The war had drug on for five endless years and showed no signs of stopping, locked in an eternal stalemate. The war had taken a wrong turn somewhere, not just a wrong turn but a gigantic leap backward. Trench warfare was back with a vengeance, hundreds of miles of mud filled death slits carved into the ground by soldiers. The first one had been The War to End All Wars. The second one had been The Good War. The soldiers named this one, Hell on Earth.
You must login to vote
It was freezing rain, adding to the deadly cold and filling the trenches with even more mud. The soldiers on both sides were chilled to the bone, shivering, teeth chattering, slowly going numb, slowly dying. Torn limbs and shredded bodies littered the ground, blood stained the burnt ground in large crimson splotches, and somewhere out in the distance, barley audible above the howling wind, a man moaned in pain. Hell is not a burning fire pit filled with little demons toting around pitchforks, Hell is a scorched battlefield laced with barbwire and poison gas, littered with bodies and the dying. Hell is a cold, wet, muddy trench filled with the bodies of your friends, where you are helpless to do anything except shiver from the cold and fear and wait to die yourself, that is what Hell really is.
A miniature river had formed in the Allied trench carrying away blood and bone fragments, and the occasional severed limb or half a face. The soldiers were leaned up against the wall of the trench, oblivious to the tug of the current and the bits of gore floating by. The soldiers were numb, physically and emotionally, the only things they felt were fear, cold and weariness. Battle scarred and shell shocked they stared off into the horizon, the one leading away from the trenches, each in their own fantasy world. It wasnít one filled with beautiful women, money and power, it was one where they could dry off and sleep in a warm bed without fear.
Even when a soldier collapsed face first into the deepening muddy water their trance-like stare did not falter, and the body was quickly carried away by the ever strengthening current. Death was not even noticed anymore, it was ever present like the fear or the cold. Nobody really knew why they were fighting anymore, the reason forgotten a long time ago along with the valor, bravado and excitement that had been there in the beginning. Everything like that was gone, replaced by fear and death.
One soldier, out of the hundreds of thousands lined up in the trenches, noticed something that was different about this day, though. The mortars and artillery that had fired almost nonstop since the very beginning had fallen silent, the only sounds were of the wind and the rain. In that moment he realized that the enemy they had been fighting for five years, all of the faceless people he had killed, were also human and they were going through the exact same thing on their side. In that moment he stood up and climbed out of his trench, despite the shouted orders from his commanding officers, intent only on one thing.
He dropped his rifle back in the trench as his fellow troops watched in curiosity, wondering what he could possibly be doing. He slowly walked into no-manís-land, fully exposed, and ever so calmly climbed over the barbed wire and mutilated bodies, walked through mud filled craters and directly into the middle of no-manís-land. He stood there for a moment, looking around, and finally removed his helmet, tossing it aside. He looked from his trench to the enemyís and back and then finally looked straight up into the sky.
ďIím not going to fight anymore!Ē he shouted at the top of his lungs, and then he yelled again, though a bit softer this time, ďI quit!Ē
With that he sat down in the mud and let his head hang between his legs. What followed was an eerie silence, nobody on either side moved, no shots were fired, no grenades were thrown. Then, two soldiers from the enemy trench stood up and made their way through no-manís-land, stopping a few feet from the soldier sitting on the ground. The Allied soldier stood up and looked at the two men, seeing that they were just like him, tired and cold and hungry and scared, not the soulless monsters that the propaganda posters portrayed them as.
The three men looked at each other and then embraced in a three-man hug, and though the two enemy soldiers didnít speak the same language as him, his message had been clear. Then something happened that could only be described as a miracle, both trenches started to empty as men began to walk across no-manís-land to join the three there. All along the trenches this was happening, guns were being thrown down, helmets thrown aside and the officerís orders were falling on deaf ears on both sides.
There was now a large crowd in the middle of the once forsaken land, cries of joy went up, former enemies hugged each other, men were singing and dancing and laughing and talking. And the soldier that started it all was now smiling and looking around, to his commanding officers he was a traitor but to all of the fighting men he was a hero.
In a single act of defiance he somehow stopped the war, he had simply quit and walked into the middle of no-manís-land to announce it. He had grown tired of the killing, the running, the poison gas, the artillery shells, the waiting, the cold, the mud, the rain, the fear, the depression, the hunger, the weariness, the bullets, the bombs, the planes, the screaming, the moaning, the bleeding, the pain. He had grown tired of it all, tired of war itself and he had done what others themselves had wanted but were too tired or scared to do. He ended the bloodiest war in human history, he ended the war.
One act of defiance.
On Christmas Day.