Day After

“Adesciâséi amîgi.” Evans opened his eyes, Zwev rolled out in front of him, letting the flickering light from Tiscornia’s candle in. Evan’s crawled out and grabbed his rifle, leaning against the trench wall. He looked through his pockets for a little dried meat to chew on. Leaning against the wall for stand to, he tried to find anything familiar in the landscape, but the artillery barrage had rendered it utterly alien. The terrain, which before at least had a neat looking trench cutting through, was now completely pock marked

The stand to, normally marked by at least some short bursts from a machine gun, was completely silent. No one spoke. After the stand to was finally over, Lieutenant Simmons called a meeting. The remains of the platoon trudged to a small open space in the communication trench.

“We had a tough day yesterday. I’m very proud of y’all. To start this meeting, I’d like to read my list of out comrades killed or wounded yesterday,” Lieutenant Simmons pulled a list out of his breast pocket, “Lance Corporal Jennifer Green, Sergeant Virginia Griffith, Corporal Ellen Davis, Lance Corporal Chelsea Stanhope, Lance Corporal Michelle Stoneman, Lance Corporal Hugh Rogers, Privates Hannah Cain, Nicole Alden, William Frankland, Lambert Renoir, Sam Cook, and Kimberly Barnes. They will be sorely missed. But their deaths were not in vein, we held the line. Most of us have fought together in many battles, but I’m sure this was one of the roughest attacks we’ve endured. So pray for those who were injured, that they may return to our ranks, and pray for the families of those who now with God.”

The Lieutenant put the list back in his pocket and paused for a moment, “Today’s work will be light. As you might have seen, we have another company taking over watch for us today and tomorrow. So we can focus on repairing the trench as best as we can. I also need a volunteer to carry the mail and act as my runner until I can get a replacement.”

It was quiet for a moment until Zwev raised her hand, “I can sir.”

“Thank you Private Zakrzewska. I also need two soldiers to go back to Regiment and get some ammunition pallets and wood for duckboards.” A few hands raised. Lieutenant Simmons looked over the group, “Head and Nazzari… Alright. That’s about it. Head and Nazzari, y’all can get down to regiment now. Zakrzewska, can you come over to me. Everyone else, report to your Team Leaders and get to work.”

The platoon split up and Evans went to Sergeant Campbell. Sighing, he unclipped the shovel from his belt, “So… We are taking the right end of the trench. We need to dig eight feet down, install the duckboards, then build up the fire step and loopholes. Three hours on one hour off. Newey, you can take the first hour off. Evans, you next. Then Morgan. Then Hardin. Then Me. Restart from there. Alright, let’s go.”

Evans grabbed his shovel and started digging. He tried to think about home, but he couldn’t really remember it anymore. He could think of names and faces, but he couldn’t really think of anything besides the superficial.

Morgan started to sing, “Oh, hey, who’s that soldier boy?”

Hardin and Campbell joined in, “That soldier boy marching down the square. Looking so fit and nice, who’s that soldier boy?”

A few Vledscan shells rushed over head. They burst about a hundred meters behind the trench. Evans had learned how to identify where a shell was going to hit. And whose shell it was. Only the fifth day in the trenches. He tried to imagine what soldiers like Tiscornia had been through. How had he not… Evans tried to shut off his thoughts. Just think of the now. Dig down at the beginning of each verse, toss with the end of the verse. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat.

The clay sand was tough. The shellfire had softened it a little, but not enough. He was glad he started off digging, to take his mind off the war. The fighting. The death. His shovel struck something rubbery. Maybe a buried tire. He bent over to grab it and stopped. A hand was reaching up from the dirt. Evans dry heaved. What little food he had in him then came up.

“Oi, Evans, you gotta grab on and yank it out. It’s probably not attached to anything.”

Evans vomited again and stood up. He reached down and gripped the hand as tight as he could and yanked. It stayed in place. He put one foot next to the hand and pulled as hard as he could. He could feel the moment that the arm was ripped from the body it had still been attached to. Evans went flying into the trench wall opposite him. He reached over to Sergeant Campbell and raised the hand, “Sergeant. I…”

Sergeant Campbell nodded, “Toss it over ‘ere. I’ll take care of it.”

With a quick toss, Evans passed the arm to the Sergeant. Sergeant Campbell caught it and threw it far into No-Man’s land.

