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Dead Men

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Submitted By rohullah786
Words 1328
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Sixteen Dead Men
By William Butler Yeats
O but we talked at large before
The sixteen men were shot,
But who can talk of give and take,
What should be and what not
While those dead men are loitering there
To stir the boiling pot?

You say that we should still the land
Till Germany’s overcome;
But who is there to argue that
Now Pearse is deaf and dumb?
And is their logic to outweigh
MacDonagh’s bony thumb?

How could you dream they’d listen
That have an ear alone
For those new comrades they have found,
Lord Edward and Wolfe Tone,
Or meddle with our give and take
That converse bone to bone?

“Man down, Man down”. A frightened voice screamed from miles away. Another hero gone, I thought silently. I glanced over at Gerry. He stood tall like a man of six foot height as he loaded up the truck ready for battle. His deep blue eyes had dark rings around them which extenuated when he is tired. “See you soon mate”, he limped into the truck drove off. That was the last time I ever saw Gerry again.

The missiles struck, screaming in with pinpoint accuracy, bursting with blinding flashes, brighter than a thousand suns. Buildings disintegrated and vanished. Trees and houses exploded into flames. The flames were so fierce that they devoured all the oxygen around them suffocating those people who had sought refuge in deep shelters. The very ground trembled from the mighty screams of those who were attacked or injured.

I stayed there in the same position, crouched behind a rock that sheltered my useless body. I couldn’t hear anything except for the racing sound of my heartbeat. I thought of my loved ones. What would my mom think when her only child never returned home or how will my wife Marie cope with our first newborn child Chris. I didn’t want him to grow up without a dad, just like me. A great silence descended over the land

I knew I had to move to a different destination and find help. I tried to stand up still. I was soaked from head to toe in sweat. I carefully picked up my rifle which was covered in unknown blood. I hobbled up and skipped over the hundreds of lifeless bodies. The pall of smoke and dust blackened the sky.

James lifted himself up, placing his hands on the trench wall and hoisting himself up to get a better view. A whistle blew somewhere behind him and dozens of men poured out of the trench in front of him. With another whistle the men alongside him rose up out of the trench, leaping over the one in front of them and sprinting out into the dead-man’s zone.

Readying himself to die, James hoisted himself over the trench and ran out into the open area between the two fighting lines. Ahead of him the first lines of the penal outfit “attack” were beginning to reach their destination, running headlong towards the enemy lines with their rusted rifles and bayonets, only a single clip of ammunition in each weapon. These men were not expected to kill anything. They were what the officer’s called “tramplers”, disgraced soldiers sent running towards the enemy lines in hopes of tripping land mines on their way, effectively clearing the advance for the real soldiers.

James watched as the men ran towards their deaths, enemy machine gun nests and riflemen picking them off before they could get close enough to the enemy lines to shoot. To his horror, James saw a group of men running together before an explosion lifted out of the ground, sending body parts and limbs flying everywhere, the individual pieces of the men even tripping a few more land mines in the process.

“I’m going to fuckin’ die,” James whispered to himself as he crouched down near a shining piece of metal half buried in the ground, his hands shaking uncontrollably.

Sent behind the tramplers James and the other men were told to look for the telltale signs of enemy tank mines and disarm them. Unlike most of the men with him, James actually had experience with disarming tank mines, having been an engineer before he was captured as a POW. With a deep breath James steadied himself for what he was about to do.

Reciting the routine in his mind, he carefully brushed off the dirt from the square piece of metal, realizing he had indeed found an anti-tank mine. With careful movements he worked his fingers around the rim of the device, wiggling his hand through the dirt and feeling for the specific shape of the trigger mechanism. When his fingers touched the slender piece of metal he wrapped his forefinger around it and slowly withdrew the object.
With the useless mine before him James dug it out, tossing it aside and crawling for the next half-buried mine. Just before he reached it a young man crouched down next to it, obviously baffled by what he was supposed to do next. Reaching down the boy grabbed the pressure sensor, trying to pull the mine straight out of the ground.

“STOP!” James tried to yell at him, but in the second it took for him to form the words the mine had already triggered. A shock wave knocked James onto his back, a shower of dirt and charred flesh raining down on him from the sky a moment later.

An intense ringing perforated his eardrums, so loud that it overcame the very sounds of the battle. The taste of copper coated his mouth as he coughed up some blood, groaning as he realized he had just been hit by a tank mine at close range. Shaking the shock away the best he could James got himself to shaking legs, moving for the next landmine he could find, oblivious to the bullets flying left and right.

Spotting a soldier crouching near a land mine James shouted again, this time catching the young man’s attention. He slid down next to him, taking the best cover he could while he disarmed the trap mine.

“Don’t touch the top sensor,” he coughed, spitting blood out and clearing his throat. Carefully he began brushing off the dirt around the edges of the mine.

“Work your fingers under the mine and feel for a slender metallic cylinder,” he said, doing as he did before, “And then remove it while making sure not to brush it against to bottom of the mine.”

He turned back to the young soldier to show him the triggering pin, only to discover a small hole in the slumped boy’s helmet. Shoving him on the shoulder James watched as the boy fell backwards like a rag doll, his helmet toppling off to reveal a mix of brain matter and broken skull. Unable to control his stomach anymore James let himself vomit, covering the young soldier’s boots with his breakfast.

From the thin fog of smoke behind him another whistle blew, signaling the real advance of the infantry. James merely sat in the blackened dirt, chunks of flesh and stains of blood covering his form from the past two minutes of battle. The well-armed and well-reinforced soldiers charged past him, roaring as one as they barreled towards the enemy line. James watched as they ran over the corpses of his fellow soldiers of the penal outfit, none of them tripping any landmines as they swarmed the enemy firing line.

With a sigh of relief James thought he had made through his first day as a penal soldier alive. That was until someone threw a loaded rifle at his feet and pointed a gun in his face, yelling three damning words down on him.

“Forward you coward!”

“It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen. We started dying before the snow, and like the snow, we continued to fall.

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