Death’s Sick Game – an Essay by Tom Sichel

The azure sky covered the dark, arid landscape. honour, courage, Pride: These were the things that kept him sane through war’s horrors and deaths. Staring deep into a blue eyed man’s eyes, it all seemed too easy. The rifle man sat next to his fellow companion – hidden from sight. Sweat sweltered like scolding water down their red freckled necks. Crows squawked incessantly.

Far away from the rifle man the blue eyed man sat under the large shading tree- the only living thing left after war’s ordeals. The blue eyed man’s gun lay far from reach and unloaded. He was eating a sandwich and starring deeply into the azure sky. He was young; he was naïve- naïve to the fact that the sands of life were running quickly down his hour glass.

Back in the trench, the rifleman took aim with his gun; the blue eyed man was its victim. The two dark barrels leered at its prey’s every movement, eager from the excitement to kill, quivering from the exhilaration and thrill. All the rifleman had to do was slide his strong finger down the trigger; but he was too late. The thundering sound of planes came over head. Angels of death loomed like stars in the sky. No longer could he hide. Death’s batter and ‘bang’ came with little time to respond. Hot like the sun- it became unbearable. Shrapnel fatally impaled his companions’ soft, tender jacket. The rifleman was blessed with only the blow of a stone to his head. Surroundings became blurred, speech became slurred. The rifleman staggered towards a deep abyss made from a detonated bomb. He laid his pounding head against the edges of his safe haven. Vision became a long narrow tunnel …

His heavy lead limbs began to gain normal feeling. His lungs inhaled a frantic breath and eyes quickly gapped in alert to his quiet surroundings. No blue eyed man was in sight. Death had begun to play its sick game. He sat still in the sticky swampy mud of his flooded trench. His hands clumsy from the cold, his feet left with little feeling. The wind penetrated his rough, thin jacket. Rain had made the mud take his shape like a relaxing bed, but the cold was unforgiving and brought stiffness and aches. His gun lowered despondent of no kill.

Slowly turning his head his gaze met with something so startling no war experience could prepare him for. He stared deeply into its dark hollow eyes, the lifeless corpse of his friend was not a sight he could come to terms with. His fist clenched like knives into the palms of his hands. Turning his head away in despair he looked outward to the vast landscape of no man’s land. His hands trembled as the thought of war came flooding through his mind. He daringly began to crawl through no man’s land in search for a safety.

Every manoeuvre came with hesitance. His gun courageously scoured the arid landscape. A set of broken spectacles lay stuck in the mud. He gazed at a reflection; a shattered reflection of his crooked nose and unshaven face – it reminded him of how shattered his spirit had become.

It was not long before death’s smell infested the air nearby. Only this time it was that of the enemy’s. A lifeless deformed figure lay still on the floor. Deep Inside of the rifle man a raging fire burned; His eyes became hot coals from the pit of a fire. He stared piercingly into the hollow eyes. His vision then met the glint of a silver shining necklace. The necklace lay clenched in the dead body’s hand. Bending down to pick up the necklace, the rifleman began to read the writing inscribed.

All of a sudden that deep fiery hatred turned into sickness- Sickness of death’s sick games, Sickness of war’s terrors and pains. Bullets shrieked as they are dispersed onto the watery ground. The necklace had read that of his dearest and closest friend

“Fredrick Smith” Was what it read.

An unbearable sadness tore deep into his soul. Trickles of water dripped of the end of his chin. In remorse he quickly left the hellish place.

Crawling frantically over the banking the sound of a humming man came to his attention. It was that of the blue eyed man. Sitting next to an old barn in a field- the blue eyed man looked naïve just as before. He was humming a lullaby whilst polishing his long shiny gun. The sun pierced the azure sky The Rifle man took aim and reloaded. His hands were trembling, his legs like jelly. All he had to do was slide his strong finger down the trigger; but he could not bring himself to playing deaths sick game. His head slumped and gun fell to the ground. For a moment the shinning sky became a gloom. ‘Bang’ his heart no longer could beat; the enemy’s bullet the victor of deaths sick game.

Written by Tom Sichel, an S4 student who attends Kip McGrath Education Centres Balerno, Edinburgh South and has given us permission to publish this very powerful piece of work.

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