Evans went back to digging until his hour was up, then ran over to get some water as a few more shells passed overhead, these burst a little closer this time, a few bits of dirt showered the trench. He grabbed a canteen off the ground and uncapped it, his had been destroyed during the attack the day before.

When he finished drinking, he capped it and looked at it. It wasn’t the usual metal one he was used to, it was a leather water sack, with a Vledscan writing branded on it. No matter, it still held water. He took another drink. He looked up at the sky as rested.

Another shell, this one hit pretty close behind. He ducked his head down as the clods of earth and bits of wood showered over him. It seems like this one hit a trench.

Lieutenant Simmons pointed at Evans, “Private, go run back to Fox HQ and see if all our communication trenches are alright.”

Evans clipped the canteen to his leg, shouldered his rifle, and jogged down towards the communication trench. It was still intact, some clods of dirt had fallen in, but nothing to bad. Then he emerged into Company Headquarters. Everything seemed to be in disarray. He saw a table shudder.

Evans pulled out his shovel out of instinct. Something began to emerge from underneath. Blood red, a female figure began to stumble out. It’s clothes in tatters and her hair scattered, it looked like a wraith. It stumbled towards him. Evans was terrified, he drew back his shovel to strike when he realized.

The shovel clattered to the ground, “My God.” Evans reached out and embraced the wraith, “What happened?”

Zwev opened her mouth to talk, but no words came out. Evans walked her over to the table where he sat her down. Unclipping the canteen from his built he poured some water in his hand and splashed some on her face to begin washing the blood off.

She stared off into the distance while Evans washed her. Evans kept trying to ask her questions, but she couldn’t answer. Finally, when Evans had finished cleaning her face, she opened her mouth and coughed out a few pieces of meat, “Captain’s dead.”

Moving onto her hair, Evans prodded her a little more, “What happened.”

She half gestured to the bits of meat, “Vaporized. Shell hit. Boom. I don’t know why I didn’t die. He was right there. Then boom. Gone.”

Evans pulled back and stared into her eyes. She seemed to stare right through him, when she closed her eyes, “Evans… Jim. James. Let’s get married.”

“What?” Evans took a step back from her and cocked his eyebrow.

Zwev started nervously scratching the table, “I don’t want to fight in this war. I can’t take it. If we get married, and I get pregnant, I won’t have to fight. I won’t be in the Army.”

“Um… I… We’ve only known each other for about two weeks. And maybe it gets better?”

Zwev got up and stumbled towards him. She fell to her knees and grabbed his legs, “Please. Fuck, you were flirting with me. The topic was going to come up at some point.”

Kneeling down next to her, Evans patted her on the head, “How about we wait a few days until we’ve been out of the trenches, then we can talk about it again. In the meantime, hows about we go talk to Lieutenant Simmons. And, where’s the Captain’s runner?”

“I’m not going to change my mind. And I don’t know where they went, they were gone when I was here.”

Evans helped Zwev up and they hobbled back to the front line trench. He tried to pay attention to what was going on around him, but he couldn’t. Marriage? They were nineteen, not unheard of, but… He liked her, but this was war. He distracted himself by thinking about Lucy. Where was she? He should probably go look for her when he finishes bringing Zwev back.

At long last, they got to Lieutenant Simmons, who was smoking a cigarette and looking at the Vledscan trench through a periscope, “Sir! Private Zakrzewska has news to report about the Captain!”

As the Lieutenant turned around, Zwev slowly let go of Evans arm and saluted. When Lieutenant Simmons returned the salute, she took a breath in to calm herself, “Sir. I was receiving an order from the Captain, when…” She paused a moment to choke back tears, “Shell hit out of nowhere, He’s dead.”

“Shit.” The Lieutenant wiped his brow and paused for a moment. He drummed his thigh, “Alright, Private Zakrzewska, strip down to your underclothes. That uniform is almost gone. Evans here will go get you a new uniform from Battalion. And Evans, report in the loss to see what we can do about it.”

Evans turned to run as he saw Lieutenant Simmons kneel down next to Zwev and offer her a drink from a flask. The communication trenches seemed to blur by as he ran through. It didn’t seem to take him that long to reach the new Battalion headquarters. He saluted the first officer he saw, the Lieutenant from the day before, “Sir! Permission to speak to the Interim Battalion Commander.”

The Lieutenant returned the salute, “That’s me for the moment. Let me guess, it’s about those shells that hit up in Fox?”

