Manuscripts Burn


MANUSCRIPTS BURN

"Manuscripts don't burn"
- Mikhail Bulgakov

Hi, I'm horror and science fiction author Steve Kozeniewski (pronounced: "causin' ooze key.") Welcome to my blog! You can also find me on Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, and Amazon. You can e-mail me here, join my mailing list here, or request an e-autograph here. Free on this site you can listen to me recite one of my own short works, "The Thing Under the Bed."

Thursday, July 16, 2009

The Last War: Chapter 33

Sgt. Dave Trevor fired his flamethrower into the swarm of Canadians who were pouring towards him. As their clothes and quickly their flesh ignited, they screamed and ran about crazily. The psychological effects (which were often more important than the physical effects) of the conflagratory weapon were beginning to have their effects. The Canadians seemed uncertain of themselves.

"Come on, troops! Let's go!"

Trevor waved his Flamethrower Squad forward. Yelling in glee, they charged forward. The younger ones certainly seemed to be enjoying it. It was probably their first taste of battle.

The sergeant had been disappointed that the Siege of Washington had ended before the American capital was taken back. The American troops had been dispersed. Most of them had been sent to the Canadian Front, although a few, he supposed, had to have been sent to the Mexican Front.

It had been a sad time for his troops. They'd built close friendships with the German troops there, and saying goodbye was painful. The Germans were all staying at Washington D.C., as their government had ordered. Trevor and Marianne Totschl├Ąger had grown very close. (He had even had designs on her, but they never really worked out).

In much the same manner as things were proceeding through the rest of the world, the Americans had not yet won an important battle. All the troops had been told about the Battle on the Garonne, at the Franco-Spanish front, where an army of mostly British and a few French and Germans had taken a resounding victory away from the Spanish coalies. It had given the Allies a good morale boost for a while, but it didn't last long when they were still being defeat so often.

Ulan-Ude, Bayonne, Lake Baikal, Tijuana, Irkutsk, Morocco. Each name was a pointed barb jabbed into Ally troopers. And those were just the more famous battles. The Alliance had not won anything, with the exception of Garonne. There were also rumors of Australian victories on the sea, but few believed it. It seemed a futile, stupid war.

But, then, what war isn't futile?

So, here they were on the Canadian Front. The Americans were trying to cheat the Reaper long enough to take some defensive positions. And then, from there...

Trevor had no idea what went from there. He was just a sergeant. Generals were paid to think of the "from theres". Sergeants were paid to lead their squads into battle.

"Come on, you grunts! We're not pansy-assing around Washington anymore!"

They were in a small speck of a town which, on the map, would have appeared to be an extraordinarily small sample of fly feces. The Canadians were defending it like it was Montreal.

The largest building in the tiny town was the town hall, from which hung a Canadian flag, billowing in the wind and smoke of battle. Trevor's squad was trying to crest that town hall.

They flamed the door and then kicked in the smoldering ashes. The squad was now standing in a large tiled room, presumably a point for dealing with problems the townsfolk had about cow subsidies and rootmarm manufacture.

A group of Canadians were standing in various poses around the room. Perhaps they were defenders, perhaps they were not. They were all armed, however, and that made them hostile in Trevor's view. As the Flamethrower Squad hustled into the room, the banging of their boots against the tile must have snapped the Canadians into a more alert level of concentration.

Many of them turned and fired at the Americans. With a muffled scream, Pierce fell and died from an AS gun shot.

"Fire! Fire!" yelled the sergeant.

The American Flamethrower Squad opened up their nozzles to full spray and fired greedily at the Canadians. Trevor picked up his dead comrade, Pierce, and led the charge up the rickety wooden stairs.

With his dead friend slung over one shoulder it was difficult, but Trevor managed to break down the door and open fire on the squad of Canadians inside at once. They were all in defensive positions, hiding behind tables and desks and such. Quickly, the Americans rooted them out like a bunch of pesky vermin in a house being fumigated. With minimal losses, Trevor's squad continued on up to the roof.

A conventional bullet whizzed past Trevor's ear as he burst onto the roof. Luckily it banged off his helmet and ricocheted away. Trevor was about to return fire (literally) when the man who had fired leapt off the roof.

"Oh, shit!" exclaimed Trevor, and he ran to the side of the roof and looked down.

The man was lying face down in the mud below, but Trevor could still see that he had been wearing a suit. He had had a regular gun, not an AS gun, so he must have been a civilian. The mayor of this town, perhaps, defending his hallowed town hall to the last.

Trevor's squad mates gradually surrounded him, and looked down at the dead mayor.

"We've reached the roof," said one of them incredulously.

It was hardly a difficult accomplishment, but they were incredulous because they had been beaten time and time again by Canadian troops with their Coalition allies, that even cresting a two story building seemed a Herculean feat. First Garonne, now this...

"Our own personal little Garonne!" said another one.

They all laughed.

"Yeah, a battle of epic proportions," said Trevor, "For this great and sprawling metropolis of, uh, Hicksville."

"The Battle for North Bumblefuck," said one of the flamethrower handlers.

They all laughed.

"The Battle for the Middle of Nowhere," said Private Lake.

"Well, here we are," said Trevor reverently, "At our own tiny little Gettysburg."

He looked out over the tiny little town. None of the others knew it, but the day was lost. Apparently, theirs had been the only victory. The coalies were pushing the Americans all the way out of here.

"Well, we haven't quite finished the task yet," said Lake.

The private pointed his flamethrower at the Canadian maple leaf which was still blowing in the wind. He turned it on and ignited the flag. This was what was called the Middle Finger of War. Burning an enemy's flag and raising it up for them to see was essentially the same as flipping someone off.

The Americans all cheered. No doubt the coalies would soon be coming up to seek vengeance. They'd fight them back, though. For now, the Americans all shot the maple leaf with a little bit of flame, and warmed themselves by the fire. They'd won, even if it was completely and utterly meaningless.

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