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A Pledge of Mercy

Updated on May 19, 2016
Dean Traylor profile image

Dean Traylor is a freelance writer and teacher. He is a former journalist who has worked on various community and college publications.

"Trench Warfare" From Otto Dix, 1932 - "I buried my face into the mud of the crater, waiting for the onslaught to disperse, or for the sergeant’s whistle for retreat."
"Trench Warfare" From Otto Dix, 1932 - "I buried my face into the mud of the crater, waiting for the onslaught to disperse, or for the sergeant’s whistle for retreat." | Source

I felt the hot air and a splatter of mud on me. The Germans opened up a barrage while we were in the middle of No-man’s land. They waited. And like fools, we showed up for the slaughter.

I buried my face into the mud of the crater, waiting for the onslaught to disperse, or for the sergeant’s merciful whistle to retreat. Through it all, I and Corporal Jay Johnson just wanted to stay alive in the face of the hell we were receiving.

It seemed like forever. The ground shook as every blast rang in my ears. It was hard to believe that this barrage lasted only less than a minute. And when it stopped, a new horror replaced it. I could hear the moans and cries of the dying. Each one sent a shiver down my spine. I believed it was doing the same for Jay, although at that moment, I was more concerned with well-being.

I drew in every nervous breath I could do and listened hard for it as it came in and out. That was a sign of life. And as strange as it sounds, I wasn't sure if I was living until I heard it for myself.

At first I thought it came from me. But, a quick, frantic pat down dispelled my first fear. Then, a realization came to me. I turned to my friend.

No Man's Land during trench warfare of World War I.  "It seemed like forever. The ground shook as every blast rang in my ears. It was hard to believe that this barrage lasted only less than a minute."
No Man's Land during trench warfare of World War I. "It seemed like forever. The ground shook as every blast rang in my ears. It was hard to believe that this barrage lasted only less than a minute."

“Jay,” I called. My face was still buried in the mud. He didn’t answer.

“Jay!”

I raised my mud-splattered face; at least, that’s what I thought it was. I wiped it off and saw blood on my hand and sleeves.

At first I thought it came from me. But, a quick, frantic pat down dispelled my first fear. Then, a realization came to me. I turned to my friend.

“Jay,” I said, distressed when I saw him next to me.

He was sprawled on the side of the crater, his stomach ripped open and his torso ripped nearly in two. Worst yet, he was still alive, barely.

His lips quivered, he mouthed my name: “Ryan” but no sound came out. I moved closer to him to see what I could do to save my friend. But the blood was staining the mud, and the entrails were oozing out of the gaping wound.

I yelled: “Medic!” repeatedly, but to no avail.

He moaned as his breathing was becoming complicated.

“Pain,” he mouthed.

His quivering hand reached up to me. He grabbed my uniform and forced me to look him in the face. There, his eyes told the story. He was reminding me of a pledge we made if we were ever injured beyond recovery.

I glanced at my side-arm and reluctantly pulled it out. I put it to his head.

“I’m sorry,” I whispered.

He smiled, closed his eyes.

I pulled the trigger.

I heard my breath leave me, and then, slowly come back. I wish I didn't hear it.

originally posted to pinterest.com: "I pulled the trigger."
originally posted to pinterest.com: "I pulled the trigger."

© 2016 Dean Traylor

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    • Jodah profile image

      John Hansen 10 months ago from Queensland Australia

      Wow! Dean you certainly expressed all the horrors of frontline warfare in just a few words. Outstanding. Sharing.

    • Dean Traylor profile image
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      Dean Traylor 10 months ago from Southern California

      Thank you. I recently retrieved it from the deepest, darkest corner of my files on a faulty flash-drive. Luckily I was able to get this before it finally died.

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