Snakes and Pills

134 - wool

The walls of the barn shuddered as another explosion went off in the distance. Bits of hay that were being stored in the rafters above him slowly fluttered toward the ground. There were no lights on inside this place, but its sole occupant still felt all too exposed.

He thought that he was ready for this. All the months of training had not only been an attempt to prepare him physically, but mentally, too. He had forgotten that he was a teenager who had been tilling his father's corn fields half a year ago. He no longer considered his enemy human, just a target at the end of his sights. When he had jumped out of the plane to his landing zone below, he was a soldier ready for anything and everything.

Somewhere on that short journey to the ground, all that courage had gone out the window. He had seen others who didn't even make it that far. They had jumped at night, but the whole sky seemed lit up. Dangling there under his canopy, he realized truly for the first time how vulnerable life was. Every time the sky crackled with another explosion or line of tracer rounds, he saw the people descending around him disappear.

That one had been Tommy, and there goes Jack. These were human beings that he had known, boys he had just been joking with minutes ago. To the people shooting at them, though, he realized they were just targets at the end of sights. Big, beautiful, floating bulls-eyes in the sky.

He had no idea how he made it down alive. When his boots struck the ground, and his legs instinctively braced for impact, it all seemed like a dream, but was quickly affirmed as reality when he heard the sounds of men and and weapons in the vicinity. By reflex, he undid his gear and got his move on.

The darkness was his only friend. He could find no other cover, having landed in a field. His courage already sapped, now every fear and doubt crept into his mind. How ridiculous this all was. Yesterday, they had studied maps of their potential landing zones. As if two-dimensional overhead drawings of this strange land would help him at all, particularly in the middle of the night and under enemy fire. He had no idea where he was.

Running through the field aimlessly, he found the barn in which he currently resided. Giving no thought to who or what might be inside, he flung the door open, and quickly latched it behind him. Mercifully, he found the barn to be devoid of anything beyond bales and bales of wet, musky hay.

This was exactly the kind of place they trained him to avoid. The enemy would immediately be searching structures of any kind. This was no place to hide, yet that was exactly what he found himself doing. Cowering in a corner, he was too overwhelmed to think.

Each rumble of machine gun fire in the distance sounded closer than the last. He could hear voices shouting, and even worse, they definitely spoke in a foreign tongue. He imagined the barn being completely encircled by enemy soldiers, specifically searching for him.

He tried to shrink his body even further into the corner. Feebly, he lifted his rifle and pointed the barrel toward the door. The metal clasps that secured the gun to its strap jangled slightly, and he realized just how badly he was shaking.

He didn't even know what he would do if they came in. He was no soldier, he was a coward. And he didn't care.


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