Kissed by the Rain
By: Bell Daniels
A positively dreadful day. Bullets flying through the air. The guy standing next to me toppled over. Got a new hole put in his head. The signal sounds for us to charge. Men start pulling out of the trenches to make a break for the no man’s land, but they get filled with hot lead before they even have a chance to take a step. As soon as they get out, they fall right back in, dead. Not wanting to die and wanting this damn day to end already, I pick up one of the corpses at my feet and use him as a shield. “Sorry man” I say to the corpse “But I’m not dying today.” I managed to get out of the trench successfully, using my fallen comrade as my shield, and made my way to no man’s land. Some men had managed to make it past the initial fire storm of bullets and made it into no man’s land. But many dropped like flies shortly after. Reinforcements came from behind me. They saw what I was doing and some followed suit.
It was a slow trudge. The enemy was using machine guns mounted on high ground, which is why so many men on my side fell so damn quickly. I managed to take out a few men that came my way. It wasn’t an easy task, trying to aim and shoot down countless enemy soldiers while holding a corpse to shield myself from machine gun fire. I felt kind of bad for what I was doing. I didn’t know this guy all that well, but I knew he had a girl back home waiting for him. He was just a kid, no more than nineteen. He shouldn’t have ever been here. This kid should be in school right now, learning pointless shit he’ll forget ten minutes after he takes a test on it. He should be at the bars flirting with every girl he comes across. There are plenty of men who are older than him who have lived longer and could take his place. Now look at him, a mangled, bloody and lifeless mess. He should never have been brought here.
But his lifeless corpse is what got me across the no man’s land and into enemy territory. When I got some cover, I laid his body down against the wall. “Thanks kid” I whispered, and ran off in the direction of the enemy. I plowed my way through soldiers as I trudged through their trenches. I punched, shot, and wrestled my way through their men until I got to their high ground where the machine guns were mounted. They didn’t see me as I came up behind them and shot them all in the back. They fell to the floor and the guns stopped. This allowed more of the men on my side to cross over without so much hot lead flying at them. It wasn’t long after, that the enemy retreated and we secured the area. We sent word of our progress to our commanding officer who ordered us to maintain our position. I looked out over the post where I had killed the machine gunmen. I saw the result of our victory. Bodies littered the ground. The dirt was dyed red. So much death, and I couldn’t understand why. It was a terrible site, and the sky seemed to agree with me. It was overcast and gloomy, as if it were mourning the deaths of all the fallen on the battle field beneath it.
I remember a simpler time. A time when I was younger and naïve about the world and of war. I was younger than the kid I’d used as a shield. I was still in high school, but had no idea what I wanted to do in life. I remember that day when a recruitment team came to my school. They handed out pamphlets and flyers. One of them talked to me about the benefits of serving. He romanticized the whole thing. He made it sound so simple and exciting. I signed up right then and there, without even consulting my parents. They weren’t pleased with my decision. We argued and I left. I haven’t looked back since.
Boot Camp was hell. I hardly slept, my muscles were always sore, and the food was awful. But I survived. During my time there, I met two kids my age. Their names were Tim and Simon. Tim was tall for his age, with broad shoulders and nothing but muscle. Simon was more lean and was the fastest of the three of us. They each had different reasons for joining the military.
“Can’t afford anything else” said Tim “I’m the youngest of six and we live on a farm. Money’s always been tight. I joined for the benefits. And if I die, my family gets a little extra help.”
“That sounds depressing” said Simon.
“Yeah, well life can be depressing sometimes. Why’d you join?”
“Me” began Simon “I joined to prove a point. My whole life people have told me I could never do anything great. I’m gonna show them. One day I’m gonna make it all the way to the rank of General. Maybe even Admiral!” Tim burst out laughing. We both looked at him puzzled. Then he said
“Then you’re in the wrong place my friend. Admirals are Navy, not Army.” I started to chuckle too. Simon looked completely embarrassed. “If you’re looking to be something high ranking, you want to be a General.” Simon nodded and eventually he too was laughing at himself. Tim looked to me
“What about you” he asked. “I’m here for the adventure. Pure and simple.”
