This story exceeded my 1,000 word count goal by about 200 words, but I couldn't make it any shorter. This isn't a favourite story of mine, but it's the best I could come up with for point 3 in the 100 theme challenge.
Point #3: Making History
Not the Enemy
Location: Somewhere east of Tel Aviv, Israel
Time: 0530 hours
Mission: Destroy an enemy ammunition dump... at all costs.
The desecrated setting looked to have come from the pages of ancient history. Proud stone and adobe buildings, neat gardens, and narrow streets had been reduced to little more than ruins and rubble. Shepherds had probably driven their sheep to market down this lane. Now a tangle of broken thatch and rubble choked the street, making the lane impassable. Where a woman might have hung her brightly coloured rugs out of that window to beat the dust from them, now the roofless building’s single window looked like the haunted eye of something dead. Everything was silent but for the occasional rattle of a falling stone.
Could this be the kind of scene the Israelites had wrought on enemy cities during the Bible days? Abe wondered briefly.
The US military sergeant wiped the dripping sweat from his upper lip before returning his hand to the trigger of his machine gun. His left hand rubbed the safety switch of his weapon self-consciously. He knew that this unnatural silence was not right. He felt it in his bones. The many years of war he had lived through and his intense military training told him that there was someone out there... Or more than one someone...
He glanced at his comrades where they crouched behind one of the decrepit buildings. Corporal James was the closest on his left, keeping watch from where he leaned up against the remaining wall. Behind him, first private Bobby fidgeted slightly where he crouched on the uneven ground. Second privates Nathan and Trent were stationed to his right. Nathan was looking on as Trent cleaned his M4 machine gun. They were all waiting. Waiting for the signal.
A static screech shouted in the sergeant’s ear, and he almost flinched in surprise. His hand reached to his helmet as he listened to the radio message.
“Sergeant Major Bronson to Sergeant Abe, do you read me, over.”
Abe lifted the mic inside the helmet to his lips.
“I read you, over.” He muttered softly into the mouthpiece.
“The outside attackers have been mobilised. You need to attack the ammo dump now. We can’t provide backup. You’re all we’ve got.
Repeat. Attack the ammo dump now!”
Sweat from Abe’s forehead now trickled down his face, cutting a path through his grimy camouflage. His lips parted, and for a brief moment his voice failed him as he remembered the suicidal expectancy of this mission.
“Roger that.” He heard himself saying. “Our attack will begin immediately. Over and out.”
All his men looked up at him as Abe came to his feet. He said nothing. There was nothing to say. By the look in their commanding officer’s eyes, they knew their hoped for backup was not coming. They were on their own.
Sergeant Abe didn’t waste his breath on petty apologies, sympathies, or excuses. He simply said, “Let’s move out.”
They left the building on the outskirts of the village and made their way cautiously towards the town center. Their heavy army boots crunched over the gravel and rock, echoing slightly off the leftover walls. Abe kept his eyes sharp. Glancing here and there, he tried to pick out places where the enemy could be hiding. He could feel their eyes on his back... waiting to strike...
“Urghh...” Before Abe could respond to the explosion of gunshots, Nathan had jerked back with a groan and stumbled to the ground, clutching his side.
“Get down!” Abe shouted. The troops dove for any cover they could find. A rapid chatter of machine-gun fire burst from behind one pile of stone as Trent shot down the enemy sniper on a rooftop. Abe reached over and pulled Nathan’s hand away to reveal a gaping wound, blood flowing and soaking through the fabric of his fatigues. He wasn’t going to make it, and they both knew it. Clasping Nathan’s hand briefly, the dying soldier nodded, and Abe returned to the fight..
The closer they got to their target, the harder and faster gunshots came. Keeping their heads down, they ran through the clogged streets, jumping over piles of debris whilst shooting on sight. The rapid hammering of the unit’s M4s barely ceased. Soon the roar of battle drowned out the cries of the wounded enemy, as the Palestinian soldiers poured into the open for hand-to-hand combat.
A cloth-swathed Palestinian jumped out suddenly in front of Private Bobby. Abe heard the hideous click of Bobby’s empty magazine trying to fire a nonexistent bullet, and turned to fire a brief spurt towards the knife-wielding man. The impact of the bullets shook the man and before he fell to the ground, but not before his knife had already done fatal damage to the private. Abe’s eyes slid shut for an agonizing moment. Did the enemies of the ancient Israelites feel this same utter helplessness and despair as they saw their defensive attempts were hopeless?
“But we aren’t the enemy.”
The sudden realization brought new life to his body, and Abe - reinvigorated - shouted to his remaining soldiers, urging them on.
Through the confusion and the mist clouding his vision, Sergeant Abe saw their target; a building, almost fully intact situated straight ahead. As hope sprang up within him, ratcheting gunshots from nearby killed it. He knew that sound. After so many years in war, who could mistake the devastating sound of a Gatling gun?
Abe took cover, diving behind another pile of rock and thatch with his two remaining comrades. Corporal James sat up and switched his magazine. Trent cocked his M4, and removed the safety. The two soldiers gave their sergeant a single glance, and Trent said simply, “Make sure you get the Gatling gun,” before the leaping to their feet and running towards the enemy units; their machine guns firing non-stop. They were giving their sergeant the decoys he needed.
Abe didn’t watch his comrades’ fatal diversion. Instead, he turned and ran. Feet pounding, he closed the gap between himself and the machine gun nest, before making a flying leap and landed on top of the surprised Palestinian wielding the trigger. Using the butte of his gun to subdue the soldier, Abe hastily reached for the larger weapon. Swinging the barrel around so it faced back towards the enemy, the sergeant focused the crosshairs on the target building.
He pulled the trigger.
For a brief moment after the massive rounds burst through the building, nothing happened. Then with a shock wave that nearly threw Abe from the nest, the building exploded; a massive fireball curling heavenward, accentuating the mission’s success.
Stunned by the explosion, Abe forced his numb limbs to move. Climbing down from the machine gun nest, he began to run towards the outskirts of what was left of the town: towards safety.
Vaguely, he recalled the similarities between the town he had seen and how he visualized the towns of the Bible. He recalled the fighting, and the deaths of his loyal comrades. He recalled the feelings of hopelessness and despair.
As he ran clear of the outskirts of town and stumbled towards the safety he knew was ahead, he couldn’t help but wonder: was he repeating history?
He was making it.