“Yes Sir. Captain Jackson was killed by a shell Sir.”

The Lieutenant nodded, obviously over his head, “Well shit. Um… I guess I’ll tell a runner to go see the Colonel.”

Evans then nodded, “One more thing sir, One of my comrades had most of her uniform destroyed in the blast, and she needs a replacement Sir.”

“Alright Private, Um… I think Regiment has some female uniforms in storage, What size?”

At that moment, Evans noticed Lucy wandering back from Regiment, “That soldier is about the same size as Private Zakrzewska sir.”

Lucy noticed Evans and walked over. She saluted the Lieutenant, “You need me sir?”

“Yes, what unit are you with?”

“I’m the runner for Captain Jackson sir. In fact I’m running a message down to him now,” She tapped one of her pockets, where a letter was poking out.

The Lieutenant put his hands on his hips, “Bad news, Captain Jackson is dead. I need you to run down to Regiment to tell Colonel Darling. I also need you to get a female uniform that is your size from Regiment and deliver it to Second Platoon of Fox Company. Take this Private with you, he’s from Second Platoon. Dismissed.”

The Lieutenant turned around and walked away. Lucy turned to Evans, and let out a little laugh, “So Goldfish, here we are again?”

Evans shrugged and paused for a moment, “You aren’t surprised or sad about the Captain?”

“It’s war, if I cry over everyone I’ve lost, I’ll just be a waste of a person eh?”

“I guess that’s a thought,” Evans looked down the communication trench to Regimental headquarters, “Let’s go.”

Lucy smiled, “Alright Goldfish,” Lucy and Evans headed down the trench. Lucy cocked her head at Evans, “I’m wondering something… Are you the sidekick or am I the sidekick?”

Evans looked at her with an incredulous look as he squeezed through past two soldiers with an ammunition pallet.

“Well, we keep seeing each other and having wacky little adventures with each other, and I’ve seen enough shows to tell that one of us has to be the sidekick.”

Evans laughed a little, “We keep going on wacky adventures? This is the second thing we’ve gone on together. And isn’t this our job anyways?”

Lucy made a face at Evans, “What about the night we first met, Doesn’t that count?”

Evans stopped and stared at her, “The night we first met, you did three things. One, you threatened me with your rifle. Two, you went to the bathroom. And Three, you very crassly asked me if I wanted to have sex with you. I would hardly be bragging about that ‘wacky adventure’”

Lucy laughed and walked towards the nearest officer, “You’re definitely the sidekick.” She then saluted the officer, “Sir, I have a message to give to the Colonel and submit a requisition form.”

The officer returned the salute, “The Colonel’s busy, and I’m just the arty officer. Sergeant Major is in that dugout though.” The officer pointed to a dingy looking dugout entrance.

Lucy and Evans walked towards the dugout and entered. They walked down further until they reached an opening. The Sergeant Major was seated at one of the tables, peeling an apple. He looked up and drove his knife into the table, “What can I help you with?”

Evans spoke up, “Captain Jackson from Fox Company has been killed Sergeant Major.”

“Is that all?” The Sergeant Major took a bite out of the apple and chewed a bit. He looked at Lucy and said, “So what the fuck are you here for? Doesn’t take two to deliver a message.”

Evans nodded and gestured to Lucy, “We need a replacement uniform. Private Chambers is about the same size as the Private who needs the uniform.”

“Why didn’t that Private just come down here herself instead of sending you two?”

“Well, she needs to wash off Captain Jackson Sergeant Major,” Evans fiddled with his bayonet sheath.

“Ah, one of those. I hate blood showers,” The Sergeant Major looked at Lucy and gestured to a crate behind him, “Rummage through that crate, we should have some in there.”

Lucy walked over to the crate and started looking for a uniform that would fit. The Sergeant Major turned to Evans, “So Private, was yesterday your first full show?”

“Yes Sergeant Major, I just joined the regiment about two weeks ago. Graduated Basic the week before that.”

“You picked the wrong fucking time to join the regiment then,” The Sergeant Major laughed, “Haven’t seen shit like this since Tsiv River,” the Sergeant Major leaned back in his chair, “Ah well, the war will probably be over soon, after the Dry Forest Offensive.”

Lucy popped up from behind the Sergeant Major with a slightly large jacket and pants that didn’t quite make it down to her ankles, “Does this fit?”