We got through boot camp two years later. Soon afterwards our country was at war with nations across the ocean. It was World War III. We were deployed to the front with a mixed batch of rookies like us and vets like our CO, Colonel William Flynn. He was a bit of a hard ass at times but he meant well. He’d seen a war or two in his time. We all respected him.
Those first few nights on the front were a living nightmare. I still lie awake at night sometimes thinking about those nights. We were exhausted. The air was filled with the stench of the dead. The roar of the tanks firing was defining. By the end of it I was running on nothing but adrenaline. After a fortnight we all seemed to get used to the place. The gunfire in the distance didn’t bother us as much. The nights were freezing but we adjusted. The food wasn’t much different than the food at boot camp. We had accepted that this was our life now. It was in those trenches that I grew to truly admire my new friends. I remember Tim sitting there shivering in the cold night. He was half terrified. But there was a look in his eyes. It was a look I would later see in the mirror. It was a look that said he knew what he signed up for. Tim was a man to be admired. We were the same age but he was older in spirit. His reasons for fighting were more solid and respectable than mine. He was ten times the man I was and ten times the man I am today. Simon was the same way. He had no intention of dying or going mad at the sight of a battle or dying comrades. He had a mission and he was determined to see it through. The two of them seemed unstoppable. But then it happened.
Two months into our station on the front we were brutally attacked. We were vastly out gunned and out matched. For every one enemy we took down they took four of us with them. Our Flynn gave the order to retreat. He didn’t have to tell us twice. We booked it away from the enemy to the extraction point. We made it to one of the jeeps when Simon yelped in pain and fell to the ground. Tim and I rushed to help him up. I gave cover fire while Tim pulled him into the jeep. We got the Hell out of there as fast as we could. Gunships overhead gave cover fire to allow us to escape. A few minutes later we were in the clear. It was then we saw where Simon has been hit. He took a bullet to the knee cap.
Simon was honorably discharged from the military after he was discharged from the hospital. We went to visit him almost every day. The doctor said he’d need a cane the rest of his life. It broke my heart to see him in that bed. The look of defeat was all over his face. That spark of determination that was in his eyes in the trenches had been extinguished. His whole life he was talked down to. The military was his life, and now that was gone. He didn’t speak a word to us while he was hospitalized. Even after he was discharged he hardly said a word. Simon went back home to live with family. Tim and I were sent back out to fight.
The war raged on for years. Tim and I were like brothers. We were inseparable him and I. We went from rookies to hardcore soldiers. We were assigned to warzones all over. We always ad each-others backs. What happened to Simon would not happen to us. Over the years I’d grown full of my thirst for adventure. I’d seen so many places, and while on leave experienced food, fashions, and cultures from all over. I began to think of what I should do. Adventure was no longer my drive. I couldn’t just leave. Who would have Tim’s back? That was it; Tim would be my reason. He was my brother. I couldn’t just abandon him. From that moment on my reason for fighting was to watch my brother’s back and we’d get through this war together.
We fought alongside each-other for another two years. We were practically untouchable! We’d seen countless battles and been in this war from the start. But that came to a sudden halt. Some battles are harder to fight than others. This was one of the hardest. The rain was hurling down upon us. We trudged through the mud of the jungle. Our clothes were soaked and there was no sound save for the rain and the sound of our boots sloshing through the mud. We were on our way to a base to restock and rest before heading to the front. We trudged side by side, our weapons in hand. Suddenly, we were ambushed. There had to be at least twenty of them hiding in the trees and the brush. We couldn’t see a thing. We were out of our element, for this was the enemy’s territory. This was their turf and they knew better than anyone how to navigate it. Tim and I stood back to back. A grenade came out of nowhere and knocked us down hard. There was a loud ringing in my ears. I could hear nothing else. I was in such a daze. Tim was beside me. He seemed unconscious. Our unit was scrambling, shooting at anything that moved. I moved toward Tim, shaking him to wake him. His head was so bloody. He wouldn’t wake, but he still had a pulse.
