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"And This Shall Pass" (part 1) No Man's Land

Dean Traylor is a freelance writer and teacher who writes about various subjects, including education and creative writing.

"On the seventh day, the insanity of war rested"

"On the seventh day, the insanity of war rested"


Part I - No Man's Land

On the seventh day, the insanity of war rested. Ada emerged from hiding, climbed over the trench wall and stood in the blood-soaked mud.

As a man on the verge of giving up hope, Ada expected to be met with a hail of gunfire. Instead, the jarring presence of silence welcomed him to a new landscape.

No guns, cannons, jets, or explosions could be heard. The cries of the death and dying were silenced. All that was left were smoldering craters, flame-gutted vehicles, and thousands of dead comrades half-buried in the crimson mud or strewn about the battlefield, forever silenced.

The silence! He never thought he’d hear something more ominous and foreboding than that.

Ada had grown accustom to the sights and sounds of war. He had trained for chaos and was apt to its ways. This was different. Nothing moved but the dwindling flames and bellowing smoke. Nothing lived. He may not have been cut down when he emerged from the trench, but the dwindling hope that had powered him throughout the hellish night, took more hits.

He sighed to calm his nerves. In doing so, he composed himself as best as possible and began to think clearly of his situation. He made an oath so many years ago – as did his fallen comrades – to seek victory at all cost. And to his knowledge, the reason for the final decisive battle on the island of At-land was still there for the taking.

The oath: the goal. Was it worth it? He shook his head trying to wring out such thoughts. Even in times like these, Ada’s discipline and adherence to duty for his country was hard to kill. He knew – despite all cost – the mission was not over. The goal he and his comrades had sought was still somewhere on the other side of the silent and dead land before him.

Finding it, however, in this new landscape, was already proving to be difficult.

Before the battle, the great spires of the Grand Library of the island’s main city, the City of Gardens, dominated the skyline. But on this day, well after the last guns were fired, the spires were gone.

A nervous – yet relieved—laugh consumed him. He rolled onto his back, spread out his arms, and bellowed his glee. The freedom to let loose and make noise was all too welcoming for him.

Ada worried that the mission may have been compromised. He, his comrades, and those damned fools they fought had inadvertently destroyed the immaculate treasure that existed there.

He peered through the smoke-choked air trying to get a better look at the battleground before him, trying to spot the outline of the City of Gardens.

A thought kept playing in his head: two great empires had gone to war for what this sacred town held. And they virtually destroyed each other – and possibly the town itself.

Come on, he thought, where are you?

He made his way toward the edge of an overturned tank, hoping it would provide a better panoramic view. To his disappointment, the haze of thick smoke throughout the pocked-marked and littered land obscured his attempts.

Something popped. Automatically, gunfire came to mind as his instincts took over. He leapt toward the nearest crater, got into a cradle position, and panted as he fought his own panic from engulfing him.

“Calm down, calm down, calm down,” he whispered. This helped. His training kicked in and he was back in control of his own faculty.

He unfurled himself and slowly crawled toward the top of the crater. He expected to hear a succession of pops or booms. Instead, he was met with more silence. He relaxed and peeped over the edge. Not far from the tank was a crater belching black smoke. He surmised that portions of the tank’s ordinance had finally exploded after sitting the entire night in the flames.

A nervous – yet relieved—laugh consumed him. He rolled onto his back, spread out his arms, and bellowed his glee. The freedom to let loose and make noise was all too welcoming for him.

But joy was cut short. A sonic boom thundered over the dead land. In horror, he shot a glance toward the heavens above. The enemy’s bi-winged jet was streaking toward him.

Damn! He thought. He was in the open and was easy-pickings if the pilot desired to strafe or bomb his position.

“So this is how it ends,” he mumbled. He closed his eyes waiting for the jet-powered biplane to unleash its hot metal into him.

Instead, the jet engine coughed and choked before completely shutting down. Ada opened his eyes to see it glide several hundred feet above him. It was riddled and leaking streams of white smoke from its side. The bottom wing was barely attached to the fuselage.

He sat up and followed its descent into the unknown regions beyond the battlefield. In the distance, he could hear the jet complete its final voyage. He expected to see smoke, but the visibility (or lack thereof) covered it up.

He wasn’t alone after all, he thought. But that plane was tattered and bruised. Still, he didn’t want to take any chances. He’d have to go after the treasure in the City of Gardens, after all.

“Victory at all cost,” he whispered.

Victory at all cost, even if it meant one last battle – if the pilot survived.

He let the word reverberated in his head: “Victory!”


The Mighty At-land

The Mighty At-land

Extra: More to come

Originally, it was an idea conceived in a junior English class in High School (when I was supposed to be writing an essay). For the last twenty-five years, it has gone through numerous incarnations and rewrites. In fact, it started life at a time when computers were just started being used in classrooms, and teachers still accepted final drafts on hand-written, lined paper.

Now, it enters a new draft, and a life on the Internet. This is the first part of four.

© 2014 Dean Traylor