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Sniper – Norman A. Rubin
When the wind was blowing, shrill and fierce, with the coming of daylight. When it was just gray with the coming dawn that the forms of things were nearly indistinct - but not wholly lost. A figure was seen crawling slowly but carefully on the khaki of his uniform through the hellish debris of no-man’s land, both of the flesh of man and the ruined tools of war. From time to time he lifted himself from the ground, crouched and jumped over barbed wire entanglements; he was careful of unexploded shells and mines at every movement he made.
His rifle was held tightly in the crook of his arms; the attached capped scope snaking above the breech. The soldier’s face was blackened and his hair was covered with a dark brown cap to be rendered unseen; even his helmet was mud covered and the webbing decorated with small leafy stems for additional camouflage.
When the coming dawn, which imprisoned the shadows that danced through the night hours, the soldier crawled through and around the terrain of battle till he reached the motley ruins of a onetime farmhouse. There he took the needed cover behind a crumbly yet wide foundation block; then he flattened his body on the rough ground facing the distant target. The sniper eyes searched the desolate battleground of shell craters and strands of barbed wire till he saw the enemy’s trench. His heart pounded as he tried to add stones before him to lessen the chance to be seen, but he was forced to desist, as the noise of his work was to his ears rather noisy.
When it was just so light and the forms were clear, the figure of the young sniper was seen blended on the ground behind the hidden cover of stone. Only the sharp eye of a rare bird winging in the sky saw the outline of his form; the bird fluttered away hurriedly when its sense spoke of danger. .
The sniper was neither heroic nor a brave volunteer in the line of his duty; just a soldier from the ranks following the orders of his commanding officer. When the command came he listened to the words, prepared himself to follow his orders and when the moment came to fulfill the command, he lifted himself from his trench and started on the path to his mission.
He was a young man wearing the clothes of a doughboy; he might have been either a mountaineer from the southern hills, a plainsman tilling the good earth of the prairies, or a schoolteacher teaching the lessons in the northern clime. He had heard the call ‘Over There, Over There’ and he put his mark of allegiance and joined a regiment of young soldiers.
When the light of the rising sun spread its wan light his blackened faced was etched in apprehension. When the mist rose from the horrors of the shell craters and covered the muddy ground filled with the remnants of battle, he was ready for the orders to be carried out to the best of his ability. Yet his clear eyes were specked with rightful fear and his lips were grim to the task ahead.
Through the early glimmer of daylight the sniper searched out the earthworks till he spotted the observation post. When the hazy morning sight cleared he had a direct outline to distance the trajectory of his bullet. The windage was check one or twice, which he found to be correct. He readied his rifle and wiped the glass of his uncovered scope. Then he waited with the drumming to his heart.
When the clear sighting arose with daylight, the sniper waited and watched. Then he saw a spiked helmet lifting from the observation post. A hazy non-descript face was seen vaguely under the pointed helmet as its alert eyes scanned the terrain of battle. The sniper closed one eye as he peered through the scope and watched the motions of the helmeted head, but he still waited.
When the sniper was crouched unseen behind the stones as he waited for the right moment. It came when the figure made one careless, yet fatal and deadly mistake. The German officer revealed for a few moments the field gray of his uniform as he lifted himself slightly from the trench allowing the officer’s epaulettes to be seen. The enemy searched about the moonscape of battle with a pair of binoculars to his eyes sweeping them in a circular motion.
The sniper had him in his sights through the hairs of his scope. When it was silent and still through the corrupt earth, he pressed his finger on the trigger...
Norman A. Rubin