember much of his run across that accursed place or at least didn’t want to but what he did he has never spoken of or at least never got the chance to, as it was only written and then forgotten. Unfortunately for The Boy he survived his first run and was a part of the one of the first successful pushes at the enemy by his side.

Smith could hear the cries and screams of men from over the top, dying for what now seemed to him, a now pointless cause. He no longer understood why he or any other man was fighting like this, for this ‘war’ as they called. What was is it we are fighting for, he had thought many times that night, until he was unable to think of anything else, at least until it was no longer possible for him to think, until it was no longer possible for him to kill.

During his first and last sprint across the plain of death he saw it was filled with bodies, parts of which were almost unrecognizable unless you stopped and looked. But The Boy didn’t stop; he kept running, although out of the will to live or to distract him from the horrors none would ever know. The Boy made it to the enemy trench, one of the happiest moments of his life for those few seconds of rest before the fight began. His eyes saw Blood and gore, he heard screams and wails, he smelt death and decay, tasting rotting and mud in his mouth and what he touched when he landed was what he hoped was mud. The fight was long and horrifying; The Boy watched in awe as he saw humans attack and slaughter each other without hesitation or care. He suddenly hated them, all of them, friends and enemies. He couldn’t understand why they would do this and for a moment he wanted to kill them all because he hated them so much for what they were doing to each other and to themselves.

It was there that Smith had first seen that boy, young and in his prime sitting there sobbing while men murdered each other around him. It was at that moment that something clicked in Smith, something The Boy had known since he first started his run across the field of death. For those few seconds of staring at that boy, Smith completely changed his view of the past two years.

A change a sixteen year old never needed to make, a change that could alter everything but no one was willing to make. A change that made him question why he killed so many people, why was he doing this. From that split second Smith vowed to never kill another person and went to hold The Boy, throwing their weapons aside. The Boy silently promised to never kill as well, but never kept that promise.

After the bodies were cleared and the blood had dried and stained the mud The Boy and Smith sat in a small enclave while the other men celebrated at the decimation of their foes. The Boy and Smith never said a word. Nothing could be said, as each one knew exactly what the other was thinking. Smith eventually left, for a reason unknown even to him, leaving the young boy to fight his own inner demons. After what seemed days The Boy reached for a pen and paper he had always kept so that at any time he could write to his parents if something were to go wrong.

He wrote about his experience; his run across no man’s land, what he felt as he landed in the trench of the enemy, but most of all what he saw in the people fighting. He described in great detail what he saw and had believed to have seen. Some seemed true but some was different. He wrote about seeing the true demon within the people fighting. One he claimed to have a white face and no eye lids cackling as he tore apart men with a knife, grinning with the most evil smile not possible by any man. The Boy may have been on the verge of insanity but he truly did see just how mad a killer could become.

Smith continued his hard trek through the blood red trench getting redder and redder with each step. Men moved out of the way never saying a word for they knew what had happened and knew that no words could make a difference. Smith finally understood why so many people had been sent from the war back home with ‘shellshock’, but he knew that no word could describe what he and The Boy now knew. Smith had never bothered to learn the name or rank of those who commanded him, as they had never earned his respect. Once Smith had reached the office of his current commanding officer he then placed his burden on the floor and then handed The Boy’s note to him.

The officer acted as if this had happened many times before. As he read the note his expression was at first like he was doing his normal routine. That changed very quickly and when he looked at Smith with a look of understanding. The officer asked only one question, “You don’t intend on going home do you?” Smith stood there not moving with the exception of a slight shake of his head. They say the gun shot from the officer’s pistol could be heard through every trench, through every house and for a moment everyone who heard it understood, even for a moment, the pain The Boy and Smith felt in their last moments of existence.

Note from Author

This was originally a creative writing task, so it is highly recommended not to copy this as it is in the education database. SO DO NOT PLAGIARIZE, thank you.( although narrating is perfectly fine)

Credited to Elyh "Chip" 

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