Waiting

WAITING

BY EDWARD DRAKE

 

Warning: This story contains scenes of violence and war.

Trapped. Low on food, water and ammunition. All you can do is wait.

Major Lennox squeezed the trigger of his rifle three times and only after the third round struck did the target fall. He ducked down amongst the rubble and through habit and routine instinctively crawled to his right into a new position.

The ambush had worked perfectly, the enemy vehicles caught out in the open. They had taken out the first truck in the convoy and the troop carrier that brought up the rear, trapping the other three vehicles in a narrow corridor of death on the street between the remnants of destroyed houses all around. His small unit of only nine men had hit the enemy hard and fast and now over a hundred of their foes laid dead, dying or burning.

When he reached another vantage point Lennox wiped the sweat and dirt from his brow and lined his next target up in the rifle’s sights. Tracking the mark as they tried to run for cover, the Major squeezed the trigger just once, ending the target’s existence. Lennox then edged back, just enough so that he could still view the area clearly. Amongst the carnage he could see several survivors sheltering behind their devastated vehicles, bullets ricocheting all around them.

The ground then began to shake and the Major knew it was time they left. Pulling a flare gun from his pack he fired it into the sky, a stream of blue smoke signalling the retreat. Lennox crawled back until he was far enough to be safe before rising up. The ground began to shake more and whilst ducking he began to run and then sprint as he heard the engines approach.

Other members of his unit appeared and all joined their Major in running for cover. He counted them and saw that one was missing. He then saw the cove, the entrance to their home in the underground, hidden amongst the broken stone and brick. Lennox, first to reach it, heaved the hatch open and counted his men again as they climbed through. One was definitely missing. Now the sound of the engines had become a deafening roar, the wind building to a gale.

Major Lennox then saw him, Private Jimmy Jackson, barely sixteen, sprinting as fast as his legs could carry him. He had dropped his pack and rifle behind so that he could run as fast as possible. The fear was clear in his eyes, the panic of the prey about to be ripped to shreds by its predator. Lennox shouted at Jimmy, screamed at him, but it was already too late.

The aircraft circled overhead and lined Jimmy in its sights. In a flurry of gunfire the young soldier was torn apart. Cursing to the heavens, Lennox jumped down into the cove, pulling the hatch shut behind him. He hammered his fists against the closed hatch, shouting, screaming, letting unrelenting anger run free, like a rabid animal.

It was only when one of the soldiers of his unit called to him that he came to his senses. He looked down at his bloodied fists, but felt completely and utterly numb. The drone of the engines could still be heard outside but it was forgotten as Lennox climbed down the ladder and into the catacombs where the rest of his command waited.

Without a word uttered he guided them on. Despite the darkness he knew where he was going perfectly. The tunnels were really part of the old tube system that had run beneath the city, but like everything it had been left in ruin, now seemingly more like a tomb and relic, a forgotten memory. After walking for several minutes they reached the station where the others were hidden, huddled around the few candles they used for light and heat. There were a few guards posted, but not much of a force.

They had numbered more, far more, but when the enemy attacked Lennox’s command had been cut off and trapped. His unit had been over thirty strong then, and twenty civilians, the last survivors of the city. Now his command only numbered sixteen.

Seeking the only safety they could find, underground, they waited for help and aid, for relief and for the regiment to return and save them. That was over a week ago. Sure Lennox’s group had made small retaliatory attacks, probing the enemy defence to see if they could break through to regroup with the others, but there was no real chance. They were simply trapped.

And now, amongst the dark and cold, they stayed. Low on food, drinkable water and ammunition they waited. Occasionally Jimmy had turned on the radio, hoping to contact the rest of the regiment, but the batteries were pretty much dead and the chances of reaching anyone were close to nil. He had not given up though, always cheerful and happy. Now even he was gone.

Major Lennox knew they could not defend their position for long. Soon they would be forced above ground, simply so they would not starve to death, and there they would be slaughtered by the enemy aircraft, be they men, women or children. That was the hardest bit, seeing the children suffer.

He threw himself down to the ground, resting against a pillar, closing his eyes. He knew he had to speak to Jimmy’s brother who had stayed behind, his turn to act on guard duty, but Lennox did not have the words. He was exhausted, hungry, drained and simply had nothing else to give. He held out his bloodied hands and saw that they were trembling. Despite all the wars and all the battles and death and terrible atrocities he had witnessed, his hands had never shook before. They did now.

What the hell do we do now, he thought, burying his face in his hands. No food. No water. Barely any ammo. Waiting. Waiting to live. Waiting to die. There was nowhere to run and nowhere to hide.

God save England. God save us.

Copyright. Edward Drake. 2011

Comments
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