We couldn’t stay there any longer. Our unit managed to take out enough of the enemy to drive them away. But they’d be back. We had to get to the base as quickly as we could. I slung Tim over my shoulder. “Come on big guy” I grunted “Let’s get out of here.” He was a heavy son of a bitch. But he couldn’t carry himself at the moment. The rain continued to cascade onto us. But we managed to get to the base. We started out with a unit of twenty men and arrived with fifteen. Tim was given immediate treatment. He would be in the infirmary for a week. I got some treatment too. I didn’t realize it until someone pointed it out to me that my head and nose were bleeding. I was so full of adrenaline I didn’t feel a thing. The feeling of blood loss and pain rushed over me like a tidal wave and I blacked out. I woke up in a bed next to Tim’s.
Thankfully we were back up on our feet in no time. We received orders to remain at the base until more troops arrived. So we had a bit of a break. While on this little break we walked to compound, shot some hoops, and just relaxed. It felt good after having a near death experience.
But our fun was short lived as the base came under attack. We were unprepared and unarmed. Enemy combatants sprung out of the jungle and rushed the base. We booked it to the interior of the base and headed straight for the armory. We grabbed our guns and sprang into action. We took cover in the doorway leading to the courtyard, where many of the enemy combatants were. Tim pulled out a grenade and tossed it their way. “Paybacks a bitch aint it” he boasted. He howled like a cowboy as he opened fire on the combatants now stunned by the grenade. We left the safety of the doorway and advanced. One by one they fell. The firefight lasted several minutes. Eventually those still alive on the other side surrendered. I breathed a sigh of relief. We survived another battle. I looked over at Tim, expecting him to be congratulating himself on another victory. But what I saw was my worst fear.
He was smiling, but it was a thin smile, a weak smile. His face had gone pale. Slowly we both looked down at his abdomen. Crimson stained his white shirt. His knees buckled and he collapsed. I caught him in my arms. I called for a medic. Tim began breathing heavily and shivering.
“Tim” I said “Tim! Come on man stay awake. Look at me. You’re fine. okay? We’ll get you patched up.” He gave a soft chuckle.
“It looks like my family’s finally getting those benefits” he said weakly. I shook my head “Don’t talk like that. If you go, who’s got my back, huh? You can’t go out like this man. You just can’t! You hear me? I won’t allow it!” He took my hand in his.
“You know” he whispered “I wasn’t expecting to live past the first year of this war. I thought, I came here to die so my family back home could get some help and have one less mouth to feed…But…You made this into a real adventure. You gave me something I didn’t think I’d ever have again…fun.” Tears welled in my eyes. He gave me a smile as he said “Thanks.” His grip on my hand loosened and his eyes glossed over. The last breath in his lungs left his body as Tim went limp.
I shook my head viciously. I began to cry like a child and I screamed to the heavens. My brother had just died in my arms! The doctor finally made his way over to us. Fellow soldiers came over to pull me away from Tim’s body so they could take him away. I gripped him tight and refused to move. I whaled in pain. I suddenly blacked out as one of them hit me in the back of the head with the butt of their gun.
I was given the duty of reporting Tim’s death to his family. I drove to the farm his family owned. They grew corn and wheat from the look of it. I walked up to the house slowly, the flag in my hand. I was very familiar with the place. Almost every time we got any leave time we’d come by here and have a proper dinner. Tim’s family practically adopted me. His family was my family. It only solidified our brotherhood. As I walked up the front porch I saw Tim’s mother. She was sitting in her rocking chair enjoying a glass of lemonade. She saw me and dropped her glass. She knew what I was there for. She let out an awful wail. It was the sound of her world coming to a crumbing end. It was the sound of her heart shattering into a million and one pieces. It was the sound of the joy leaving the world. It was the sound of a loving mother losing her son.
I made it to the front steps when Tim’s father came rushing out of the house to see what was wrong. He saw his wife and then he saw me. His lip trembled and he fell to his knees. Following him out of the house was Tim’s brothers and sisters. The younger ones didn’t understand what was happening and stood there in confusion. The older ones knew and began to cry with their mother and father. Then Tim’s father mustered up the strength to stand. I presented him the flag in my hands. He accepted and I saluted.
