He tried to quiet his quickening breath. John’s only saving grace of being unnoticed was the thick brush he blanketed himself with as the redcoats marched past. He got separated from the others. His inexperience got the best of him and he chose to run for cover.
He had to make his way in the other direction to move away from the enemy. John knew what they were capable of; he heard the older men telling stories at night by the fire of those captured by the other side. Horrible things. John would rather have the grace of death than suffer at a Brit’s hand. He cursed his 17 year old self for running into the trees like a coward. He would prove to the men that he could fight side by side with them.
John worked his way through the pines and maples. He continued along, noticing ahead the trees turned to elms and birch and revealed a clearing. His only worry; which flag would he find?
His focus set on the clearing, John moved quickly, grateful for the carpet of pine needles that kept his footing muffled. He patted his leather satchel just for the comfort of knowing he had plenty of rounds for his musket. As he neared the edge of the white peeling trunks of birch, he moved a branch to the side to survey his surroundings. His foot nudged something solid, breaking his concentration. It was then that he smelled the decaying stench of flesh.
Cupping his hand over his mouth and nose, John hoped to stop the immediate reaction of his gut to heave its contents. John decided it best to hold his breath as he knelt closer to the fallen soldier. He searched for anything of worth to take with him. Working from the legs up, John exhaled into the crook of his elbow and drew in a long breath of hot wool and sweat. Reaching the torso, John noticed the navy blue that matched his own. His eyes darted to the face and met the hollow stare of his best friend’s emerald eyes.
“James. Oh, James, my friend.” words floated past John’s lips on the exhale. He choked on gulps of foul air, collapsing onto his backside. Twisting to the side, he could not suppress his bile a moment longer and it spewed over the soft fronds of fern.
His friend was with him two days ago as they stormed the Brits at Freemans Farm. Amongst the chaos, John lost sight of James and took cover into the trees that flanked the edge of the field. John realized that James must have seen him and followed him, to only make it just past the tree line. John squeezed his friend’s rigid foot and whispered “Why did you follow me?” John retched again, only this time out of guilt and sorrow.
John collected himself and moved out into the clearing. It was a warm afternoon. The haze from battle still lingering in the air like fog. He moved deliberately through the tall grass to the base of a small hill. Slowly peering over the crest, he felt relief to see his encampment only 10 paces away.
He rose slowly to greet his comrades when he felt a sting at his side. He looked down to see a dark stain growing quickly on his pocket. It was then that the echo of the musket reached him. John quickly turned back toward the trees. He faintly heard two redcoats yelling as a second round pierced his chest sending him onto his back.
He felt the hot sun on his face. He thought of James. He thought of his family and his sweetheart Mary. John opened his eyes to see a shadow block the sun and all went cold.
This is a fictional piece written for The Red Writing Club. The prompt this week asked us to: “Write what you know.” with a twist. “Take what you know out of your comfort zone. Try a new genre, a new time period, a geography you’ve only dreamed of, fantasy or historical instead of contemporary fiction, try the male POV if you usually write women. Or vice versa.”
I chose to write about a Revolutionary soldier during the Battle of Saratoga. I know the Battlefield well and have always been intrigued by its history. Any concrit is welcomed- as this was out of my comfort zone trying to put myself into the head of a 17 year old boy during this time of war.