Previous Challenge Entry (Level 1 – Beginner)
Topic: Write in the SCIENCE FICTION genre (05/10/07)
- TITLE: A Small Silver Hope
By James Heitger
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They had no weapons we could see; every man we lost just fell to the ground. We never heard a shot, unless it was our own. Firing did not do much; our bullets entered the mist and never hit a thing, not even the trees. I knew what was coming, The Enemy would surround us and then, they would wait. They moved in and out of our battlements on a whim but they never just attacked. They would just sit there, watch us and wait for…something.
This was the third time they had backed me up like a dog in a cage and this was the third time I was prepared to die. I said my usual prayer, “Lord, if this is my time, I will not fear because I know You are with me. Let me die with honor here, joyful that I will finally see Your face. Amen,” and prepared to leap out of the bunker.
I started to run, and froze. Beside me, Private Hanson was making the noise I had heard too many times before. It was a sound like heavy breathing, but it was raspy and scratching, like the breath wanted to stay in and couldn’t help but be ripped out. “The Last Gasp,” was the name we few survivors called this moment. It is the most terrifying thing I have ever heard.
Hanson clutched his chest with one hand and his throat with the other; all of the air screamed out of his body, and then, silence. His eyes were clear and completely white, he fell to his knees and then his face. It looked to me like his soul had been torn out.
After Hanson, I waited, impotently, as 15 more men were struck down, one by one, exactly the same way. When the exterminations finally stopped, only two of us were left, me, and the new recruit, Rangle. He too had watched the others fall, with his hand clutching his own chest, expecting to die. His face was locked in shock and horror. All he could manage to utter, weakly, was: “Why?”
“I don’t know Son,” I replied, “but I do know we had better get moving. We have to get these supplies to the people left in town. There were some folks in a church meeting when this started and now, they’re all that’s left.”
“Yes, Sir,” He saluted like a good soldier that did not know what else to do and together we climbed out of the bunker.
Why had we survived? I had asked that before and had never found an answer. The answer did not matter right now, the mist was clearing and we had to get moving. The sun broke through as I crawled into the supply truck; something inside flashed and caught my eye. I stared for a long moment; it was my answer, which should have been so obvious to me from the beginning.
There, where Rangle had clutched his chest, I found it; a small, silver cross, swung from his neck and shined in the light. I watched as it glimmered, and I finally knew why we had survived.
“You okay, Sarge?” he asked, his voice still weak.
“Yeah, Rangle,” I smiled confidently back, “I think I am.”
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