Phosphate Incoming

Fiction- Finalist for the Colors of my Soul Flash Fiction Contest

With something sturdy in my hands they would not shake.

I am sitting in a small hole in the ground when the noise hits. It is a deep crack that shakes the ground. My instinct is to lower my head and raise my shoulders to sink ever deeper into my position. Yet moments after, I find myself looking up. Above me are red and green streaks of phosphates from my childhood. The explosion, which has cracked in half the tree above Cooper’s pit, looks like the displays from the boardwalk back home. I rub my eyes and the smoke and dust obscure my vision of the scene above.

I have been sitting here for two days, waiting for the moment when we are to act. When I pressed Cooper about how exactly we were to know when to act, he said simply that it would be obvious. He had told us to sit and wait, and to try and rest but remain alert and prepared. Sleep proves elusive, drawing me to instead check and recheck my supplies and the construct of wood and metal in my hands. I can feel the exhaustion in my bones. I slump down deeper into my hole, thinking of my helmet poking above the lip of my hole. Cooper had said that, to be careful of the helmet. I think of the photo hidden inside.

Another boom, this time accompanied by several waves of fireworks. The tree now falling and splintering into the hole, and streaks of roman candles and the like obscuring my vision of him. His hole now covered in ferns and bush and ash, yet I think I can see a bloodied hand reaching forth, only to then retreat into darkness. The ground will not stop shaking, despite my protests.

I become increasingly aware of my voice. I am swearing uncontrollably. I am using words that I had, until now, been unaware I had even learned from my unit. I checked my hands, inserting a live clip into my M1 Garand Calibre .30 by sheer habit of practice. I have never fired a gun, not at a person. Yet the continuous rumbling hints not at explosions, but of killing machines being moved closer to our position by tread and wheel. As I look up I see not fireworks but clouds of smoke and the effects of shrapnel. It is suddenly quiet. Cooper’s hand reaches towards me.

I want to stay put, dig my trench deeper and deeper until the sounds and textures of war are drowned out by the blackness of sleep. Yet Cooper has my shovel. I find my legs moving, preparing to run. I want to stay, but I am already bounding, here dropping and crawling, towards Cooper’s foxhole. The roman Candles begin again, streaking and screaming above me, shredding the scenery just above my head. As I reach the lip of the hole, the air seems to catch fire and I look up only to see the bomb drop.

Emily...

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