XPX Blue (Short Story)

This is my response to my 7th assignment in my Creative Writing class. It is a story written in a “genre”. I chose science fiction, a genre I have always enjoyed. In fact, the story has an Outer Limits/Twilight Zone kind of feel to it

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XPX Blue

A wonderful day at the beach with a wonderful girl. Life doesn’t get any better than this,” thought Eric as he and his girlfriend Allison drove out of the city to spend the day together. Eric was grinning from ear to ear. He knew that Allison had brought her white bikini. The one he liked so much.

“Look at that billboard”, Allison said as they passed a collection of roadside advertisements.

Eric looked over at the billboard. He read the message out loud. “XPX Blue. Makes you Better!”

“That’s kind of vague,” he remarked. “It seems I’ve been seeing those ads on billboards and on TV a lot lately. What the heck is XPX Blue?”

Allison wasn’t exactly sure herself. “I think it’s some new health supplement that some corporation is hawking,” She replied. “You know I don’t believe in any of that stuff.”

The day at the beach was magnificent. Eric was extra pleased that the white bikini did make its appearance. He couldn’t have been happier. As the sun began to set they remained on the now nearly deserted beach to take in the spectacle.

Eric reached into a cooler and produced two bottles of beer. “Corona, made with the freshest Mexican spring water,” he exclaimed. Allison laughed as Eric twisted off the bottle caps. Eric didn’t really like Corona beer, but since she loved it so much he seemed to tolerate it.

As they lay together on the beach Allison looked up and noticed a bright blue star. “Look, Venus is rising,” she said.

Eric replied, “Yes, Venus makes an appearance, and look at me, here on the beach with my own Venus.”

Allison giggled a little bit, though she was still looking up at the sky. “Look,” she said. “Isn’t that odd? It seems to be getting brighter and brighter.”

Eric looked up and saw what was once a bright speck of light was now a glowing blue disk. This all happened in a matter of seconds. He only managed to say “What the heck…?” before everything went black.

The next thing he noticed was that everything was dark and he felt real groggy, like he had just woken up. Soon, he became more aware, and realized that he was lying on a metal table.

He thought, “Where am I? Am I hurt? Am I in the hospital?”

To add to his confusion his vision was blurry and he couldn’t see much. He slowly arose from the table and found that his knees were weak and his legs were wobbly. He placed his hands on the table for support. He noticed that the table was not metal at all. It looked like metal but it was soft and malleable. He thought, “How weird?”

A few moments later his legs became a little stronger and his vision also became clearer. He gasped as he noticed that Allison was on another table nearby. “Oh my god, Allison! Allison!” he called over to her. She did not respond.

He moved to her side. She appeared to be unconscious. He also noticed that her shirt was open at the bottom, exposing her belly. There was a pencil thin blue beam of light coming from above and shining brightly on her belly button.

“I wonder what that is,” he thought. “Am I dreaming this? Is this some sort of medical procedure?” He rubbed his eyes.

Now, his vision was getting to be a lot better. He looked around and saw that the room was much bigger than he originally thought. There were many more metal tables in the room, in fact hundreds of tables. Every one of them had a different person and every one of them had a blue light shining down upon their bellies.

“Oh my god”, he said. “I must be imagining this.”

He panicked! “Allison wake up, wake up”, he said as he shook her shoulders. “Where are we? What is happening?” he asked repeatedly.

Just then a brilliant blue light shone on him from above. He was blinded by the brightness of the light. With his hands over his eyes he shrunk down to the floor. But there was nowhere to hide. The light seemed to be forcing him down. Soon he couldn’t take the brightness anymore and he seemed to pass out.

The next thing Eric remembered was he was awake and on the beach. His head hurt a lot. “Ooooohh,” he said. “What happened? I feel like I got hit by a truck.”

Then he recalled the dark room with all the tables. “Allison,” he thought, “What happened to Allison?” He looked down and was immediately relieved to notice that Allison was safely in his arms.

Allison looked up at him. “You have a headache after one Corona?” she said. “What a light weight. Wow, that sunset was so fantastic I guess we both passed out. Shall we head home now?” She jumped up and brushed the sand off her shorts and her back. “Let’s go cuddle bunny. The sooner we get home the sooner we can go to bed and have some fun.”