The Sergeant Major, still looking at Evans replied, “Yep. Now get your uniform back on and skedaddle.”

Lucy shrugged any pulled off the jacket, shirt, and pants. She haphazardly folded them and placed it on the table in front of Evans. She threw her clothes back on and led Evans out of the dugout.

Crawling Back

Evans woke up. He looked around him. The son was bright over him. There was a constant ringing in his ear. He looked down at his body, surprised to find that he was uninjured by the blast.

He crawled up the edge of the shell hole and looked around him. He saw the Vledscan soldiers across the line start sprinting back. The attack had been broken. Evans crawled back down into the hole and watched the retreating men jump over him while being raked with machine gun fire.

One soldier fell into the same shell hole. Panicking, Evans quickly drew his bayonet, which was still attached to his hip. The soldier say this and reached for his rifle. Evans quickly dived forward and drove the bayonet into the soldiers chest and pinned the man into the ground. Ripping the rifle out of the Vledscan soldier’s hands and started beating his head in with the rifle.

After the soldier was thoroughly killed, Evans planted his boot next to his bayonet. Gripping it with both hands, he yanked it out, knocking himself back onto the other end of the shell hole. He wiped the bayonet off on his trouser leg. In one quick motion, he sheathed it and crawled up towards the edge of the shell hole. Evans started making his way back to the Ethslin lines.

About halfway back to the trench, Evans heard a great rushing sound overhead. He looked back just in time to see the first shell burst on the Vledscan line. Figuring that the Vledscans would have their heads down, Evans got up and started sprinting. Two shots whizzed past him as he ran. He then dived into the trench.

Evans turned around to see a rifle pointed in his face, “Holy Shit, Evans.” A hand reached down. Grabbing the hand, Evans was yanked up, and he was staring eye to eye with Corporal Hardin, “How the fuck did you survive that? We all thought you were fucking dead.” Hardin smiled, “Oh, you should go see that pretty Silesian chick you are always talking with. She was bawling after the attack ended.”

Evans jogged down the trench line until he saw Zwev digging the trench line down. He walked over and tapped her on the shoulder. She responded without looking, “Look Lance Corporal, if this isn’t an order, I don’t want to fucking talk right now.”

“Wow, thanks for the promotion Zwev. I’ll be sure to write my parents.”

With a clatter, Zwev dropped her shovel. She turned around wide eyed. For a moment, she just stared at Evans. Lurching forward, she embraced Evans, “I thought you were dead.” She then kissed him momentarily, before realizing what she was doing.

Blushing, she stepped back and picked up her shovel. Tiscornia walked over, “Evans, how the Fuck… I mean… You should probably get back to your rifle team.”

Nodding, Evans walked through the destroyed trench back to Corporal Hardin. He tried to find the dugouts, but they seemed to have been destroyed by artillery fire. He tried not to look at the bodies littered all over the trench. He walked up to Hardin, “I said hello to Zwev… I uh, lost my rifle and shovel during the attack.”

“No shit, you were hit by a fucking artillery shell. I don’t know how the fuck you are even alive. I’m sure we can find some,” Corporal Hardin’s face suddenly turned somber, “We lost a lot of people. From our Rifle team… Stanhope bought it, bayonet. Cain caught some shrapnel in the chest early on, got pulled back. We were lucky, only two. Second Team only has Chilly and two Privates left… Let’s go, see about that shovel. Trench is blown to hell and we need all hands for this.”

Evans nodded and looked for the closest body. He saw Renoir’s lifeless face staring up at the sky. It was strange that he didn’t seem to feel anything. He bent over and unclipped the shovel from the Renoir’s belt. He turned and started to help repair the trench.

It took all day, but by the evening stand to, the platoon had managed to cobble together a defensive position and clear the bodies away. The stand to was quiet, there was only some feeble machine guns firing from the Vledscan side. At about the end, of the stand to, great whooshing noises started overhead, followed by flashes appearing on the Vledscan front line. The barrage intensified as the hours dragged on. Zwev and Evans were exhausted from the days work, but neither could get to sleep, so they stood up next to the soldiers on watch to stare at the shells bursting.

“You know, It’s almost peaceful,” Evans stared out. He noticed something strange. Every few shell bursts he saw a silhouette leaning up against a tree. The man he had killed two days before. It didn’t really bother him anymore. Another flash, and the tree and soldier disappeared.

