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Badge of Fear

by Meagan Kane

I sit in the chair, waiting for my doom. They have tied a white cloth around my eyes, trying to shield me from my own cowardice. I hear their whispers; they call it cowardice, I call it peace.

I never wanted to be a soldier. Sure, I signed up for the draft like everyone else did; didn’t skip town, or the country, but I prayed every night that I wouldn’t have to fight.

Don’t get me wrong here; I love my country, and I would do anything to protect my little girls. I just can’t stand the consequences of war.

So I made a vow. I would not willingly kill another, not if I could help it. I would train to the best of my ability, do the best I could to protect my fellow soldiers, but I would not willingly kill another.

It worked for quite some time. I aimed my gun above the heads of my enemies, and everyone else thought I was just a poor shot, which I suppose they expected, because I was a woman. Though it irked me to bear such jeering criticism, I dealt with it.

One day, I was caught in the middle of a battle, hiding in a trench as the cannons shot their dangerous payload overhead. One of the members of my regiment motioned for those of us who were left to prepare for one final rush into the fray. I nodded as he yelled his commands, knowing it was a futile, desperate move that would result in the deaths of many.

We rushed forward, guns firing as rapidly as possible, dodging stabs from bayonets and the bodies of the fallen. All was going as well as could be expected, until the man next to me ran faster, crazily attacking everyone in his path.

I pulled the trigger before I saw him, I swear! I meant him no harm, he just moved too fast. But despite my intentions, the bullet sprang from my gun to his chest. He staggered, the life quickly leaving his body, and fell to the ground.

I admit, I panicked. Can you blame me? The first time I kill a man, and it is someone from my own regiment. I knew this man; he had a family, like I did; a wife, and three children. And thanks to me, that wife was a widow, and those children would grow up without a father.

So I ran. I pushed people out of my way, from both my own army and the enemy’s, jumped over the bodies and the discarded weapons, fled to the trees that surrounded the blood-stained field.

I spent hours there, wandering amongst the moss covered giant trees that grew there, stopping to listen to the twitter of birds, and sleeping under the giant ferns. They caught me quickly, but by that time I was too far gone to realize the consequences.

I am sane again now, just in time for my execution. They have finished reading the charges against me, and the firing squad is now cocking their weapons.

Five guns explode in unison, and I know they must have hit me, as the darkness in front of my eyes is no longer broken by the beams of sunlight that in life streamed through the white blindfold.

I hear sounds, and suddenly the darkness around me is replaced by the largest battle I have ever seen. Soldiers of all possible races, with uniforms too varied to mention, rush around me, attacking each other with little organization. A cannon directly to my left shoots out into the confused jumble of people.

The soldiers all seem helpless in their actions; they are swept in great waves of bodies towards each other, pulled along as if their limbs were attached to strings. I watch a man who could easily have hidden in a trench march boldly forward to meet his doom. His eyes betray his true feelings.

A tall, thin man in a general’s costume rides up to me on his horse, a beast of great proportions with glowing eyes. He grins, his large mouth twisting to form a sneer. “Welcome to Hell, Jen,” he shouts, somehow making himself heard over the gunfire.

“Why am I here?” I shriek. The noise of the battle is so loud that I cannot hear my own voice; the question is caught in the tumult of the battle.

The man on the horse seems to hear me anyway; his voice comes back to me as softly as a whisper. “You deserve it, you spineless coward. Here is the place where all who shirk their duties on the battlefield must replay the same one, over and over, till time ends.”

As he speaks, I see the battlefield before me clear, the men I just saw killed jerked back to stand in clean, fresh lines miles away. The two gigantic armies begin to march towards each other, and the carnage begins anew.

My scream rings out over the battle.

Copyright © 2007 by Meagan Kane

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