Thousands of deep cuts and bruises riddled the

        Thousands of deep cuts and bruises riddled the French countryside and were concealed by a low hanging late winter smog. The occasional crack of a bullet let loose pierced the silence as thousands of soldiers shivered in their respectful trenches. However even with the deep cold the mud was still as sloppy as before and scattered snow patches slowly melted. It had been like this since the standoff between France and Germany began and the only way to stay was the warm soup that was passed around. In A French occupied trench in a dugout sat three, very cold soldiers. Their names were John, Toby, and Rafael. Toby was 19 and slightly lanky, John was tall and muscular, he was 21, lastly Rafael was short and stocky, he had just turned 18. Toby had snuck away from home in the United States of America about a year ago and had made his way overseas to join the fight against the Fritz in France. Since the fighting started four years ago already there were thousands of casualties. Toby used to long for the fight and the action, now all he wants is to get home alive. John, his best friend had run with him enjoyed the war so far. Rafael was drafted by the French military and was a good ally and translator since none of the French spoke english. John and Toby weren’t the only foreigners in the French ranks, there were a few Englishmen and a Scott. The three men shivered in their lamp lit dugout, the rumble of artillery shook the roof making the soldiers even more worried.  Small talk was all they could muster and sipping of soup. This lasted for an hour until the shelling was over. At last the rumbling stopped and the ground stopped shaking. Feet sloshing in the mud approached at running pace. A small man appeared in the doorway wearing an officer’s uniform, He said something in French and bolted off.” Were up.” Rafael sighed picking up his Lebel model rifle. Toby grimaced and finished his last spoonful of soup which tasted bland as could be, picked up his rifle and put on his run down helmet. The three men walked out of the low door way of the dugout into chaos. The sky was gray from smoke and there were shouts all through the trenches. A bullet whizzed into a nearby sandbag knocking it onto the slop that was the trench floor. The occasional plank was lost in the mud and most broken, the clay was packed into a wall and supported by planks that were straining at the heaviness of the mud. Toby tipped his helmet back and wiped the dirt of his face and John flipped up his collar. A scream rang out and another gunshot went off, Toby flinched.     They slopped through the mud and blood to their firing position, Rafael was holding his hands to his ears as his rifle hung at his side. They passed dead bodies and injured men being tended to by those who were uninjured. Toby, John, and Rafael made it to their firing post without falling into insanity. Their shooting position was a small outcropping surrounded by sandbags. Some of the sandbags had fallen off so Rafael started to put them back. Toby and John sat with their backs to the wall and breathed. Suddenly the sand bag that Rafael was holding exploded and a bent bullet shell came out and hit Rafael in the shoulder. He stumbled back and splashed in the mud. Toby crawled over to the whimpering Rafael and began to comfort him. John came and began to inspect Rafael’s injured shoulder.” You’re ok, hang in there.” Toby said. John wrapped the burnt and bloody area in a tattered cloth, ” You’re good, it’s not to bad. Here have a drink, that’ll help.” Rafael took the water gratefully. Boooom!  ‘ The ground shook like an earthquake’ followed by large chunks of debris raining on the three men. Toby hunched over Rafael to protect him. ” I’ll be back.” Toby said scrambling to his feet in the slippery mud to see what had happened. He left John And Rafael Getting up to shoot at their post and as Toby ducked through the trenches he realized the horror of what had unfolded. A huge crater broke through the trench and bodies were scattered. As if to make things worse Toby could glimpse Germans climbing out of their trenches advancing, guns blazing. Toby almost stepped on a shaking silhouette on the ground, He bent down and rolled the young boy onto his back. The boy seemed generally unharmed except for a few cuts and bruises, ” Hey, we gotta go!” Toby shouted over the roaring gunfire. Toby helped the kid up to his shaky feet and led him to cover. A bullet almost hit them as the scrambled to where the trench started again. They dove into the ground and looked back, soldiers toppled and fought. The Germans were getting closer.Toby and the boy stumbled back to John and Rafael’s position, constantly glancing over their shoulders. Toby led the scared boy through the muck and smoke back to cover. They slid into the outcropping were John and Toby were taking shots at the charging Fritz. Toby Left the boy with a pistol and picked up his rifle. John and Rafael had went through many magazines cutting up the advancing Germans. Toby aimed his rifle into the smoke. BAM! Damn he thought as he cocked his rifle for the next shot. BAM! A body fell into the field between the two trenches. BAM! Another down. This continued for a couple minutes as more and more ‘enemies were coughed out of the opposing trench.’ Ally artillery posts behind the trench blasted craters into the field were the Germans were running.The kid Toby had saved started speaking fast in French Toby ducked back into the trench and looked to Rafael. ” He said they’re in the trench…” Rafael said looking down into the walkway. Toby looked as well to see silhouettes stalking through the body littered trench. ” Damn, do you have a grenade.” Toby asked looking around at his friends. John ducked down and produced a stick with a cylinder at the end from a pouch at his side.” Here.” John said. Toby took the grenade and lobbed it down the walkway. The four of them closed their eyes and covered their ears as a large boom went off. Rubble flew threw the air and Toby checked down the trench. The walls had collapsed and nothing but a broken helmet signaled that there once was German troops walking through there. Toby let out a cheer and so did his comrades. However the battle was not even close to being over, crackling and popping hung in the air as the two sides fought hard. More footfalls could be heard down the trench moving their way, The four men raised their rifles and peeked down the dark and foreboding trench. Figures moved from the direction of their dugout shouting tones. Toby aimed his rifle down the corridor, ready to fire but then the figures came into view. A gaggle of French troops wearing gas masks carefully walked toward them. Rafael shouted something in French and he got muffled replies. The Four of them were handed gas masks because according to Rafael the Fritz were releasing poison gas into the air. Toby, John, Rafael and the kid were ordered to come with them when they learned the French were charging the half empty German line. Rafael didn’t move, nor did Toby or the kid. John fell into line behind the marching soldiers and then looked back. He walked back to the petrified men, ” No matter what happens I will protect the three of you follow me and we can win this fight. Let’s go. ” John said courageously. Rafael quietly repeated this to the scared kid,the kid feverishly nodded. They wiggled on the tight fitting gas masks that muffled all sound. The three shakily followed John to the Frenchmen preparing to charge. Toby could guess what the French officer was saying to the fifty soldiers that nervously listened. Gunfire cracked in the air from the few soldiers that stayed back continuing the fight. The officer drew a sword and Rafael quietly told Toby and John to fix bayonets. There was silence then the ear piercing noise of an officer’s whistle signaling the attack.The soldiers ran into the open were they made it about twenty feet then began to crumble under the fire from a heavy machine gun. The bullets whizzed through bodys and more men feel, the gun sounded like the grinding of an engine. Toby ran trying to keep up with John until a needle of pain hit him in the side. The pain made Toby drop on the ground, dazed. Crack! Crack! French soldiers fired back at the ‘monster that was destroying’ them. Toby’s mouth was filled with dirt and his vision blurred. The gas mask was restricting his breath and the goggle piece was splattered in dark red blood. He groaned in pain as a hand shook his arm, Toby heard a distant murmuring and closed his eyes.Toby reopened his eyes when he realized he was being dragged by his foot which caused even more pain. A muffled voice yelled over the warfare and then Toby felt his eyes get heavy. He mumbled, flexed his fists then his blurred vision was slowly consumed by a collapsing black tunel. ‘ ” Toby Toby, Hey! Toby, Toby!” someone shook him awake. It was a beautiful woman bathed in morning light.” Mom?” Toby asked groggily.” Yes hi honey. Good morning, how did you sleep?” she asked cheerfully.” Good.” Toby replied, rubbing his eyes and sitting up. He was in a warm bed and in his room, the curtains open revealing a beautiful Illinois sunrise. The date read: february 2, 1915. Fluffles, his ten year old tabby cat lay curled up in a ball at the bottom of the bed. His mother leaned down one more time and gave him a hug. As she pulled away her features began to change.” Mom, what-” Toby stuttered, then suddenly she was wearing a helmet and gas mask. Tobys walls began to change into a muddy trench. ” No, No!” Toby frantically tried to get up but he couldn’t. Then, to his horror a knife protruded from the person’s chest. ‘They looked down at the knife and their last words were, ” I’m sorry…” Then they collapsed sideways revealing a German holding a knife now setting his gaze on Toby. Toby now sat back in the muddy trench, the German soldier squatted down staring him in the face with his terrifying gas mask. ” Why you son of a -” The soldier punched Toby in the face and Toby fell sideways. Even with a bullet lodged in his side adrenalin made Toby its puppet. Toby grabbed a rock and smashed it into the Fritz’s helmet with all his strength, The helmet dented and the soldier toppled. Toby fell onto his hands and knees panting and clutching his side, blood dripping in between his fingers. An enemy soldier came up and kicked him in the side. Toby let out a blood curdling scream of immense pain. Toby’s vision went blurry again and the soldier shouted something in German. Suddenly bullets started to hit the Germans that were clearing the trench, their bodies going limp. Toby rolled over and cried, the overwhelming pain returned after the adrenaline rush. He felt nothing but fiery pain in his side and dirt on his face. French and ally soldiers jumped into the trench and found him. It was all a blur as he was tended to and given water by an Englishman. He looked at the dead figure on the ground with a knife wound in his chest.” Show me his face.” Toby said pointing to the lifeless body. The man tending to him carefully took the gas mask of the body to reveal the chiseled face of John… Toby was silent on the truck ride back to the medical camp, He sat and stared at the cloth covering that encloses the bed of the truck. They reached a tent with a large red cross on it and Toby was helped out of the vehicle and onto a cot. All Toby could think about is his forever lost friends that lay out in those killing fields. Doctors buzzed around him and tended to his wounds, all the while he was silent and felt no pain. That night he was restless and was woken up by distant gunfire. The next morning Toby was granted leave and was on a train heading to a port town called Le Havre. Two days later Toby limped through the busy port where his boat that was taking him home was docked. The boat was a large liner and bristled with two large smoke stacks, The smoke reminded him of the putrid smell of battle. He was given many congratulations on the medal of honor that now hung from his tan overcoat. He wasn’t the only injured soldier on his way home, hundreds of other bandaged men staggered through the crowd, some being welcomed into the arms of crying women.On the ride back Toby slept as much as he could but was plagued with nightmares of his experiences. He was ready to get home and have some of his mom’s homemade apple pie and sleep in a warm, comfortable bed

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