It was raining at Tim’s funeral. It seemed fitting. It was a terrible day. But it was also fitting for another reason. It’s what he would have wanted. Tim loved the rain. He loved everything about it; the sound, the smell it made when it met the dirt, the look of it when it down poured. To have it rain at his funeral was as though Mother Nature was giving him one last gift. I stood there and watched as my brother was lowered into the ground. His family stood in a large huddled group, still sobbing. It took everything I had not to shed a tear. I was a marine, I wasn’t allowed to cry. Also, if I did Tim would probably come back as a ghost and kick my ass for it. He told me once not to cry for him when he died.
I was the last one to leave when the funeral was over. I didn’t know what to do with myself. The service was never going to be the same. I couldn’t leave because I had nothing outside it, aside from Tim’s family. Who would have my back? How would I get through the next battle, and the battle after that, and so on? I was lost without my brother.
I decided to visit an old friend. Simon and I hadn’t spoken since he left the hospital. He didn’t want to see us and he didn’t write or respond to our messages. After his injury he was a changed man. There was no more life in him, at least none that we recognized. He didn’t come to the funeral either. He might have ignored my last message that spoke of Tim’s death, or he read it and just didn’t care. Either way I needed to see him. I needed to know I still had at least one good friend.
I went to Simon’s house and met with his sister, who was his care giver. Simon never fully recovered from his injury and needed help around the house. She invited me in for tea. The house was plain but tidy. There was no sign of Simon.
“Where is Simon” I asked. Her small smile faded and she looked away from me.
“Simon is dead.” I was stunned. What? How? When? Why? And why did no one tell me?
“He was so depressed” she said “the military was his life. After he was discharged, well, all the joy and ambition in those eyes of his were just gone. He would sit in that chair in the corner there all day and hardly ever say a word. He eventually got worse. He wouldn’t eat or drink anything. Then he just stopped coming out of his room altogether. I came in one morning to check on him only to find he wasn’t there. I searched the house and found him in the bathroom, where he…He cut his wrists with a razor in the bathtub…” There was a long silence. Then she continued
“I wanted to call some of his friends from the military like yourself, but he got rid of all his old contacts long ago.” I felt my heart sink into my stomach
“How long ago…did…did he die?” was all I could ask.
“He went last summer” she said quickly “I would have called you I really would. But I didn’t have your number. I’m so sorry you came all the way here just for this news.”
It rained for the three days I was on leave. I had never felt so lost. What was I going to do? I felt like I was floating in a void. I had no one. My friends were dead. My family had disowned me long ago. I had nothing. Suddenly the military seemed so meaningless. It seemed like an adventure I was no longer interested in. What was I going to do? I wasn’t like I could leave the military. I was a fighter and a killer. I was no builder, teacher or farmer. I was no artist or writer. I had no skills outside those I’d learned in my years of service.
I sat there by the window and watched the rain fall. It was like a thousand tiny bullets. The sight of it reminded me of Tim which made my heart ache. I thought of all the good times we had. That time we were stationed in Shanghai we walked into a bar. We ordered some beers. We ended up getting into a drinking contest with some other soldiers there. We all actually lost to a civilian who joined in. She was this black haired beauty with the reddest lipstick. I honestly don’t remember much about that night. But I do remember that Tim was in love. It was drunken love but it was love. I passed out and woke up in a hotel room with no clue how I got there. Tim came in with coffee and proceeded to tell me about last night. Apparently I was so drunk I decided to get a tattoo of a heart with a ribbon wrapped around it with the name of my high school crush! However, I did get twenty bucks out of it because Tim bet me I wouldn’t go through with it. He on the other hand had a wonderful one night stand with that woman we met at the bar. According to other residents of the floor, it was quite a night.
It’s nights like those I’ll never have again. It’s nights like those that I loved the most out of the years of fighting that I’ve done. They helped us unwind from the harsh deployments and the horrors that we’d seen. I remember one day in particular. We were deployed to the trenches in Russia. It was bitter cold. The wind nipped at our faces and fingers through our scarves and gloves. It began to snow and we couldn’t see a thing. We didn’t see the attack, but we did hear it. The sound of exploding shells grew louder and louder as they came closer and closer.
