The Final Bullet

“I summon you, the beasts of war!”

One soldier suddenly screamed into the darkening lazuline skies nearly obscured by smoke and flame surrounding them as they huddled in a found trench.

The tokens that had moved around maps in the plotting and paper rehearsal of their campaign in the sterility of the general’s compound, had not lived up to its gritty reality.  If 100 things could have gone wrong, it seemed that 90 of them had. Watson again pushed away the mental reminder that this mission would be his final bullets for a while; he would be on leave in a few days. Having been back-turned twice, this mission was one for the Fail column. Those thoughts did him no good now when the few of them left were simply trying to survive long enough to report this failure of a mission.

“Janssen! What the bloody hell are you doing? Shut it!” Another soldier, Corporal Murray, hissed.

With his rifle raised overhead to the sky in defiant punctuation, Lieutenant Janssen continued his rant.

“Come! Cast your shadows upon my flesh. You think me afraid? Come then! Come find a gallant feast of fear in which to dine and learn that Janssen is a poor man’s buffet indeed for I am not ear-marked to be such food stuffs!”

Captain Watson’s head spun from Janssen’s outcry, to Lieutenant Rupali,  a meter on his opposite side in a clear do you hear this? expression before they ducked from a spray of stone and debris from another blast close to where they were. Blasts that were getting closer and closer as the enemy closed in.

Captain Watson wished he were surprised. He had always felt there was something off with Janssen but had kept it to himself. The man was a decent soldier, if high strung. When Janssen, what they at the time had thought was jokingly, fancied himself a modern-day Shakespearean tragedy in the making and started to sprinkle Elizabethan speech into his words, Watson knew he was no longer the only one who had begun to worry as signs of that off-ness increased. It explained Janssen’s language as the mission and his mind started unraveling. 

They have been on the run for three days straight as they wove their way out of the gauntlet of enemy territory. At times there was no choice but to quickly fish through the belongings of the slain, picking up ammunition and whatever supplies from the fallen who no longer needed them. Leave no man behind, an abandoned concept in their desperation for survival. Watson felt the weight from the collected dog tags of those he could get to that he carried in his med pack.

He knew they were so close to being saved. Their last radio communique before it was shot out had them no more than a couple of kilometers from the rescue approaching on the other side.  The last thing they needed was attention drawn to themselves. It was clear Lieutenant Janssen had not got that message as another grenade blast went off far too close to them. Watson knew the next one would strike true. They had to abandon their position.

“Come you spilled seed! A worthiness for only the lead of my bullets to eat!”

There was no ambiguity about it, Janssen had gone mad; the screaming man rising to his feet now put them all at risk.

“Jesus Christ! He’s going to get us killed!” Rupali swung his rifle around, his intention clear.

It was Rupali’s outcry that made Janssen turn and lock eyes with his fellow lieutenant. Watson and Rupali knew then that any chance at communion with Janssen was gone a moment before he turned and started screaming at a run when he was brought down.

“No!” Watson yelled as he scrambled out of the trench, the doctor already swinging his med pack around for use.

Some part of him registered the increased firepower as his people began to engage the enemy to give him a chance. He ignored it as he made his way to Janssen.   

He dropped to his knees, his mind already in medic mode as he began to triage. It took a moment before it registered that he was too far from his patient. It was another moment before the agonizing pain that caused him to drop his med pack from the bullet that tore through him made itself known.

But Watson knew it was bad. Very bad.

He did not notice that their rescue had finally arrived; his thoughts as he slipped into unconsciousness: Please, God, let me live. Don’t let this be the final bullet.


The Sunday Whirl  | Wordle 509
Language, Eat, Fish, Flame, Feast, Saved, Risk, Unraveling, Spray, Shadow, Stone, Off

Mindlovemisery’s Menagerie | Wordle #249
Gallant, Ear-Marked, Sterility, Fail, Stone, Plotting, Rehearsal, Punctuation, Ambiguity, 100, Back-Turned, Communion

Mindlovemisery’s Menagerie |First Line Friday: July 16, 2021
“I summon you, the beasts of war!”

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