“Kind of like a fireworks show eh?” Zwev grabbed Evans hand. Evans shrunk away momentarily, then relaxed and squeezed Zwev’s hand.

“You know… I’ve never seen fireworks.”

Zwev giggled a bit, “I knew you came from a small town, but no fireworks?”

“Nope,” Evans watched a few shell bursts, the barrage seemed to be intensifying. He turned and looked at Zwev’s face, intermittently illuminated by the shell bursts, “What happened during the attack?”

Sighing a sad sigh, Zwev stared silently for about a minute, “We held the line. They broke in at one point. But we drove them back. We saw you get hit right before they sent there second wave. Evans… Jim. When that shell hit you… I’ve never been more terrified in my life. I though you’d been ripped apart.”

Evans didn’t respond. He let go of Zwev’s hand and stepped down from the fire step and started hacking at one end of the trench with his shovel. After a minute, Zwev stepped down to join him. They eventually managed to scrape out a small shelter, barely large enough for the two of them. Evans wedged himself in the back corner, and Zwev huddled in in front of him.

ARTILLERY

Everything seemed to have slowed down around Evans. It seemed almost peaceful. He was floating through the air, and the world was silent around him. He saw his rifle flying away from him, he tried to grab at it, but only succeeded in pushing it further away.

He tumbled a bit and saw the ocean. He admired it for a few seconds before gravity forcibly slammed him into the ground.

 

Putting some cotton into his ears, Evans offered some of it to Zwev. She accepted. Evans took out his notepad and wrote, “Wiring Party yesterday. Only 3 hour sleep. Watch nine to midnight yesterday. Then this barrage wake us now. Only 3 hour sleep. Angry.”

Zwev grabbed the notepad and replied, flinching every time a shell hit near, “How long you think last?”

“Hope not long. Need sleep.”

Renoir crawled towards them and waved. He grabbed the notepad and added in, “Be ready. Attack usually after.”

A few hours later, at about six, the barrage suddenly stopped. Sergeant Campbell stood up and yelled, “MOVE MOVE MOVE! GET ON THE LINE!”

Evans grabbed his rifle and sprinted out of the dugout and took a step up on the fire step as he heard a whistle blow. He looked around, most of the trench had been destroyed, and the platoon had set up as best they could in the remnants.

Simmons yelled out, “FIRE!”

Evans shook himself out of his trance. He aimed his rifle and opened fire as more artillery shells began to fall on the line. Everything seemed like a blur. His bolt was flying back and forth. Evans wasn’t quite sure if he was even hitting anyone. But the attack didn’t peter out like it had two days before. The Vledscan’s kept coming.

He heard Green come up near him and yell to Lieutenant Simmons, “SIR! They’ve broken through Eagle’s lines!”

“SHIT! Green, go back and set up the rear wire!”

“Yes-”

A shell hit the trench. Evans was momentarily deafened. He felt a tap on his shoulder, “PRIVATE!”

Evans turned around, Lieutenant Simmons was standing, covered in blood and bits of flesh, “I need you to run back and set up the rear wire and then go back to Company HQ to get reinforcements and request artillery support.”

He slung his rifle and stepped down. As he left, he saw the aftermath of the shell burst. Lance Corporal Green was lying on the ground in two pieces, having been ripped in half by the shell. Renoir was lying next to her, brains spilling into a puddle. An extra arm was lying in the puddle as well. Evans shook his head and ran.

He reached the rear wire and used his rifle to knock it down. Carrying on, he ran to Company HQ. He passed Lucy, who was madly firing downrange. He ran up to the Captain and saluted, “Sir! Lieutenant Simmons sent me to-”

Interrupting him, the Captain said, “Reinforcements and Arty? I need you to leg it down to Battalion telephone line must be blown out, I’ve been trying to reach them on the blasted thing and my runner has not come back. Bring Private Chambers with you.” The Captain pointed to Lucy.

Evans ran to Lucy and tapped her on the shoulder. She fired off two more shots, turned to him, laughed, and yelled over the roar of gunfire, “I really don’t think this is the time to fuck!”

Leaning close to Lucy’s ear, Evans screamed, “Captain wants me to take you with me to Battalion!”

Lucy nodded and shouldered her rifle. The two took off down the winding trenches towards Battalion. Lucy stumbled in first and stopped still. Evans caught up with her and looked over at the utter devastation. Several shells had scored direct hits, killing almost all within.

