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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 1 – Beginner)
Topic: Beach (07/04/05)

TITLE: Conflict
By John Griggs


Dietrich stood in the concrete bunker staring silently through the narrow slit opening in the cold concrete. His stomach was twisting in knots of dread. Out at sea he could make out the distant shape of vessels easing their way silently towards him. Like stars on a clear night, the more he stared at them the more he saw. He turned towards his two comrades alongside him in the gun post, but they were locked in their thoughts and fears, unaware of his attention.
Jumbled thoughts and emotions tumbled wildly through his mind. Some caused his heart to suddenly jump with apprehension. Others elusive and muddled but leaving a dull sense of despair. Fleeting images of his wife and the infant son he knew only through her letters. The cot he had painted on his last leave, ready for the birth of their first child. The fear and tears on Sabine’s face when he could delay his departure no longer. The last embrace that neither wanted to release.
His throat tightened and his eyes clouded with tears as he thought of the future that could have been. Will this be the day that I die? He tried to exorcise the thoughts from his mind but they stubbornly resisted his weak efforts. Today’s date? June the sixth. He pictured a gravestone with his name and that date on it. Sabine placing a single red rose against it. Dieter without tears for the stranger in the grave. Where? In France? Or back at the village in the mountains? Home. How would Sabine find the courage to face the years without him? Would Dieter grow to become a fine man? Would they survive this awful war? He desperately wanted to be there to protect and comfort them. Looking down on the beach with its coils of barbed wire and buried mines he longed to be with them on a peaceful beach somewhere. Touching them, talking with them, laughing with them.
“Hold your fire.” The captain’s shout brought him sharply back to reality. The landing craft heaved themselves up on to the sandy beach. Their ramps began to lower revealing masses of men poised for the assault. Dietrich waited for the first soldiers to rush from the craft towards their fate. I wonder if they are as scared as me, he thought. The enemy. Dietrich closed one eye and pressed his cheek against the cool rifle. Peering along the sight he spied a soldier at the front of a craft waiting for the moment to rush ashore. Who are you? British? American? Do you too have a wife and child at home? Jesus said I must love you, my enemy. Yet here I am waiting to kill you.
Tensing his muscles to stop his hands from shaking, his pulse was drumming deafeningly in his ears. An icy bead of sweat slipped down his spine. Didn’t the Israelites wipe out whole armies when God led them in to the Promised Land? So whose side is God on in this war, ours or theirs? If we don’t kill them they will kill us. If I don’t kill him he may be the one that kills me. I have no option. Do I? Are his friends and family praying for his safe return, like mine? Maybe he loves Jesus? Lord, how will you feel if I kill him? Kill my brother, who you love and suffered for and gave your life for. Could you forgive me? Could I forgive myself?
Dietrich realised the turmoil within him was paralysing him, making him incapable of action. He forced the thoughts from his mind and concentrated on his training. Take a steady stance. Grip the rifle firmly. Squeeze the trigger slowly. He took a deep breath and felt some of the tension flow from his body. The fear and shaking were passing. His mind now clearer. He knew what he must do – his duty.
“Fire.” Dietrich took a last look along the rifle at the enemy soldier and gently squeezed the trigger. The recoil jarred into his shoulder but he knew he had held the rifle firm and the flight of the bullet was true. A brief moment later the bullet found its target and with a dull thud it tore into the soft sand.

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This article has been read 647 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Mary Frederick07/11/05
I believe the beach in this soul-wrenching story is Normandy beach. I pray each day for all those involved in the wars in Irag and Afghanistan on all sides. I was touched by the questions and I am certain most of the men and women are asking themselves such questions. Thanks for this thought-provoking article. I am sure it will touch all those who
have fought in a war.
Amy Michelle Wiley 07/11/05
Wow! Awesome story. Well written.
Nina Phillips07/11/05
I believe you hit the target of thoughts of many as they follow other men into wars. Truly emotional issues.
God bless, littlelight
Christine Sparrow07/13/05
Whew ! you had me going there for a moment. I was spellbound right to the end and right there beside you. I'm soooo glad you are alive to tell of this experience. To shoot the bullet into the sand as a finishing touch was just superb. So, so well done !
dub W07/13/05
Add a space between paragraphs and you have a great read. Awsome story. Thanks.
Shari Armstrong 07/14/05
Very nice, showing the story from another persepctive.
Beth Muehlhausen07/15/05
The inner questioning and fear and dread...wow. Liked this line: "Dietrich realised the turmoil within him was paralysing him..."
Maxx .07/16/05
really captured the struggle. good job!
Sandra Petersen 07/17/05
I couldn't believe this was a beginner piece. Excellent work at getting into the mind of Dietrich. The word pictures were very good.
Deborah Porter 07/18/05
John, well done. This was an excellent piece for a Level 1 entrant. Congratulations on your 2nd place in the Level awards. I can actually tell you that you weren't that far off making it into the Editors' Choice awards as well (you came in at 10th overall). So with that, I really do encourage you to move up to Level 2 now and we'll look forward to reading more of your entries in the future. With love, Deb (Challenge Coordinator)