It was music to his ears, and her suggestion made Eric quickly forget about his headache. “Have some fun?” he thought. “She has never talked like that before? Who cares! I am going to get some tonight.”

As they drove back to the city, Eric was thinking about the crazy things he recalled while passed out on the beach. “That was too crazy to be real,” he thought. “It must have been a dream. I am never drinking Corona again, damn Mexican crap!” He took his mind off the whole thing by thinking about all the fun they were going to have when they got home.

As they were passing a strip mall Allison shouted, “Wait, that’s new! Check it out. It’s a twenty-four hour XPX Blue Store. I want to try that stuff. Let’s stop and get some.”

Eric looked over at the store. “When did they put that there?” he said. “Oh, I don’t know, I thought we were heading home? Let’s just go home and we’ll come back and check it out tomorrow.”

Allison said, “No we HAVE to get some now. Pull over! If you do me this one favor I will be especially grateful when we get home.” She smiled at him, with a devilish smile.

So he pulled over immediately.

As they approached the store Eric noticed that there were a lot of people lined up to get into the store. “A line-up at 11PM on a Saturday Night,” Eric lamented,” What’s up with that?”

Allison encouraged him. “Don’t worry, the lineup will go fast,” she said.

And it did! Allison bought a huge canister of the XPX Blue powder. Allison declared excitedly, “When I get home I am going to make some XPX Blue smoothies. The recipe is on the canister!”

Eric thought, “Holy crap! She sure has changed her opinion on health supplements. Whatever! She’s the boss. I’m just happy that I’m going to get some sweet love tonight!”

Just as they walked out of the store, Eric felt a crunch under his shoe. He lifted his shoe and noticed that he had just stepped on some sort of blue coloured beetle. It was squashed flat. “Oops!” Eric said. “I accidentally squished a bug, and boy was he crunchy!”

Later that night, after they had returned home, they lit some candles and shared a couple of tall glasses of blue smoothies that Allison had prepared.

Allison gulped hers down quickly. “Oh heavens, that tastes great,” she exclaimed.

Eric only sipped his. He couldn’t drink it. In fact, he thought that it smelled like spoiled meat. Eric got up and left the room and he discretely poured the drink down the sink.

When he returned, he was surprised to see that Allison had stripped naked. In fact all she was wearing was a blue moustache and blue lips from the blue smoothie she had just gulped down. Eric was quick to ignore the blue lips. All he could think about was how very lucky he was.

*  *  *

When he awoke the next morning Eric was as giddy as a schoolboy. He had just experienced the best night of love making that he had ever had. He giggled as he recalled the entire event in his mind. They had done things that they had never done before.

When he got out of bed he found Allison in the kitchen. She was watching Fox News and drinking a blue smoothie. “Good morning sunshine,” she said sweetly. “Guess what? We have to go back to the XPX Blue store today.”

Eric moaned, “But we were just there?”

Allison explained, “I know. But that stuff is so good, we are almost out.”

Eric lifted the Blue Powder canister that was on the kitchen counter. It was nearly empty. He also noticed that Allison’s lips and mouth were now completely blue.

He said, “I can’t believe you have been drinking so much of this stuff? I thought you said that don’t believe in these health supplements? We are not going to the store to get any more. No way!”

She said, I’ve got an idea. “Let’s go to the store, then let’s come right back here and make love again.”

Eric thought for a second, and said, “Okay. Let’s do that then.”

So they did. In fact this went on for the rest of the day. Whenever she drank a XPX Blue smoothie she immediately wanted to make love. Eric was kind of concerned about all the smoothie intake but he was ecstatic about all of the love making.

By Sunday evening, Eric was completely on cloud nine. Mind you Allison was acting a little weird, her lips and mouth seemed to be permanently stained blue, and her breathe now strangely smelled like rotten meat, but he could get over those things. The good news is that everything else about her seemed to have improved. In fact her breasts seemed bigger, her butt was smaller and her skin seemed smoother. Maybe there is some truth to the promise that XPX Blue makes you better?

