O Glorious War

Jonathan Rothsford was a skilled shooter. His aim was clear and precise; the only shot he had ever missed was when his gun's cartridge was empty. He knew the art of the gun and was a good fighter; he knew it all.

He had volunteered to join the army at age seventeen, and by that time he had accumulated years of practice and expertise through hunting game, sharpshooting, and target practice. He quickly became an adept soldier; it took him mere months to learn how to notice camouflage, and could fell any type of enemy with a single shot to the chest, His aim was never off. He'd been in many battles, and had many victories behind him. When Rothsford went to war, his enemies never came back.

So here he was, on the brink of his next battle, sure and confident. His stride was long and forceful, ready to vanquish the foe, whoever this next one might be.

Roger Storch was examining his sword. Recently sharpened, it lay shiny and heavy in his right hand; his left hand held the pistol. After twelve weeks of training, Storch was going to his first battle, the first of many as his General said proudly about him. Storch begged to differ. He was no fighter, no matter what his physical body told him, no matter how good a soldier he seemed to make. But the draft had been enacted, and all males eighteen and over were forced to recruit, and he had somehow worked his way up to becoming a skilled soldier.

Merely four days ago, he'd been approached by his General who told him that because of the sickness that was spreading and more and more of the troops were falling ill, there was a shortage of skilled soldiers to go to the next battle, and Storch, because of his adeptness, had been selected to fill one of the spots. Storch felt he was in no shape to go to a real fight, but he knew that if the General had picked him, he must be ready.

So he began preparing, physically and mentally, training for the battle to come.

Sunrise in the desert is a beautiful sight, but today the redness of the sun seemed to Storch, an ominous symbol of the blood to be shed. He was nervous, but kept a firm façade on his face. Beside him, soldiers in black were checking their uniforms, formulating lines, or chatting amiably, seemingly unaware, or uncaring, of the coming danger.

Far on the other side, the whites were preparing to fight, and Rothsford was ready. His gun was in its holster, and his sword was in his sheath; his cream uniform was crisp and clean, and his face was set in heavy determination. He showed no sign of nerves; he was apprehensive rather than anxious – apprehensive for this battle to start, apprehensive to begin spilling blood of the other side told to him as the enemy, apprehensive to win.

The scene went suddenly still and silent. Then a gunshot rang and the battle had begun.

Bodies clashed, swords clanged upon impact, bullets whizzed by, grazing ears. Battle cries, moans, and victorious yells resounded through the air. Soldiers fought with grim determination, and blood flowed, seeping from open wounds, making the ground slippery. Storch found himself in the center of the fighting and moved almost solely on instinct wielded his hefty sword through the air almost on auto-gear, barely thinking lest he think wrong.

Then, as if drums pounded in the soundtrack of the fight, cannons were brought to the forefront and cannonballs rained on the soldiers, adding booms and adding screams. It was if a second stage to the battle had begun – the meager hand to hand combat was being replaced with cannons and arrows. Men with sharp eyes and clear aim strung their bows to fell the enemy from afar, and others loaded cannons, letting them fly, catapulted through the air.

Rothsford, who had since in this day killed twelve men and wounded seven, was in current combat with two more of the enemy. He laughingly dodged and struck, feinted and hit, but the laughter hadn't died from his face before it changed to horror – cannons were rolling through the air and running was futile. Rothsford knew what to do when the war turned like this, and abandoned his current fighting to listen to the words in his mind pounding against his temple, "Find a place to hide, find a place to hide." Gasping, he found an old truck. Clutching the stitch in his side, he cut down the black coat in his way and rolled behind the truck.

Meanwhile, Storch was still aimlessly fighting, his mind refusing to catch up with his body. He had a slew of dead bodies behind him but he barely took it in; his body was just functioning on what it had to do to survive. He danced right and left, lest swords strike him, lest bullets could be aimed straight at him. The rumbling started and the cannons came, farshooters were brought out, the new players in this game. Hand-to-hand fighters were put out to sit on the bench while the bigger players took the field. All around Storch, men were scattering for cannons that were taking their positions and starting to let their cannonballs fly. Storch found himself left in the middle of all of it until a crash where a cannonball made an impact on the ground woke him to his senses. He fled the area, looking for recluse. Legs pumping beneath him, his eyes finally rested on a dirty old truck. Once he reached it, dodging men and weapons, he threw himself the ground, panting, behind the truck. Then he realized he was not alone. A man in white lay facedown almost under the truck, hair gray with sand, dirt, and grit. Just as he was about to shakily raise his sword, as he knew he was supposed to at an enemy, the earth shook under him. A bomb exploded right near them and glass shattered, metal flew, as the truck burst. Shrapnel blew apart, lodging in all sorts of places; all around the warfield this was happening – it was a literal minefield, full of chaos.

Storch slowly sat up. He seemed to be all right. His cover was blown, though, literally. The truck lay in dismantled parts all over the field. He saw that the man he had been about to attack before, now was bleeding on his grayish hairline and his leg was stuck under two large pieces of cracked metal previously belonging to the truck. The man's face was very pale and the part of his leg protruding was bent at an unnatural angle. Storch looked around him. The rest of the world was oblivious to these two men, one in black and one in white. They were not fighting so they were ignored. Storch could not bring himself to raise his sword at the other man who lay so vulnerably before him. And the other man, who Storch had seen before behead blacks two at a time with such rigor, now just gasped at his forgotten foe for water. Storch fumbled for his canteen and tipped it slowly into the man's mouth. He then proceeded to try to lift the metal off the leg, but it would not budge. He heaved and heaved, together with the man, but even their strength combined was not enough and the man eventually lay back down to rest his weary self. Storch decided then to call for help. But his cries and pleas and begs went unheeded. No one could hear him, and even if they could, Storch realized they would not care. All the fighters out there were thirsty for blood. Should they happen to notice this man, bleeding and pinned to the ground, his foes would feel victorious at another enemy down. The men on his side would just quickly mourn a good fighter and member of their side, but would have no time to help him or they'd be taken advantage of and slaughtered as well. Yet, Storch stayed with this man he did not know, and tried to help him, even when neither side would cared.

Rothsford knew he would die. The shrapnel had cut his head quite deeply and there was too much blood seeping down his cheeks for the wound to clot. Even if he were saved from his position here, he wouldn't be taken to the infirmary until they war was finished and by then, there would be no point, he would be gone. He could not free his leg by himself, and he could not free his leg with the help of the kind man who disregarded the fact that it was his enemy that lay near him dying. Strangely, that man wasn't feeling triumph at another enemy down; on the contrary he cared to help him. This was new to Rothsford who had always been taught to fight and fight until Death came near, and even then, to fight some more, taking down as many of the foe with him as possible, and never, never help the enemy. Suddenly, war didn't feel so glorious anymore. It was only animals crazed for blood and victory trying to kill the most. Rothsford had killed many men in his life. He had been put against hundreds of peoples, only knowing they were the enemy and therefore he must destroy as many as he could. He never cared to ask why he was fighting them, why the two sides were at opposition in the first place. As Rothsford took his last few shallow breaths, he realized there are never any winners in war, only losers, with the last ones to lose taking the title of winner.

A/N: Please tell me what you thought of this; I'd like some good, concrete feedback. Also, if anyone has a better idea for the title, as I haven't come up with one that really satisfies me. Thanks.