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Silent Barrage 1951
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 by Frank Shortt
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          Grim silence pervaded the lonely, smoking hillside. Heavy artillery had left the terrain bereft of vegetation. This is how Nagasaki must have looked after the A-bomb during World War Two. A lone survivor, a Harvard graduate, had miraculously escaped death for the moment. His mind, ablaze with confusion, he asked, “Why am I here. Where are all my buddies?”

          During one lucid moment the young man looked around him. The whole hillside was in disarray. Weapons of all calibers lay scattered about! Helmets and canteens lay useless as to their intent. Bodies, beginning to swell from the extreme trauma exerted to them, seemed stacked upon each other as if someone, with a giant hand, had swept them up. Some were buried prematurely, arms and legs protruding from the earth in ghastly fashion. He screamed into the stillness, “Hey Sarge, don’t you see that I need a medic over here?” There was no Sergeant to answer!

         No birds sang! Not an insect buzzed! His raspy breathing was all that was audible. His blood, oozing from a wounded side sounded to his blurry mind like a stream of gurgling water. He knew that his life oozed out with each drop of blood! Suddenly, life became the most precious thing in the universe!

          The man’s thoughts meandered back to his childhood. The boy lazed beside still waters where he had cast in his line. He loathed the thought of getting a nibble. He only wanted to relax!

 Why this sudden barrage of memories?”

 He thought further. His parents were separating leaving the lad with a huge void and much consternation in his life. “Who will care for me now that dad will be gone? Will mom be able to take care of us without dad?”

       “How will I ever survive?”

          There, on a barren hillside in Korea, he fought to justify his father’s decision to leave. He struggled to justify his mother’s allowing his dad to go. He bravely justified America. He resolved to justify why he was there. Sliding deeper into unconsciousness he somehow realized the importance of relationships    . The man saw himself… as an ant.

          Ants crawled upon this denuded hillside. Ants, the only other living things! Had they been deep enough in the ground to avoid being destroyed by the barrage?

“Are these ants that are rising around me, or the silent all-encroaching enemy?”

An enemy bayonet ended the man’s struggle for life! The enemy began scrounging all the equipment left by the barrage!