It’s cold outside. My boots no longer kept my feet dry; they were cold as the snow on the ground.

Trembling, not from lack of warmth, but for the unknown that I must face every hour that I’m here.

I killed a man. He was about twenty years old. Like me, I suppose he had parents, a home, and maybe a sweetheart. Did he carry her picture close to his heart as I did? Did he tell her he’d be back to marry her as I did? I wondered about those things constantly. It burned in my heart like acid.

I was caught by surprise that day, he came out of nowhere. We both stood there looking at each other, guns pointed ready to fire. I could tell he was as scared as I was, and the will to shoot first was whirling around in his head…like mine. Suddenly he moved my gun went off.

It was like a dream, so surreal as he fell slowly to the ground. Eyes wide opened as if they were screaming, blood splattered the white snow marking the spot of his departure. He was dead and I had shot him.

My heart pounded heavily against my chest. I couldn’t breathe. Falling to my knees I screamed, “Get up, get up! You’re not dead! Breathe…please.” He moved not, eyes starring up to the heavens…lifeless, while blood oozed from his chest.

A cry so loud pierced the sky. I cried for him as if he were my brother. My heart ached for the loss. I was evil and I felt it. They didn’t prepare me for this. I wasn’t ready. God I wish I could bring him back! He just laid there, so very still. What should I do now? Was I to leave him unburied, alone and in the middle of nowhere? Taking his life was bad enough; to leave him was unthinkable. My hands numb, raw and frostbit pulled this stranger to an empty and abandoned foxhole. I placed him carefully inside and began to cover him with snow. When I had finished I gave him a moment of silence, it’s the least I could do and hung my head low as I whispered, “Forgive me.” I continued onward.

My boots they didn’t keep my feet dry. They were as cold as the snow on the ground. Have I told you this before?

shakatoah   shakatoah wrote
on 11/27/2008 5:22:15 AM
I remember my grandfather telling the story of seeing two German soldiers ahead of him and his sergeant on the railway tracks during the war. I don't know where he was...only that he felt he had no choice...it was 'us' or 'them'. He told the story only once but it haunted him forever...so tragic. You captured that feeling here with your words and brought it all back to me. There's a real depth of feeling in your writing...not just in this piece but in the others I've read. I have a great deal of respect for that. :)

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This short story was inspired when I saw Saving Private Ryan and Veterans day was upon us.
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