We were given the signal to charge. We hoped out of the trenches and made a beeline for the no man’s land. I remember Tim by my side. We dodged shells and bullets left and right. The noise was deafening. There was a Russian soldier who ran up to me. He tried to stab me with his knife. We wrestled for a bit until a managed to get him on his back and grab the knife from him. I can’t remember how many times I stabbed him. But I know it was a lot. Tim had to pull be from the body and punch me in the face to snap me out of it. I looked at the body of the man I’d just murdered. I think it was then that the idea that this was no longer an adventure began to seep into my mind. I looked around at the carnage unfolding around me. The snow covered ground was splattered with crimson as bodies fell or were torn apart by falling shells.
It’s a miracle that I kept my sanity after that day. I get a chill down my spine whenever I think about it. That man’s face has never left my memory, even though it’s been years. But Tim managed to pull me back that day. He was an anchor for me. I probably would have lost my mind had it not been for him. No that he was gone I would most likely die within a day of combat or go mad at the sight of another dead body.
I wonder, if Simon hadn’t been kneecapped, what he be like today? He wanted to be a great General. Would he have made it? I don’t know. He was always a quick thinker, but his reflexes were awful. He might have died in the field if he hadn’t been kneecapped. He might have lost his mind like so many do. He was a good man with a good heart. He should have died out there on the battlefield. At least then he could have been seen as a war hero. He wouldn’t be a great general but he’d be something great.
I thought about my lost friends long and hard as the rain fell outside my window. It was a shame really, that Tim and I got to fulfill our dreams but Simon couldn’t. His chance was stripped from him. Although I guess one could argue that he could become something great in another way. Maybe he could become a great writer or a politician. He had the mind for it. But his heart was set on the military. That was it. I knew what I was going to do. I had found my new purpose. I was getting shipped out to another place in the morning. But I would not be going back in search of adventure. Instead, I would be going with the mission to fulfill the dream of another. I would rise through the ranks and become a great general for Simon. He deserved more than he got, and this is the least I could do for him. So there it was. My mind was made up. I’d work on rising through the ranks to get to the top.
That was a month ago. I’ve been in the trenches ever since then. Now, I’m atop a hill overlooking a bloody aftermath of one of the worst battles I’ve seen in this war. In all my time in this war, a whole ten years, I never once asked the question “What is it all for”? It never once crossed my mind, which I find disturbing. I guess now that I’m grown and matured with battle scars and time, I can ask that question. What are we really fighting for? What’s the point of this war? I don’t know the answer to any of these questions. And why should I? They’ve never been relevant to what I set out to do. I came for adventure and I got that. Now, I’m trying to reach the top. But if I’m to reach the top, shouldn’t I know how I get there? Shouldn’t I know the reason behind the wars I fight that help me climb the ranks? I felt a sudden urge to want to know, after seeing the red stained land before me.
It was impossible to make out the faces of every soldier who lay dead on that field. Some of them were mangled heaps of flesh while others simply lay lifeless on the ground like blood and dirt covered dolls that had been finished being played with by a child who never learned to put is toys away properly. I could only imagine what their reasons for agreeing to this were. Were they like Tim who had no other choice and did all this for their families? Were they like Simon who wanted to make something of themselves? Were they like me who came for the adventure? Any of those dead soldiers were children, like the one I used as a shield. They had no place in war. It was a horror, his war. I could only hope that it ended soon. But I would never really know. I was a soldier, I didn’t ask questions. So my questions would probably never be answered even if I asked them.
I looked down at the two soldiers at my feet. One looked like that nineteen year old from before. So much potential, wasted on a war he probably didn’t even know the reason behind. The other looked older. He was a vet, like me. She had probably seen as much carnage as I had. But I’ll never know because I just shot her in the back. I wonder what it would be like to talk to these two. Did they have families? Were they fighting for something they believed in? Did they know the reason behind this war? It was a mystery I would have to go on living with unsolved.
I heard the gunships overhead. They were deafening in the quiet of the now silent battlefield. They almost blended in with the overcast sky. It looked like it was going to rain. I didn’t like the rain. It made me think of Tim. It hurt to think of him. I looked behind me at the troops who made it across as they take prisoners and made ready for the gunships to land with reinforcements. Then, a rookie came up the hill. I’d seen him around from time to time. He was an enthusiastic kid. He was like me when I was his age; here for the adventure.