“Holy Shit,” Lucy nervously played with her rifle, “No wonder they weren’t fucking responding.”

Over the shellfire, Evans heard a gurgling noise. He looked and saw a man under a smashed table. He ran over to the table and attempted to lift it. Lucy saw Evans and ran over to him.

With Lucy’s help, Evans managed to lift the table off the man. Only his left leg was still attached, and then, only barely. He groaned at the two, and mouthed, “Help me.”

Lucy turned to Evans, “Were the fuck can we move him to? Company is swamped as is.”

Evans nodded and drew his sword bayonet, “I’ll amputate his leg, you get ready with some sort of bandage. We can carry him to Regiment. I mean, we should probably go there next. Get the fire support there.”

Lucy nodded and took off her jacket. She removed her gauze roll and applied it to the right stump while Evans psyched himself up.

With one swift blow, Evans cleaved through the remaining attached flesh. Lucy took off her shirt and stuffed it into the wound. She put her jacket back on and stood up, “Let’s go.”

Evans sheathed his bayonet and nodded, “Can you carry my rifle?” He dropped his rifle and picked up the wounded soldier. The pair then stumbled their way down the line. After a few false starts, they finally got to Regimental HQ.

Lucy saluted the first officer she saw, “Lieutenant, requesting to speak with the Colonel!”

The Lieutenant was momentarily flustered by the ragged nature of Lucy, Evans, and the soldier. Evans right side was coated in blood from the wounded soldier. Lucy’s undershirt was coated in blood and sweat. “Um… Yes, and You, Private, you can put the man down there.” The Lieutenant pointed to a map table.

Lucy ran over and cleared everything off while Evans laid the man down. The Lieutenant took them to a dugout, with various wires running out of it. Colonel Darling was standing over a map and yelling orders at a runner.

The Lieutenant saluted waited for the runner to leave. The Colonel turned and returned the salute, “What is it Jones?”

“These two privates came down the Second Battalion trench sir!”

“I just sent a runner down that way, what’s going on their, their telephone isn’t responding.”

Lucy nodded, “Sir, I’m Captain Jackson’s runner, we were having the same issue. Everett and I ran through, and we only found one survivor, he’s on the map table outside.”

Evans saluted, “And I’m here to ask for reinforcements and artillery support for Fox Company Sir.”

Colonel Darling cursed and then looked at his map. He turned to the Lieutenant, “Jones, I need you to set up a temporary Second Battalion HQ and rewire the whole area.” He then picked up the handset for the field telephone, “I need artillery support 20 meters ahead of trench lines Seventy Three, Seventy Four, and Seventy Five.”

Colonel Darling turned to Evans and Lucy, “You two are dismissed, thank you, and I’ll get those reinforcements.”

Evans and Lucy saluted and walked out. Before going back to the front lines, they slumped down in the trench to take a few drinks from their canteens. Evans looked at Lucy, “It’s Evans.”

“What?” Lucy took a gulp from her canteen.

“You called me Everett. My name is Evans,” Evans stood up and reached down to help Lucy up.

She grabbed his hand and stood up, “Oh, sorry… Goldfish.” Lucy swung around Evans rifle off her shoulder and handed it to Evans, “Shall we?”

Shouldering the rifle, Evans nodded. He slid the canteen back into it’s pouch and sprinted off down the trench back to Fox Company.

They arrived back at the Fox Company and Evans ran up to the Captain, “Sir, Colonel Darling says reinforcements are arriving soon.” Evans turned, waved goodbye to Lucy and ran down the communication trench towards Second Platoon.

After the first bend, Evans came across a collapsed portion, blocking his path. Evans used his Rifle to drag himself out of the trench, onto the surface. He stayed low and sprinted, pausing a few times to fire a shot at figures he saw on the cratered surface, figuring that anyone else above the surface must be Vledscan.

After about half a minute, Evans dove into a shell hole to avoid machine gun fire, still not knowing where the trench was. He poked his head up and heard a yell over the din of the gun fire, “EVANS!”

He looked back, and saw Hardin, standing about thirty meters back, halfway out of the trench and waving.

Evans stood up to try and sprint to the position.

That was when the shell hit.

 

Everything seemed to have slowed down around Evans. It seemed almost peaceful. He was floating through the air, and the world was silent around him. He saw his rifle flying away from him, he tried to grab at it, but only succeeded in pushing it further away.

