Short Fiction - Gunner

©2014 
Benjamin Britworth 

 This is my gun. My gun is my hand, and with my hand I conduct the world. This hand is for shooting, not for killing. For killing is to take life, my life, as each target pierces my heart. Although I wish otherwise, there is little I handle without my gun on these plain fields. Men are planted here. They grow like weeds, poisoning all that surrounds with a death stench that reminds us we live on.
The click-clack of rain comes pattering down to wash the grubby ground, and the planted men sigh as water moistens their cloaks. Puddles form in their eyes, those glassy domes blinded by heaven's cold shower. They are the lucky and unlucky, all the same, it makes no difference to them now.
I stand guarded, drips trickling down my back, waiting for the sign. Beside me other men stand waiting too. They are statues, solid as the stones that line the trench. They are afraid, as am I, our rigid forms ready to shatter at the slightest touch. Soon we will be whistled, and summarily slaughtered. Death will grapple the finer of our bunch and they will be forgotten. Never to speak, to eat, to laugh, to cry, to jump for joy, or ever love again. That is the fate of our finest few. The rest will idle here, shuffling along for some merry time until we do lift and also fade: but that is the destiny of every man and woman and all, save none. The world shall shift and shake us off. One by one we will depart.
Hold. The guns do mingle in the storm. The rattle of fire greets my ears. Powder sours my tongue. Soon the whistle blows. Soon we will be done...
The cold blast calls, and up we rise. We are an army crawling in the mud. Our bellies, so brown and wet and sickened, slide on. The metal flies, the fight tightens and we advance. We do not think. We do not feel. We are hope and fear. Home is in our hearts. Pretty faces flood our minds, reminding us why we struggle so. There is no sense for what happens here: no reason, save for madness, draws us thus. It is failure too cruel for words, and in that there is an end.
One day they shall tell stories of this, one day my mind will be written down. Fie foolish words! Fie idiotic stories! Who cares, so long as it is not repeated, so long as young men do not fight and die in the mud. Who cares at all? All I must remember is that this is my gun. My gun is my hand, and with my hand I conduct the world. That way I will find my end too.


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