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.

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