Later that night he was in the bathroom, humming a happy tune while he brushed his teeth. Out of the corner of his eye, he noticed a strange bug crawling near the clothes hamper. It was like a beetle, but it had eight long legs like a spider, and it was the weirdest blue color. Eric caught it in a tissue and took a close look at the insect. It hissed at him! He quickly squashed it between his fingers and then flushed the tissue down the toilet.

“Goodbye you little blue bugger,” he said with delight.

Then he noticed another bug in the clothes hamper. It was crawling on some of Allison’s clothes. He removed a few of the clothes from the hamper, and he found six more of the creepy crawlers.

“Holy shit, we have an outbreak,” he thought. “We know how to deal with your types,” he whispered as he merrily dispatched each one with a tissue and a trip down the toilet.

As Eric continued to brush his teeth, he thought, “That’s odd? Maybe I should call an exterminator in the morning?”

Just then Allison called out, “Honey it’s time for bed. Hurry up! I’m waiting for you!”

“I’m coming sweetheart,” Eric replied. He was giggling gleefully as he galloped into the bedroom.

 *  *  *

Monday at work seemed to drag along. Eric hadn’t gotten much sleep the night before, and he was really tired. Still, you couldn’t possibly wipe the smile off his face.

Eric also noticed that XPX Blue seemed to be gaining popularity. He saw a few people at work with blue stained lips. It seemed that many others were into this XPX Blue stuff. “Whatever floats their boat,” Eric thought. Nothing could take his mind off the recent improvements in his personal life.

After work Eric excitedly rushed home. As he entered the house he called out, “Allison, I’m home!”

He heard Allison reply from upstairs, “Eric, I’m in the bedroom!”

As he quickly climbed the stairs he could see that the bedroom door was ajar. The bedroom seemed dark, but from the open doorway he noticed an eerie blue light. As he entered the bedroom he saw Allison laying on the bed, awash in a seemingly supernatural blue light. Surrounding her on the bed, in a tight swarm, was what looked like thousands of glowing blue insects. They were clustered in a bright blue mass that was making a gentle purring sound, like they getting some sort of pleasure or satisfaction from being so close to her.

Eric looked at her in shock.

Allison looked up at Eric. “How do you like our babies?” she said proudly.

“Our what?” he asked in disbelief. “What did you call them? What the hell are you talking about?”

“Our babies,” Allison repeated, smiling calmly.

“Our babies?” Eric replied. He was so confused. “Where did they come from?” he asked.

Allison replied, “Don’t be silly! Where do you think babies come from?”

The Indoctrination of Private Paul Mackenzie (Short Story)

This is my response to my 6th assignment in my Creative Writing class. It is a story of about 3000 words with a “plot”. The story and characters are fictional.

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The Indoctrination of Private Paul Mackenzie

Private Paul Mackenzie had a thought.

“Anyone who thinks of Holland as wooden shoes, windmills and colorful tulips, ought to visit here during the war in the dead of winter.”

January 1945 would go on record as an abnormally cold month in southern Holland.  Paul McKenzie, a newly recruited Private with the Canadian Army, would always explain that if you wanted to feel cold all you had to do was go to his home town of Winnipeg, where the rivers would freeze solid from the end of October until the beginning of May.

Naturally, nobody paid much attention to Paul’s musings.  He was new to the regiment, only arriving a week ago.  The other soldiers had learned never to make friends with the new guys, mostly because they thought that the fresh recruits would be killed quickly, and there was no point in befriending them.  To make matters worse, Paul was only eighteen, and he looked like he was fourteen.  Looking young always leads to an immediate lack of respect.  In fact, some of the soldiers in the regiment started calling him “Youngster”.  It was a nickname that Paul didn’t like, but he had no choice but to accept.

For Paul, it was a good time to join the war effort.   The Allies had invaded Normandy in June, and now the Germans were on the run, retreating back toward the German border.  Everybody knew that the war would soon be over. There was an excitement that the victory was close at hand.  However, now that winter had come to Europe, the victory march had halted. The final push on Germany would have to wait until spring.

