|Biting the Bullet
Author: m.t.Skellington PM
A young Rebel soldier endures his first unpleasant taste of the battlefield in the American Civil War. This version is a little more watered down than I really want it, as it was written for a school magazine.Rated: Fiction T - English - Tragedy/Adventure - Words: 1,284 - Reviews: 1 - Favs: 1 - Published: 03-18-07 - Status: Complete - id: 2335502
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
I was standing on top of the nearby brick wall, looking out through the dust and the fog to see if the enemy was indeed out there. It was hard to see, and none of us were really sure. But suddenly there was the loud crash of a cannon and the battle had begun. I leapt off of the wall in a sudden spasm of fear for my life. "What are you thinking?!" I heard Jackson shout at me. "Get the hell offa there! You wanna get yourself killed?!"
I practically ignored him. I grabbed my rifle as fast as humanly possible and got ready, too much in a frenzied hurry to be nervous. I refused to let myself get nervous amongst the swarm of men hurling themselves headlong into battle. I began to hear the roar of the approaching storm getting closer, and immediately my stomach started doing somersaults. I remembered what I'd imagined battle would be like…now realizing that it might not be as glorious and rewarding as I thought it'd be. Everyone was yelling and shouting their curses at the Yankees, which were swiftly approaching. I took a huge gulp and prepared myself, and before I knew it I found myself struggling against someone bombarding me. Without even having to think about it I gathered all my strength to fight him off, foolishly using my gun as a club. Somehow I managed to defeat him, and when I looked around everything was a blur. I couldn't hear myself think, and there was chaos and violence of every shade. Within seconds I was being clobbered by someone else, and this time I managed to discharge the weapon in my hand. I didn't have time to even tell if I'd hit him before I was being shoved further into the mayhem. My legs were trembling and I could barely keep a grip on my rifle because of the sweat on my palms. It was easy to get disoriented and not know which way was forward, which was at the least unsettling. Suddenly I felt myself hurtling towards the ground…how this happened I didn't know. Then I was in the mud, desperately trying to get back on my feet as quickly as possible, but every time I tried to lift myself someone would trip over me.
Now I was quaking with fear, certain I would be helplessly trampled to death. Someone heavy fell on top of me, knocking the wind out of me and nearly crushing me underneath his immense weight. I shoved him off and managed to stumble to my feet, and then I felt it—that shattering pain in my right arm. I couldn't help myself from screaming in anguish, and it dawned on me that I'd been shot by a heavy lead bullet. My arm instantly went limp at my side, now a useless hunk of throbbing hurt at my side. I knew that now I was completely defenseless and I panicked. I clutched at the wound with my free hand in a vain effort to stop the bleeding. My head swam and I could feel my knees trying to give way under the pain which was consuming my entire body, and in spite of myself I could feel tears streaming down my face as I wailed hopelessly.
Then behind me I was able to make out a familiar voice…it was Jackson shouting for me. I made a weak effort to fight through the mob, but to no avail. In my dizziness and vulnerability I was again knocked to the ground, and this time I was being attacked. I feebly tried to fend off my assailant with my left arm. Luckily for me the soldier had lost his weapon, but nonetheless he made the greatest effort to beat me senseless. I got lightheaded and started to drop gradually off into unconsciousness. Then abruptly the punching stopped. I didn't care to know how or why. I assumed it had to have something to do with Jackson because he'd started carrying me, dragging me, away from the battle. At that point things began to go quiet and dark.
I don't know how long I was out, but when I awoke the battle had long since ended and I found myself lying flat on a stretcher, with Jackson at my side. That overpowering pain came back to me as I slowly became conscious and I let out a heavy moan. Jackson knelt down to me. "It's okay kid," he reassured me. "The doctor's gonna see you next."
Within minutes the doctor was at my side as well, inspecting my arm and probing at my wound. He let out a brief sigh. "Sorry son, this arm's comin off—the quicker the better."
My heart stopped and terror slowly started to well up inside my. This couldn't be possible. It wasn't.
"Nurse, get him onto an operation table."
It was. I was put on a stretcher and carried away as my heart thundered violently in my chest…I was too shocked and petrified to bring myself to yell. I glanced up at Jackson, panic in my face and my gaze. "Don't worry, it's okay," he said awkwardly, "I'll come with you."
I was brought into a room that was more separated from the rest of the hospital, and set down on the table. All of my limbs were trembling uncontrollably (except of course for the hurt one), and I broke out in a cold sweat.
"Bring the chloroform," I heard the doctor say to a nurse. "You're lucky," he said to me, "We're nearly out. Most hospitals around here have nothing of the sort, with things in such short supply and all."
This eased my nerves only a little. I couldn't stop my heart from thumping so wildly, and there was that lump in my throat that threatened tears. Out the corner of my eye I could see the doctor dipping a rag in the liquid drug, and then come over to me.
"Open up," he said.
I lay stock still for a moment and then grudgingly opened my mouth as they placed the rag inside.
First I felt a little dizzy, and then I felt myself slip into a sort of semi-consciousness. I felt someone tightly strap a belt around my arm before I blacked out.
I awoke into the same semi-consciousness to discover it was all over. I knew it was gone. There was no point in checking, it would only serve to upset and disturb me. I felt a dull throbbing pain (which promised to worsen as I woke up more), but the overbearing pain that had plagued me beforehand was all but gone, and I was relieved I'd slept through the whole procedure.
The doctor rinsed his hands in a nearby bucket of water. "Well, you did pretty well, didn't you? I spose you'll heal up right quickly, in a week or two maybe."
Later on I lay idly on my bunk staring up at the ceiling, contemplating what had happened and how it would affect the rest of my life. Jackson sat beside me, trying to turn my silence into some sort of diverting conversation. "You know you can't fight anymore," he said.
"Uh-huh," I responded, indifferently.
"You know what that means…you get to go home, soon as you get well."
I thought about this, and the thought gave me a sense of yearning. It sounded good to me. I'd had enough anyway.