He tumbled a bit and saw the ocean. He admired it for a few seconds before gravity forcibly slammed him into the ground.

The Wiring Party

Evans felt something bump against his side. A second later and another bump. He slightly opened one eye and looked at dirt ceiling. He heard a mumbling noise. Another bump. Evans mumbled and rolled over onto something. Water splashed onto his face. Evans opened his eyes, he was lying on a boot. His eyes slowly worked their way up the boot and the pant leg until he was making eye contact with its owner.

“Come on, it’s almost midnight,” Zwev was already up and looking down on Evans, “And can you get off my boot?”

Evans pushed himself up and walked out. He and Zwev made their way down the trench lines to First Platoon, where the rest of the wiring party had gathered. The Lieutenant noted them and looked at his watch. He whispered to the party, “Everyone ready? Alright, Team One, Y’all need to grab the wire. Team Two, grab the screws. Team Two move out first. Let’s get this over with.”

Evans moved over to the pile of 2 meter long screws and picked up a bundle. He stood with Zwev and Alden behind Chilcott at the edge of the sap. Chilcott looked back at Lieutenant Simmons and then rolled over the top. Evans followed, making sure to stay low. Chilcott moved a few meters forward and waved Evans to him.

Evans followed and put down his bundle of screws. He pulled out his bayonet and cut the twine holding the bundle together. He picked up the first screw and pushed it into the wet mud. He slowly started to screw it into the ground while Chilcott stood waved Zwev to a position a few meters away. After 30 seconds, Evans had pushed the screw completely into the ground. He moved over to Chilcott as Ustinov moved in behind him to set up the wire.

It continued this way for a half an hour. Silently moving forward until, suddenly Evans could see clearly. Clear as day. Simmons half shouted, “Flare, get down!”

The party dived to the ground. Evans stifled a scream as the piece of barbed wire he had landed on drove into his torso. He closed his eyes and waited for the signal.

A shot rang out.

Evans heard a muffled curse.

Lieutenant Simmons whispered back, “Chilcott, have one of your soldiers leave their screws and bring whoever the fuck just got hit back to the trench.”

“Evans.” Chilcott slowly crawled over and elbowed Evans, “Drop your screws, I think the shot hit over there.”

Pushing his screws to the side, he painfully crawled towards the wounded soldier, moving as slowly as possible, to avoid the wrath of the enemy rifles.

After a slow and painful minute, he reached the body, “Hey, are you alright?”

“Yes, just fine and fucking dandy.”

Evans tried to make out who the voice was in the flickering light provided by the flare, “Ustinov?”

The man nodded while cringing. Evans patted him down to try and find the bullet wound. He noticed a dampness around Ustinov’s thigh. Reaching into his back pocket, Evans fished out a bandage and wrapped Ustinov’s leg. He then grabbed him under the shoulders and began the slow crawl back to the Ethslin lines. He had at least managed to pull the strip of barbed wire out his chest.

After the flare went down, Evans felt bold enough to stand a little higher and dragged him back quickly to Second Platoon’s trench. He dragged Ustinov up until the parapet then dropped in. He walked over and tapped one of the soldiers on watch, “Hey, can you help me drag Ustinov into the trench?”

Cain took a step down and nodded. Evans led her down the trench back to where Ustinov was lying. She pulled down his legs while Evans put him over his shoulder stood up. He grunted at Cain and then turned to head down the trench line to the casualty collection point in company headquarters.

He stumbled through the dark deserted trenches for a few minutes until he stumbled upon the company headquarters. A startled young woman aimed a rifle at him, “Halt! Password!”

Evans drew a blank, “Um… Shit… I don’t know.”

The woman lowered her left hand while keeping the rifle trained on Evans. She reached into her pocket and flicked her fingers, a flame shot out of what Evan’s guessed was a lighter. She held it up to his face and then quickly slung her rifle, “Shit! That guys wounded. Um… Fuck it, keep moving. Password is Goldfish by the way.”

Evans moved on down the line, confused at his interaction with the guard. After a few minutes, he managed to stumble into the casualty collection point and he put Ustinov on a cot. He looked to his right and saw a dimly lit bell that read, ‘Ring for Service’. Shrugging, he rung the bell.

