Happy Thursday, Internets!
I’m really jazzed — this week my first short story collection was published by Thunder Valley Press. To celebrate, the title story in the collection – The Forever Soldier – is this week’s free story.
The Forever Soldier
Published by Thunder Valley Press
Copyright 2011 by Annie Reed
Cover illustration Copyright Ralf Kraft at Dreamstime.com
Cover layout by Thunder Valley Press
“I decided what I want on my tombstone,” Roger Three said.
Roger Two looked down at Three’s inert body. “What, ‘death by stupidity’?”
Three laughed, a hollow, empty sound intended to cover the sick pit of the stomach feeling she always got whenever she had to look down at her own body, dead and discarded on the battlefield like so much forgotten trash. “I was thinking more along the lines of ‘death by clumsy’.”
Two didn’t laugh. Three didn’t think she’d ever seen him even smile. Then again, facing the reality of your own dead body wasn’t a laughing matter for most Rogers. Three just had a highly evolved sense of gallows humor born of long experience and a desire to stay sane.
A rocket arced overhead, one of the big numbers, the kind that blew out entire buildings without breaking a sweat. The rocket’s trajectory pegged it as one of theirs. With any luck it would punch a hole through enemy lines, giving soldiers like Three a chance to fight their way through without getting blown to bits. Unless, of course, they’d blown themselves up from their own damn clumsiness.
The rocket’s passing lit up the night sky long enough to give Three a good look at the place where she’d died, not that there was much to see. Nobody lived here, not anymore. Shells of buildings, anything flammable long since burned away, clogged the landscape, the skeletal remains of fire-blackened concrete and grey brick and mortared rock providing a million hiding places for enemy snipers. Asphalt streets had been bombed back to pulverized dirt. Nothing — no books, no transports, no piece of pottery or scrap of paper or childhood photographs — had been left behind by the enemy to mark the passing of whatever race had occupied this world.
Or so the Rogers had been told. Command would tell them anything to make them fight. And die. And fight again, until they were all used up and there was nothing left.
Three’s corpse stared up at her with empty eyes. One of her arms and most of a leg were gone. That’s what happened when you dropped a live grenade because your fingers were too numb to feel the damn thing. The next thing you knew, you were raiding your own corpse for weapons and gear so you could keep on fighting a war that had gone on so long Three couldn’t even remember what planet she was on, much less what they were fighting for.
The ground rumbled beneath Three’s feet as the rocket hit its mark. Impact was less than a half mile away by the volume of the explosion, but it was hard to know for sure. Sound echoed and bounced off the walls, was muffled by the debris in the streets.
“We’re advancing,” Two said. “Move it, or I’ll leave you behind.” He didn’t want to get caught in the crossfire when the enemy retaliated with a rocket of their own. Neither did Three.
(read the rest of the story here)