Paul had been assigned to Sergeant Stackhouse’s platoon.  The Sergeant was a large man, over six feet tall and with shoulders that seemed to be just as wide.  Paul was in awe of the Sergeant’s strength.  One night Sergeant Stackhouse showed how he could lift a Lee-Enfield rifle shoulder high, with a straight arm extended, and only holding onto the end of the rifle’s barrel.  The Sergeant’s elbow never bent or broke.  When anyone else would try the feat, their elbow would bend, or for some, like Paul, the rifle would hardly leave the ground.  After everyone else had tried the stunt, the good Sergeant took off his size 11 boots and tied the laces around the end of the rifle.  Then he performed the stunt again with his boots dangling at the end of the rifle, just to show he could still do it with even more weight added.

Also in the platoon was Corporal Kline.  Paul had already decided that he didn’t like Kline.  Paul saw him as lazy and shifty.  Kline was always shirking his duties, but when there was an opportunity to impress the Officers, Kline would be there.  Paul had learned to be wary of Kline, but still, they were members of the same platoon, so he had to trust him.  Didn’t he?

One night Sergeant Stackhouse met with the entire platoon.  He described a mission that they were going to undertake in about five days.  The plan was to take two boats over the Maas River and attempt to capture a German soldier for interrogation.  Paul listened to the plan intently.

The whole time that the Sergeant described the mission he was smoking.  Along with the cigarette he was currently smoking he had a second cigarette resting over his right ear.  When the first cigarette became so short that it was burning his fingers, he instinctively retrieved the second cigarette from his ear and lit it from the burning butt of the first cigarette.   During this maneuver, he never stopped his instruction for a second.

Later, as the second cigarette burned down to a nub, Stackhouse needed another cigarette.  Without stopping, or looking over, he called upon Corporal Kline who was sitting to the Sergeant’s left.

“Kliney, gimme another smoke”, the Sergeant said as he reached his hand towards Corporal Kline.

However, Corporal Kline wasn’t paying attention to the Sergeant’s request. In fact, Kline was fast asleep with his chin on his chest.  Once the Sergeant noticed that Kline was napping, he used the same hand that was requesting the cigarette to whack Corporal Kline on the top of the head.

Kline awoke with a start.  Paul thought this was hilarious, and he began to laugh.  Paul was still tittering when Sergeant Stackhouse took Kline aside for a brief talk.  After the “talk”, things got serious again, and the Sergeant continued with his explanation of the upcoming mission.

Now, Kline seemed to be far more attentive.  Paul wondered what the Sergeant had said to Kline to straighten him out so quickly.  Paul looked at Kline, who was now watching the Sergeant’s instruction with great interest.  That made Paul grin a little.

Unfortunately, Kline noticed Paul’s smirk.  He got up and slyly walked over behind Paul.  Then he calmly bent over and whispered menacingly into Paul’s ear, “You think that’s pretty funny Youngster? Just wait. Your day is coming.”

*        *       *

The night of the mission finally arrived.  It was a perfect night.  Dark, overcast, and no moon to showcase their clandestine river crossing.

The Canadians boarded two small black boats and set off, paddling as quiet as they could.  As they paddled, they scanned the far shore for any German activity.  They saw no movement and heard no noises.  All looked well, and so they continued their journey.

Once they got to the other side, they very quietly hauled the boats up onto the shore.  Sergeant Stackhouse told Corporal Kline and two Privates to wait by the boats.  The Sergeant took the rest of the platoon, including Paul, into the forest.  They slowly crawled through the woods for about 300 yards, trying to be as quiet as they could.  They were especially good at keeping quiet, as the Sergeant had forced them to practice their stealth every night for the past week.

Soon they got to a road.  The road was dark, and to Paul it seemed very ominous.  Paul felt a lump in his throat.   He knew that this was the road that lead directly to the German positions, and that scared him a little.   He quickly swallowed those thoughts and concentrated on paying attention to what the Sergeant had to say.

Sergeant Stackhouse whispered, “Private Mackenzie and Private Morris.  You two wait here at the road. Don’t make any noise.  I want you to stay alert and keep a lookout for enemy patrols.”

Paul and Private Morris nodded in agreement.

