The Drum

Soft amber light poured through the musty barn windows, painting the dull rafters with ethereal golden strokes. The light continued on its path trickling down the wall until it enveloped a man with its supple beam. The man didn't move. Yet, sat unfazed on the barn floor as the rays engulfed him in tawny splendor. He closed his gray eyes as the sun swept over him hoping to savor every bit of the angelic moment. As real and as tranquil as the moment felt he knew deep inside that this moment, this distant thought, was just a memory. But still he couldn't help feeling as though time was standing still and the past had become alive in the present.

Sighing deeply, he dove into the memory once more recalling the alluring scent of freshly hung tobacco that filled the barn on many September mornings. He remembered how he and his father had hung that tobacco with such diligence and precision, in hopes that a good crop would bring in revenue to sustain their family for the rest of the year.

Tears fell freely down the man's face as he thought of his family. It was in this very barn, the same barn that had once held all their high hopes for the future, where they had been killed. One by one bullets from Union guns had stolen the last bits of life from the ones he loved. One by one the Union had not only killed his family but had murdered his heart, leaving a shell of a man made up solely of hate.

Rage began to pulse through the man's veins as he relived his immense disgust for the Union. How he longed to grasp the pompous neck of the general who had ordered that regiment to his home and let the cool blade of his dagger caress his repulsive neck. Oh how he longed to drive the blade across…

"Sam! Please STOP Sam! I'm sorry I…I was just looking for Jack! Honestly! I didn't mean any harm!"

Sam opened his eyes to find himself no longer in the barn, but instead in his tent at the Confederate outpost. Evidently, his desire to slit the throat of the Union general had been more real than he intended since he now found himself holding his trusted dagger across the throat of a scrawny nineteen-year-old boy.

"Er…sorry Thomas," Sam said apologetically as he released the boy from his restraint.

Thomas welcomed his renewed freedom and glared fiercely over at Sam, "You're real messed up ya know? Makin' my life flash before my eyes an' all!"

Thomas searched tentatively along the face of his perpetrator until he they settled upon the tears slowly trickling down Sam's face.

"Were…were you crying?" Thomas asked.

Brushing away the tears Sam shook his head violently, "No…of course not."

"Sure," Thomas nagged. "But those streaks of water dripping from your eyes look an awful lot like tears to me. I wonder what everyone would think if they knew the almighty Sam Jeffries had been cr-"

Thomas' bantering was cut short as Sam grabbed his head and held the knife once more to his neck.

"Shall we finish what we started," inquired Sam as he let the blade trace Thomas' neck making him flinch and plead helplessly. "I didn't think so. How about you keep your mouth shut and we'll call it even."

Roughly, Sam let go of Thomas and without a backward glance... the boy was gone.

It was right at daybreak when Sam emerged dutifully from his tent ready for the day to come. Looking up at the sky, Sam saw the golden waves of the sun lapping at the last remnants of night.

"Won't be long now," he muttered to himself. "Soon... battle will be upon us."

As soon as golden rays spread across the entire horizon, the malicious sound of the snare drum ensued. Those who knew of this drum explained that it was a feeling like no other they had ever felt before. The profound and primeval drive of the drum lured even the strongest of willed into submission. It was as if all thought left their minds, and only the primordial instincts for the hunt and war remained. However, it was not the drum itself that was feared but rather the beat generated by the drum. This ethereal beat melded with the hearts of the soldiers, fashioning an enticing spell that grew with every step. Beat... beat. As the drum drove their steps, the soldiers marched in timed unison towards the oblivion of war and certain death. It was these captivating qualities that earned the drum a formidable yet alluring nature known and feared only, by the servants of war.

Sam followed the sound of the drum mindlessly with the other soldiers until he reached the clearing where fronts at been established for battle. Grabbing a gun, he fell silently into line alongside his fellow soldiers who were shaking with fear as the drum they loathed no longer sounded leaving the men toiled with the weight of reality. Sam glanced around the vacant faces until he met the weak eyes of a frail old man quivering under the weight of his gun. He smiled meekly at Sam searching for a bit of encouragement that his old age could no longer give him. Sam felt empty knowing deep down that the old man would perish and no words of encouragement or enlightenment could spare him from the jaws of fate.

Turning away from the morbid sight, Sam and the other soldiers began to march slowly as the unearthly drum sounded once more, driving their every step.

At midday… the battle began.

Frozen expressions of shock stared up from the bodies littering the blood-sodden ground. Soldiers pleaded desperately to be spared as they saw death being brought upon them with the merciless jab of a bayonet.

Sam looked around, seeing only morose bloodshed and death. The infamous beating drum had ceased its victorious sound, leaving courage to dwindle beneath the piles of dead. Silence began to loom about in the battlefield as hopeless soldiers hearts' were filled with the aura of despair. The appalling sight of fallen bodies and loss of hope churned Sam's stomach, making him feel nauseated. But before he could give in to his sickening feeling of surrender he saw a Union soldier smiling devilishly as he stood over a man whom he had struck down effortlessly. Suddenly, Sam was renewed with a purpose to bring down the ruthless soldier who had caused him immeasurable pain and represented everything he despised.

As Sam pursued the Union soldier as the drum began to beat once again with fierce brute force rushing all the remaining soldiers to fight their last glorious fight with unrelenting malice and courage.

As soldiers fell to their deaths, Sam pressed on. He was filled with a raging venom that had spread a poisonous hate throughout his body giving him unsuppressed will as well as strength. But, before he could catch his prize, a force sprang Sam from his feet, backward onto the body-laden earth. He looked down at his chest to see warm rivulets of blood flowing freely down his uniform. Shocked, Sam lay on the bodies struggling against the cloud of death that loomed over every waning breath he took. The Union soldier who Sam was pursuing came back and stood over Sam's beaten body. He smiled smugly like a hunter admiring his newly acquired game. However, Sam's hatred was too great. His investment against the Union soldiers could not simply be swept away with one fateful gunshot. As the drum commanded adrenaline to pulse through his body, Sam swiftly grasped his gun, shot the soldier, and with his last fleeting breath he victoriously roared...

"For my family!"

All of the soldiers perished in this ruthless battle but even though they had ceased to breathe the lush air of life, their tales of bravery and vengeance remain immortal in the eternal beating of the drum.