He stood stiffly in the baking sun, feeling the sweat carving rivulets in the dust on his face. The appointed hour was nearly upon him. Just a few minutes. Time enough to reflect on what had brought him to this.
He had never wanted to join the army, but he could not disappoint his father. Nonetheless, he’d taken to the life, some good friends, regular meals, interesting places. Until he’d ended up in this hell hole. Of course, that’s what it had always been about, the business of killing. He never thought he would be capable of pulling the trigger for real, with another human being in front of him, or ramming a bayonet into the stomach of another young man, much like himself. But it had been kill or be killed. Not everyone could do it. Many just accepted death to take them away from it all. Others deserted, another way of escaping through death but at the hands of their comrades. Nearly every day the firing squad could be heard going about its business.
He had become fatalistic. He had thrown himself into battle in a rage, not at the enemy but at the generals who had thrown him into this maelstrom of murder and terror. Despite his complete disregard for safety he survived the first bloody battle and came out of it as a bit of a hero. This sickened him even more. Back behind the lines he had let it all out, a bitter tirade against King and country, the generals, the evil futility of war, the godlessness of the world, the tragic waste of life, young men on both sides sent to slaughter and be slaughtered by their arrogant leaders sitting safely in the rear.
They decided they had to make an example of him and so here he was, and the moment had arrived. The squad was lined up and ordered to raise their rifles and take aim. All he could hear was the men’s heavy breathing and the pulse of blood in his ears. With eyes clenched tight shut, he barked out the order – Fire.