As quick as a flash, Sergeant Stackhouse and the remainder of the platoon departed.  The last that Paul saw of them were dark silhouettes tiptoeing northward, up the road.  In the Sergeant’s silhouette, he could clearly see the outline of the Sten machine gun he held in the ready position.

Paul and Private Morris sat in the woods.  They barely whispered two words to each other the whole time.  They just sat, watched and listened.

It seemed like hours, but it was only about ten minutes later, when they saw some dark figures coming towards them from the North.  It was Sergeant Stackhouse and the rest of the platoon, plus a German prisoner!  There was a potato sack over the German’s head, and it was tied with a rope at the neck.  Stackhouse walked behind the prisoner and held onto the end of the rope with one hand, and had his Sten gun pressed to the German’s back with his other hand.  It was the machine gun on the captive German’s back which told the prisoner which direction to walk.

Stackhouse only nodded his head in a motion to Paul and Private Morris to follow him. Not a word was spoken as they quickly travelled back through the forest back to the boats. Swiftly, they boarded the boats and hastily paddled their way back to the friendly side of the river.

Once they landed, the Sergeant removed the bag from the German’s head.  It was the first time Paul had seen an enemy soldier. The German was very young.  He seemed to be frightened, but was trying to be stoic and show no fear.  He was consistently avoiding eye contact with the Canadians.

Sergeant Stackhouse gave the next order, “Private Mackenzie and Private Morris, march our prisoner back to HQ for interrogation.”

Paul was proud that the Sergeant had trusted him to such an important duty.  He and Morris quickly carried out the task.  Strangely enough, though, Corporal Kline followed them the whole way.

At the HQ tent, Lieutenant Felix, the only person in the Regiment that spoke German, began the interrogation of the prisoner. Things did not go well.  Lieutenant Felix, leaned over the prisoner, asking questions in German, but the young soldier just sat in his chair and remained silent.  It appeared that he had nothing to say.

Lieutenant Felix decided he’d had enough. “Let’s let him stew for a little while,” he said. “Maybe he’ll talk later.  I will be back in 20 minutes. Mackenzie and Morris, I want you to stay here and keep guard of the prisoner while I am away.”

It wasn’t long after Lieutenant Felix had left the tent, when Corporal Kline entered.  “Did he spill his guts?” Kline asked.

Paul answered dutifully, “No Corporal, he didn’t tell the Lieutenant anything.”

“Well isn’t that dandy,” Kline whispered grimly.  “We may have to do something about that, won’t we? Maybe I can get him talking?”

Kline stood in front of the prisoner and stared at him menacingly.   The young German looked away from Kline’s stare.  Kline grabbed the prisoner’s head and forcefully turned it so that the German was looking straight at Kline.  As the prisoner noticed Kline’s expression, a look of fear began to appear across his once stoic face.

Corporal Kline moved quickly.  Using the butt of his rifle, he struck the young German in the side of the head. The German fell sideways off the chair onto the ground in a heap.

Kline began to yell, “So you won’t talk, eh? You fucking Nazi!  Maybe now you will want to tell me which night you bastards are going to attack!  Tell me! Tell ME!”

The German looked up with fear in his eyes, terrified and helpless.  Blood was beginning to form under his nose and on his ear.  Still he did not speak a word.

Paul was fearful.  He looked over toward Private Morris, and noticed that he had just left the tent.

Kline was fuming that the German did not answer the questions.  He lunged, and began kicking the German prisoner directly in the stomach.  The German grunted horribly and grabbed his abdomen in obvious pain.

Paul reacted.  He quickly grabbed Kline’s arm and said, “Leave him alone Kline!  You’ve done enough.  You’re going to kill him!”

Paul’s intervention had stopped the kicking, but now Paul was shaking badly.  He was in a panic as he thought to himself, “Did I just grab the Corporal’s arm?”

Corporal Kline looked at Paul, “What are you doing Mackenzie?  Are you protecting him? What is going on? Are you a Nazi too?” Kline was fuming mad at Paul, but he again turned his attention toward the German, “Mackenzie, you are a weakling, and I am going to deal with you, once I finish this guy off.”

Paul shrunk away, shocked at what he thought Corporal Kline was about to do. Kline lifted his rifle and slowly placed the barrel in the German’s mouth.  The German soldier instinctively closed his eyes.