“Sir” he said “The area is secure. The Colonel wants to see you.” I nodded in response. But I looked back at the field of dead bodies. The thought had crossed my mind that soon a unit was going to have to go out and collect the bodies. I did not envy the troops assigned to that. I’d had to do that before. It was miserable. I remember the first time I was assigned to body recovery. It was the most depressing sight. So many soldiers, who were my age, were scattered and piled on top of one another. The field was made muddy by their blood and insides. One of the men in my unit at the time broke down screaming and wailing in anguish as he discovered the body of his younger brother among the dead. He fell to his knees and cradled the corpse in his arms. Tears cascaded down his cheeks and the most unholy wails came from his mouth. I could feel nothing but pity for him. But I could not empathize, for I’d never know what it felt like to lose a brother. Today I can.
“Kid” I said to the rookie, not looking away from the field “Come and take in the view”. The rookie came over to me and looked out onto the field. I watched as his face flushed white as a ghost. I don’t think he’d ever seen so much death in one place before. “What do you think” I asked, watching to gauge his response. He swallowed hard
“It’s an awful site” he replied, his voice cracking. My eyes narrowed and my brow knitted, “Do you know what it is”? He looked at me confused, as if I were asking a trick question.
“It’s a battlefield” he replied. I shook my head “That’s the price we pay for an adventure.”
The rookie’s eyes went so wide I thought his eyeballs would pop out of their sockets.
“I was once like you” I began “I signed up for this war without even thinking. I only wanted adventure and excitement in my life. But then I saw countless battlefields like this one. I realized I had made a mistake and that the price was not worth it.” I put my hand on his shoulder and stared him straight in the eye
“Get out of this business. Go live a normal life. You’re young, you can do it. Go get a normal job. It doesn’t matter what it is. You can be anything. You could be a steel worker, a cop, a writer, a teacher. You name it you can be it. You don’t have to be a soldier to have excitement and adventure in your life. Go find yourself a girl, settle down or get rejected. If you continue with this life you’ll never experience such a thing. I was once like you. It’s days like today I wish I wasn’t.”
I let go of his shoulder. His eyes filled with some combination of awe and fear. I made my way to the ladder to climb down. I wondered what the Colonel wanted. He was probably make some remark about how I shouldn’t have used that kid as a shield, how it was an atrocity. But I’ll just reply with the fact that war is an atrocity and such acts as the one I committed should be par for the course.
Suddenly I uncontrollably jerked back. Something hit me in the chest. It took a second to register, but it hurt. I felt my knees buckle and suddenly I was looking up at the overcast sky. It became hard to breathe. I went to feel my chest where I felt the thing hit me. My hands were shaking. It finally registered in me what had happened. I’d been shot. But how? We’d taken over the area. There were no more enemy gunmen, unless…A sniper. The rookie rushed over to me.
“What the” he said. I grabbed him and brought him close and managed to whisper
“sniper.” He nodded and shouted to the rest of the troops which put the whole place on high alert.
My grip on his shirt loosened. I couldn’t hold anything anymore because I couldn’t feel my hands. It was so hard to breathe. I felt like I was blacking out. Suddenly a rain drop fell on my face. It became clear, I am dying. But I’m afraid. I’m actually pretty happy. I didn’t have to stay in the service anymore. But I am a bit disappointed. It looks like poor Simon can’t catch a break. His dream can’t even be fulfilled by proxy. Oh well, if I see him on the other side I’ll have to apologize.
Maybe I’ll see Tim again. That’d be great! I’ve missed that guy. I think Mother Nature knew my time was here and now. She’s been waiting to do this for a while. It’s been overcast for a few days now. But I don’t mind the rain this time. Most times the rain is a downpour that reminds me of machinegun fire. Not this time though. No, this time it’s more like a gentle kiss. I don’t feel any pain anymore. I think I’m too far gone for pain. I’m a bit cold though but that’s fine. I can’t tell if my eyes are physically closing or not but regardless, my lights are going out. Wait for me guys, just a little longer. I’m coming.
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The story of a boy who becomes a soldier for the adventure. However, his longing for adventure ends when he is confronted with great loss and a sense of emptiness.The story follows an unnamed protagonist as he endures hell in a futuristic war time setting. He makes friends but suffers great losses. He is confronted with unbearable sorrow and is faced with the question of how to go on.