The Soldier and the Sergeant

This is a short story I recently started writing. I’m not satisfied with the ending, but until I figure out how to fix it, it’s not changing.

Soldier squatted in the trench, arms trembling with fear as artillery rained down on all sides. Next to him Sergeant crouched, unmoving, watching for the signal.

Sargeant, what are we gonna do if they don’t stop shooting?” Soldier asked.

“The same thing we did last time, soldier. We charge and hope we break through this time.”

Soldier thought about Sergeant’s answer. He really wasn’t looking forward to getting shot out in the mud, where he would be left for dead by his companions, but he really didn’t have a choice. He was told to be here, told to put his life on the line, and told there was no going back.

Soldier knew if he ran from the trench, his countrymen would arrest him as a traitor. He knew if he did not put his life on the line, he would be arrested as a traitor. He knew if he tried going back, he would be shot as a traitor. Soldier knew he was not a traitor, and so here he was. Scared witless for his own life.

“Get a grip, Soldier.” Sergeant said. “The signal will go off any minute now. We have to show the enemy that we’re tougher and meaner than them!”

“But Sergeant, I’m not tough or mean. I’m the son of a shopkeeper from a small village. The meanest thing I’ve ever done was stick a frog on a girl’s book while she was looking away.”

Sergeant brought his eyes down from the sky to look at Soldier. “Sticking frogs on books won’t win us the war, son, we need to kill the enemy or they will kill us!”

Soldier thought some more. He never killed anything in his life. His mind went back to one night, just after the turn of the year, when the snows were blanketing the world in their soft embrace. It was his honeymoon, and his bride was upset there was a rat under the bed. She ranted and raved, but Soldier could not bring himself to kill the invading rodent. Eventually he managed to herd the rat out of the door into the cold, but he could not help but feel sorry for the little creature who now had to suffer winter’s heartless winds…

“Eyes up, Soldier!”

Soldier was quickly thrust back to the present by Sergeant, who now stood, gesturing to a plume of smoke on the horizon.

“There’s the signal, Soldier. Hold your wits and charge!”

Soldier began shaking violently now. He could no longer hear the sounds of artillery shells nearby, but he heard the sound of gunfire in the distance. Lots of gunfire.

Show your courage, Soldier! Show those monsters what we’re made of!”

Soldier stood up, still shaking with fear. He could hear his own weapon rattling in his hands as Sergeant climbed out of the trench.

“Come on Soldier! Up and let at them! Kill them all!”

Soldier climbed unsteadily up the trench, sounds of his fellow countrymen yelling and firing weapons nearby were the only thing he could hear now. He watched Sergeant begin to sprint towards the enemy while calling Soldier to follow. Soldier obeyed.

With weapon in hand and adrenaline in his veins, Soldier let out a loud yell and began printing after Sergeant. Bullets hit the ground all around Soldier’s feet as he gained speed. He watched Sergeant in the distance reach the enemy trench and jump down into it. Soldier was nearly there when he heard a loud thwiiip and he felt his whole body fall backwards into the mud. He looked up and saw blood everywhere. On his weapon, on his hands, and on his chest. He could not figure out what happened, but he immediately began to feel cold.

As his fellow countrymen ran around and over him, his last thoughts went to his parents, to his wife, and to his unborn child, whom he would never meet.