Just then, Sergeant Stackhouse roared into the tent.  “What in blue blazes is going on here?” he roared. He looked directly at Corporal Kline and quickly figured out what was occurring.

“Kline!  You shoulder that rifle immediately!” Stackhouse ordered.

Kline shrunk.  He immediately obeyed the order.  He placed his rifle on his shoulder and backed away from the prisoner.

The Sergeant looked at the German, who was bleeding from the side of the head and in obvious pain. “Mackenzie, go fetch a medic to look at the prisoner’s wounds.”

Paul was glad to get out of that tent.  He scurried off to find a medic.

*        *       *

In the days after the prisoner incident, Paul tried to avoid Corporal Kline.  He wanted to put the whole debacle out of his mind.  Kline was now more subdued, and it was clear to Paul that Sergeant Stackhouse had admonished him in some awful way.  Paul was glad for that, but he was still very concerned.  It was hard to forget about the circumstances.  However, the Regiment was now training for a significant operation that was coming up at the end of January.  The business of the training regime helped Paul take his mind off his troubles.

The upcoming operation was very important. It involved more than one regiment in a pincer attack on a small ferry harbor located along the Maas River.  The harbor, named Kapelsche Veer, was home to an unusually large number of German troops, a stronghold that the Allied Generals felt needed to be dealt with.  The operation was fairly complex, but Paul’s platoon had a much simpler task; to take out two machine gun nests that were meant to thwart the Canadians advance on the objective.

Paul was a little nervous about the operation, but soon enough the day of the operation arrived.  There was no time to be nervous anymore.

Two hours before twilight, they were driven in trucks to the edge of a dike. The rest of the way they went on foot. The ground was snow covered, and they wore white camouflage over their dark brown wool uniforms. However, the snow, once pretty and white, was quickly smashed down under the marching boots, and it soon turned into a muddy mess.

They continued to march down the length of a dike to arrive at their start point.  Corporal Kline was marching behind Paul. The whole way Paul could feel the Corporal’s hot stare on the back of his head.  Paul knew that the Corporal was not ready to forget about the prisoner incident.

When they arrived at the end of the dike, Sergeant Stackhouse told them all to get down low. It was quiet now, but they could hear the ominous sound of tank engines rumbling off in the distance.

The terrain around the harbour was a polder, a low area of land that was surrounded by dikes.  There were absolutely no trees.  In fact, in the growing twilight you could see only one tree in the distance, a large oak that was situated next to a lone farmhouse.  This was the harbour, their final objective.

Soon the artillery barrage began. A tremendous amount of artillery was brought down upon the German positions.  The shells flew over the soldiers heads and impacted into the polder between their position and the harbour.  The soldiers kept their heads down and listened to the ominous sound of artillery shells whistling overhead.

First the shells started to impact in the vicinity of the farmhouse, but spotters soon started to direct the shells to fall closer and closer to the Canadian’s position and finally the shells were even falling just on the other side of the dike from where they were crouched.

They waited, shivering in the coldness of the morning twilight.  Sergeant Stackhouse passed around a flask of rum. “Soon it will be time to go boys.  We’ve got a little time for a rum ration. It will warm you up and give you courage.”

Paul had never had rum before, but he swallowed his gulp without a problem.  His mind was clearly stuck on whatever lay beyond the dike.  The butterflies in his stomach were busy turning his gut into a painful knot.

Paul looked over at Private Morris and noticed he looked a little pale.  “Morris, how are you doing?  Are you scared?” Paul asked.

Morris answered back, “Who wouldn’t be scared of this?”

The rum did warm his stomach.  Paul soon felt a little better, and he didn’t notice the butterflies anymore.

The artillery barrage built up to a grand crescendo.  Then, as quickly as it had started, it stopped.  A few seconds later, after the echoes had subsided, it became eerily quiet.  The men then began to hear the sounds of wounded Germans.  Some were crying out for help, and some were moaning eerily.  Sergeant Stackhouse knew exactly what was to happen next.   He gave the order, “Let’s go boys!”

