Senior Primary (Years 5 & 6)
FAW NSW Hilarie Lindsay Short Story competition for Australian School Children.
by Isaac Robinson
I glanced up at the cloudy sky, the sun illuminating the evening in a vibrant pink. The first of a myriad of stars began to appear as soldiers ruffled anxiously around me, ready for what was to come. You could almost lose yourself in the beauty of it…until you remembered what you were here to do. On my broad shoulders perched a smooth wooden musket, my only life-line. My uniform muddy and stained, clung to my body as rain bucketed down upon me. Bringing me back to reality, the whistle screamed and pierced the air like the crack of a whip.
I gripped the blackened wet earth, trembling, and pulled myself over the trench wall. My knuckles ghostly white with terror. While bullets flew past my head, centimetres away from what would be a certain kill. Even through the haze and clouding smoke of the battle, it was impossible to mistake the terror on my face. I stood perfectly still, wide-eyed as soldiers fell like puppets being cut from their strings. Limp and lifeless. Some still with smiles etched on their colourless faces, a last laugh. Screams and howls fought an endless battle, hungrily devouring the life and hope that had once engrossed the faces of many young men. The wind split in two as bombers sped overhead leaving a trail of destruction in their wake. Eyes darted to the sky in fear and anticipation. A final act of curiosity before their limbs were ripped from their bodies.
Still… I stood rooted to the spot, my courage betraying my body. My eyes darted around the battlefield, oblivious to the war that raged around me. All the bodies that lay there, lifeless, friend and foe alike, were young. The ground thick with their blood. They were much too young. Too young to fight in a war they didn’t even believe in. Some were children, at least the age of my younger brother Henry. He would be sitting at home now talking enviously at the dinner table of my great adventure, while my parents smiled their hollow smiles, unsure whether I would come home. Scared of a knock on the front door, yet still hopeful, despite the inevitable. I wish I could turn and run. From the pain. Run from death. So that maybe I might get home to my family. Without warning, a searing, burning pain shot through my thigh.
I stared down at the large, gaping hole left where the bullet pierced my skin. I fell with a thud to the ground, as terror consumed me and my head spun madly. The blood continued to spill, endlessly and uncontrollably. Though my mother had been a nurse, I had never been able to cope with blood. Not a great thing when you go to war. Yet still, my instincts kicked in and I ripped the fabric from the right arm of my uniform using my teeth. With no time to waste, I quickly tied the fabric around my leg and tightened it enough to stop the blood. It would work but not for long. Slowly, I mustered enough strength to push myself out of the mud. I stood over the battlefield, littered with bodies. Silence had won against all else. Yet slowly, out of the mud a figure emerged.
The silhouette stood several paces in front of me. Clutching his shoulder, he stumbled to the ground once again. That’s when I caught sight of his crimson red uniform. The enemy. Trembling, I reached for my musket and pulled it off my back. A weapon they had given to thousands of soldiers, who didn’t even know how to use, let alone take a life with one. It, in its own right was the messenger. Yet here I was pointing it at a man who could have easily been me. What would Henry think of me now? Would he be excited? Or disappointed in me even giving thought to such an act of cruelty? Though, if I waited too long this man would pull his gun on me and I would never get home to hear Henry out. I must survive!
Slowly…. Shaking, I pulled up the musket and aimed the barrel directly at his head. As he drew to full he only just caught sight of me, his deep brown eyes stared directly into my own, piercing me like a blade. The man finally came to a realization, closing his eyes as a tear dribbled down my chin and fell to the ground with a splash. All the while my finger pressed down hard on the trigger and a loud crack echoed around the silent plain, as the sun melted away into the horizon.
* * *