Life and Death in the Trenches of Tarvigrad
Teramon gripped his battered dust-covered rifle worriedly, rocking back and forth on the trench’s fire step. He glanced quickly around and saw that his surrounding comrades seemed to be equally terrified, if not more. His tattered uniform clad squad mates practically shook with fear, the glass of their rebreather masks fogging due to frantic breath. Teramon’s gaze jerked to his right at the sound of approaching boot steps crunching in the dry dirt. The commissar strode confidently down the trench line, the polar opposite of the thousands of soldiers cowering nervously under his gaze. He exuded confidence, his head held high and the arid sun glinting off of one of the many gold pendants pinned to the silver chest plate he wore over his grey trench coat. The fact that he had any armor at all was likely part of the reason the other soldiers were more terrified, though undoubtedly the large ornate pistol hanging at the commissar’s belt contributed to their fear.
“Ready positions!” came a distant shout somewhere down the line, quickly echoed by more closer men as the message was repeated rapidly through the trench.
Teramon winced despite himself; do we have to warn the enemy so blatantly every time? He did not have long to question tactics however, turning to face the trench wall and gripping the bar above him, ready to leap over the top, dread rapidly washing away any doubts. Once again he glanced down the line at his thousands of fellow soldiers in identical positions, this time more quickly as the commissar would be a much bigger concern than the coming charge if he caught him breaking protocol. For a few more seconds that seemed to drag on for hours they hung there, adrenaline begging to pump rapidly through more than a few soldiers’ veins. Abruptly a siren blared, a long, mechanical, sonorous sound that wrenched at Teramon’s gut. It also jarred him and every other soldier to action, every man pulling himself over the top in unison, guttural yells tearing from their throats, weather battle cries or screams of pure terror most would never live to consider. Teramon screamed as well, leveling his rifle bayonet at the enemy and running as fast as he could, leaping over broken bodies and razor wire alike. Suddenly the squad mates on either side of Teramon were no more, the massive bullets missing him by pure chance. He ducked reflexively at the ear shattering noise, causing him to trip over a week dead fellow soldier below his feet and sending him face first into the bloated corps’s entrails. Must keep moving, showing hesitation was a death more certain than what lay ahead. He stumbled clumsily to his feet, intestines draped over his neck as some sort of morbid scarf, the dark red of old coagulated blood dripping chunks of clotted gore from his now even more filthy uniform. A film of red dripping now covered everything as Teramon staggered forward, firing several shots blindly in the enemy’s direction. A flash through the red haze was all the warning he had before a glancing impact to the head knocked him off his feet and sent him to the ground for the second time. After he initially impacted the ground however, Teramon this time felt the ground give way below him as the rolled into one of the massive crates scarring the battlefield. On the way down his head clipped a rock, stopping his decent at the cost of partially knocking his mask loose. Frantically Teramon groped his mask back into place, but not before some of the toxic fumes blanketing no man’s land flooded into his nostrils. He felt the acrid fumes burn down his nasal cavities, down his trachea, and into his lungs. His chest tight and burning with pain, he once again staggered to his feet, coughing up blood and vomit inside his mask. Hazily he scrambled up the side of the crater, back the way he had came, clawing at loose dirt wetted with what he hoped was sticky, dirty water. Finally he crested to top and began to pull himself back towards his trenches, panting raggedly. If I can just get back fast enough, doc Donner can fix me, I only took one breath of the stuff, surely that isn’t enough to- his thoughts were cut short as his groping had grasped a leather boot. He froze, then hastily wiped blood from his mask with his other hand. He gazed up, down the barrel of an ornately carved pistol.
The commissar gazed impassively down at him. “Running away are we?”
“N-no!” rasped Teramon hoarsely. “Please, I’m injured! I just want to get fixed up, to go home and see my family again! If I can just reach the doc soon, I’m sure he can-“ Teramon’s words were cut off almost as cleanly as his head, bone and brain fragments spraying the ground behind him, the remains of his ruined face flopping lifelessly into the dirt.