In the light of the morning twilight, the platoon rose and climbed up to the top of the dike.  At the top, the platoon split off into two groups.  One went to the left, and the other group went to the right.  As he crested the dike, Paul looked to the left and to the right and noticed hundreds of Canadian soldiers all advancing over the top of the dike at once.  The sight was awe-inspiring; it gave Paul a renewed burst of courage.

Paul’s group continued down the dike to the left and moved towards a sandbagged fortification about 100 yards away.  This was the machine gun nest, their immediate objective. Normally, the German machine gun would be deadly, but it appeared that the German stronghold had taken a direct artillery hit.  Paul breathed a sigh of relief that the machine gun was silent.  Still the Canadians approached with caution.  When they were about ten yards away, Corporal Kline crouched down and motioned to Paul to approach the nest and take a look.

Obediently following orders, Paul scampered over to the machine gun nest.  As he got close, he heard a moaning sound coming from inside.  He cautiously climbed up onto the sandbag wall and peered inside.  Paul was shocked to witness a horrible scene.  He saw three mangled and bloody bodies slumped over.  The carnage was something Paul had never seen before.  He was shaken, but he did not panic.  He managed to hold his composure.

Over to the left he saw a very young German soldier cowering across from the bodies.  He didn’t look like he was even 18 years old.  Paul realized that this was the source of the moaning.  The German soldier’s helmet was missing, and he was crouched down, holding his blood covered hands over his ears.

Paul stood up and brought his rifle up, so it was pointed toward the German, then he commanded sharply, “Hände hoch!  Hände hoch!”  First, the young German soldier was startled, but then he quickly obeyed the order and put his bloodstained hands up in the air.  His hands were trembling, and his face was full of fear.  He was clearly surrendering.

Up to now, Corporal Kline was cowering several yards away from the machine gun nest, but now he decided to come forward and assess the situation. “Lookie what we have here,” he said. “What are you waiting for Youngster?  It’s time for your first kill.  Do it.”

Instinctively following orders, Paul tensed up and raised his rifle to his line of sight, and then aimed it directly at the Germans chest.  He squinted as he took aim and readied himself to pull the trigger, then, in a surprising move for a brand new recruit, he had a moment of independent thought.

“No Corporal. He is wounded.  He is surrendering.  I will take him prisoner, but I won’t shoot him,” Paul explained.

Kline couldn’t believe it.  He was fuming.  “I gave you an order Private Mackenzie!  I am so sick and tired of you not listening to my orders.” Then, he yelled back at the others in the platoon, “You men are my witnesses. Private Mackenzie is disobeying my direct order.”

Paul began to obey Corporal Kline’s order.  Again, he lifted his Lee-Enfield rifle and pointed it at the wounded German. The young German was trembling.  As he began to anticipate what he thought was about to happen, he closed his eyes and turned his head away.

Paul was ready.  He could have done it, but he knew in his heart and mind that this man wasn’t an enemy soldier anymore.  He lowered his rifle and said, “No I won’t kill him. This man is wounded, and he is my prisoner.”

Kline fumed. He wasn’t going to have a lowly Private disobey his command.  He quickly lurched forward in an attempt to strike Paul with his rifle butt.

Just then, Paul saw Sergeant Stackhouse appear behind Kline.  With his powerful arm, he grabbed Kline’s shoulder.

Stackhouse roared, “There will be none of that here!”

Paul had a good view of Kline’s face.  He saw that it immediately filled with shock and fright.

“Private Mackenzie is correct,” Stackhouse thundered. “This man is wounded.  He has surrendered, and he is now a prisoner.”

Corporal Kline shrank.  His boldness had completely vanished.

Sergeant Stackhouse looked at Kline with disgust.  “Kline you stay here with me.  Private Mackenzie, take Private Morris with you and transport the prisoner back to the Military Police depot.”

As they began to march the wounded prisoner back to the Military Police depot, Paul noticed that Corporal Kline had a look of dread on his face.  Obviously, he did not appreciate the thought of another private talk with Sergeant Stackhouse.

Paul smirked when he saw Kline’s face.  He wasn’t sure if he would have any trouble with Corporal Kline in the future, but he had confidence in knowing that he could stand up to him.