It was getting dark early this evening and James was nervous, as he couldn’t see his house.
“Hey Mike, maybe we should go back home. It’s getting too dark.”
Mike looked at his watch. “It’s only five o’ clock. It won’t get dark for ages. Come on, we’ll play some more. I’m America this time” and he ran into the field.
James knew Mike was right. It was the end of May, school was over and the days were longer. They should be able to stay out until at least nine, maybe half nine, but here it was getting so dark James was finding it difficult to spot Mike in the long grass. But either way he didn’t care.
The two boys had been best friends for as long as they both could remember. They met in baby infants, as it was called, and were causing trouble ever since. Today, they played in the fields behind James house. The fields were to be harvested in the coming week, so this was their last chance to have a game of war in tall grass. The games were always more exciting when they couldn’t see each other and so they were going to take full advantage of it. Nighttime be damned.
But, it was so dark now James couldn’t see Mike anymore. He began calling out for him and there was no reply. It seemed to James that the further he moved in through the grass, the darker the day became and the muskier the air. He was finding it hard to breathe now, but he kept calling for Mike. There was still no answer.
“Mike… Mike! Answer me Mike.” James was getting very worried. Between Mike’s disappearance and the smoky air, his eyes couldn’t help welling up with tears and his throat burning with suppressed fear.
Suddenly, the ground shook with a large explosion that sent dirt up to the air and James to the ground. He coughed and spluttered as fumes from the explosion burnt the inside of his throat and his ears rang from the noise. He pressed his sleeve to his mouth and began to move quickly, not knowing what direction to go but running as fast as his legs could carry him. The grass stung as he cut through the field. James ran and ran. He ran for longer than he knew until suddenly he tripped and wasn’t running anymore. He hit the ground hard and, for a few minutes, was unconscious.
An abrupt shock brought James back to reality. The dirt beside his head had popped off the ground with a spark and smacked against his face. He wiped it off only to become aware of new sounds in the air. Pings followed by whizzes and snaps. Strings of white lights zapped around him. For a moment, he didn’t know what was happening but then it struck him. Quickly, he dived for the ground and covered his head. Bullets tore the air just above his body and he could hear men shouting and screaming around him. Terror overcame James.
Panicing, he looked around for a way out when he saw what he tripped over. A boot, poking from behind some grass, covered in dirt with a broken lace and a hole in the toe. James kicked at it but it didn’t react like he expected. It pulled itself behind the grass and moaned. He was officially freaking out but he dug up the necessary courage to look behind the grass.
The boot was moving slowly back and forth. It was attached to a leg wearing grey trousers. James could see a second leg beside that and at the top of them was a belt. James eyes widened. In the belt, was a gun. He forced himself to forget the gun and look further up. There was a hand clutching at a shirt tucked into the belt. Blood poured from a wound beneath the hand. James flipped back around the grass verge. He was breathing heavily now and clawing at the soil, pulling up dirt and rubbing it into his hands overwhelmed by terror.
Shaking uncontrolably, he turned around and separated the grass to look at the wounded person. It was a soldier. He carefully leaned in closer, through the grass, to see the soldiers face. It was ashen and beaded with sweat. His lips were dry and cracked and his cheeks sunken. The soldier’s eyes unexpectedly met James’, shocking James and causing him to fall forward onto the dirt beside the soldier. James quivered as he saw the dying man take his hand off his wound, blood gushing, turning the shirt red and placing his hand on James’s shoulder.
The soldiers breathing became more and more erratic now. His hand gripped James shoulder tighter, hurting James. Finally, the soldier smiled, closed his eyes, and died.
James didn’t have enough time to be shocked as another explosion shunted him off his knees away from the soldier and knocked him unconscious once again.
When he awoke, it was still dark but he could see the stars shining brilliantly in the sky. A light breeze wafted through the grass carrying the scents of summer with it. James heard his name being called. Lights broke the darkness above his head. They were torchlights and he could make out his mothers voice calling his name. He stood up quickly and looked around. He could see his house, all the lights on, and people with torches stood around the field.
“Hey, I’m here”. He waved at them. He heard somebody say “There, over there.” And they came running to him, his mother hugging him tightly when she reached him.
“Don’t ever disappear like that again, don’t you ever…” his mother broke off and hugged him tighter still. James noticed Mike, who was holding onto his dad’s hand
“Is that blood?” asked Mike.
“You’re bleeding. Oh my God. My baby. Let me see you…” exclaimed his mother.
“No, mom. It’s not my blood. I’m okay, really” said James, suddenly realising what just happened. He looked around and saw no idead soldier. The ground wasn’t destroyed from explosions and there weren’t any bullets flying through the air. James wondered what just happened. Did he just dream the soldier and the explosions? But they were so real; he could still remember how the air tasted. He was too tired to think about it. Maybe in the morning all his questions will be answered.
“Come on mom,” he said finally “let’s go home.”