A voice called out from a nearby dugout, “Just a minute!” Half a minute later, a glow came from the dugout. A tall, handsome man lit by a lantern exited the dugout. The captains pips on his shoulders glowed orange under the light.

“Captain Jackson!?” Evans snapped to attention and saluted.

Captain Jackson nodded and returned the salute, “Medics needed sleep, and I was up to wait for the wiring party. I was halfway through medical school when I joined the army.” Captain Jackson knelt down next to the cot and scanned Ustinov, “He was hit on the party?”

“Yes sir.”

Captain Jackson gestured at the bandage, “You put this on Private?”

“Yes sir.”

“Well, next time you might want to put the bandage on the wound next time,” Captain Jackson undid the bandage and started wrapping Ustinov’s torso, “Don’t worry, it’s not that bad of a hit, I’ve seen men survive longer on worse.”

“Alright Sir.”

“Was this your first wiring party son?”

Evans was taken aback slightly by the sudden familiarity, “Yes sir, I joined the company last week sir.”

The Captain paused for a few seconds as he took Ustinov’s pulse. He then walked into the dugout, waving Evans to follow him, “Yesterday was your first show then? We sure gave the Boxers a right licking eh?”

Evans wasn’t quite sure what the Captain meant, so he nodded, hoping for that it was the right answer.

“Good chap,” Captain Jackson looked through a few drawers before finally coming across some pills, “That private you brought in is already out, but I’m going to give him a little kick to bring him well good.”

Evans nodded again, pretending that he knew what the Captain was talking about. As the Captain left the dugout, Evans quickly looked around. Strangely enough, the dugout had curtains installed on the side, as if they were covering up a window, even though he was a few feet underground. Shrugging, Evans followed Captain Jackson out to casualty area.

Captain Jackson had woken Ustinov and was offering him a flask. Ustinov feebly grabbed the flask and took a drink. Captain Jackson turned to Evans, “You can head back to your platoon.”

Evans nodded and turned back to the trench. He was stopped again by the woman he had seen earlier, pointing her rifle again, “Password!”

“Goldfish.”

“Wait, you were the guy from earlier,” She slung her rifle pulled out her lighter again and held it closer to herself, revealing her face. She had a small, dainty face, interrupted by a sharp scar from her ear to her nose. She smiled at him, “Is that guy alright?”

“Um… The Captain thinks he will be,” Evans looked back over his shoulder then looked forward again, “I’m Evans by the way.”

“Lucy,” she got a funny look on her face, shook her head then talked again, “Um… Could you do me a favor?”

“Yeah…” Evans half shrugged, “Sure?”

“Thank Joshua!” She unslung her rifle and handed it to Evans, “I’ve been, um… ‘holding it’ for about an hour now.” Lucy scampered over to a bucket and started to pull down her pants. Evans turned away and distracted himself with the rifle. He pulled back the bolt slightly and looked at the bullet he had been threatened with twice tonight. It was sort of shiny.

Ramming the bolt back forward, he tried to listen to what was happening in No-Mans Land. It was silent, which he figured was a good thing. He felt a tap on his shoulder, “I’m done, you need to use it before I toss it out?”

Lucy held up the bucket, half filled with liquid, with a few solid bits floating within. It amazed Evans that he didn’t really smell anything. Had he really been acclimatized to the constant stench of it already? He waved his hand to signal that he didn’t. Shrugging, Lucy threw the liquid in the bucket over the side of the trench. She put the bucket down in the corner again.

Evans held the rifle back out to her, and she smiled, “So, you want to…” She made an obscene gesture with hands.

Momentarily flustered, Evans panicked, “Um, sorry, I should be going back to my platoon…” Evans put the rifle in her hands, “Your, um, a very attractive lady, but um… I just met you, and I feel like this really isn’t the place. Sorry.”

Lucy shrugged as she checked the rifle over, “No worries, I’m just looking for a way to pass the time. Be seeing you!”

Evans nodded and slunk off, confused about the whole situation, hoping to see Zwev when he got back.

When he arrived back at the trench, he walked up to Cain, “Hey, Cain, the party arrive back yet?”

“No,” She pointed down towards Third Platoon, “They’re about halfway past third.”

Evans squinted and looked towards the party. He could somewhat make them out under the faint light, “Any more action since I came through?”

“Nope. Been quiet.”

Evans nodded and sat down on the fire step next to Cain. He pulled a pad of paper out of his breast pocket and started to write another letter to Jack.