Soldier's Heart

by Josh Crandall

         As the little girl lay paralyzed with fear under her bed, listening to the destruction outside, she was not thinking of the brilliant men who started this war and their justification for it or the important affects this war would have. Those who meet war and stare death in the face seldom think of these things. Instead, the little girl was thinking about life.

         She was instead thinking of her own life, despite it being so short she now had to think of her own coming death in this battle and all her future hopes and goals would be not be accomplishable and this simply terrified her. She thought of the lives of her townsmen, how many of the people, whether she had personal relationships with the people or whether they had always just seemed to be there, would simply be gone after this destruction. The mourned, buried in the old town cemetery, symbolically lodging a dagger in the heart of the town, leaving a painful sense of emptiness in their friends and families. The mourners, having to put aside or completely ignore their painful emotions, realizing the insignificant amount of time they have to grieve their losses due to the more significant need to rebuild.

        But the little girl thought most of all about her parents, whose safety she would die for, who she loved more than life itself. When the battle began outside, they had simply told her to hide under the bed and not get out until . They hadnt come back for her and the little girl believed that her parents had a very good reason for leaving her there, as she believed that no loving parents would leave their own child alone and frightened in the midst of a battle like this. Due to mankinds naturally cynical nature, the little girls mind naturally went to the worst: she believed her parents were lying dead somewhere and, considering the brutality of this battle, her thoughts may not be far off.

        The worst part of this conflict was that the little girl and all her townsmen who died in this battle would not die as heroes, whos deaths for just causes would leave their names forever in the minds of scholars and immortalized in history, the ugly truth was theyd be collateral damage, anonymous casualties, in a battle for a small village of no strategic or sentimental value for either side, the only reason for the invasion was so that some great commanders far from the front line could get out a map and boast of their territorial holdings.

        The little girl had, for the time being, not been physically touched by the battle. Although she heard the fierce fighting raging outside, she had not seen any of the violence and gore associated with battle. She was hoping that the noises of war and death would simply move onto a different place, far from here, her parents would come to find her and tell her that all was all right and that she could pretend that this never had happened, simply ignore the day. She realized people forget most of the days of their lives, she was hoping, yet knew she never would, forget this day.

        The girl finally heard the front door to her house open. She had heard the noise hundreds of times, like when her mother would go out on a nice stroll through town or when her father would arrive back home after laboring all day. She was terrified, a new wave of terror made her body begin to tremble. She then heard the unmistakable sound of footsteps, slowly coming up the stairs to the second floor she was hiding. She counted as the feet of this mysterious intruder came up the stairs, distinctly hearing a foot land on each of the fourteen steps up and she finally saw as the door to the room she was hiding in was smashed open.

        The little girl quickly saw that this was a soldier, who she could only see as a part of the destruction, deaths assistant. He looked tremendous to the little girl, he was fully outfitted for war, wearing a distinct soldiers suit covered in various equipment necessary to fight a battle. The soldier had his weapon held up in firing position, ready to open fire at any threats that he could possibly find in this house.

        The little girl did not mean for the soldier to find her. She was terrified of him from the moment he had entered the room, his large weapon and his presumed ferocious, toughness and fierceness. After a very careful scan of the room, the soldier was prepared to leave when the little girl simply could not physically hold back a loud sneeze any longer.

        The soldier was quickly alarmed by the noise and went back to the bed where the little girl was hiding under. He squatted down at the side of the bed and could distinctly see the girl under the bed, who drew back further under the bed in a futile attempt to hide. The soldier now had a tough choice to make. His mission was to fight and win the battle that was happening outside, it was his duty as a soldier, rescuing this girl and taking her away from the frontline was not part of his duty and may be viewed as desertion. Yet, he felt his duty as a human was to help those who were less fortunate than him, he felt it was his duty as a human being to rescue the little girl from harms way, and he wondered what he would think of himself if he knew the little girl had died in that house and he could have done something to save her. He was not sure if it was the right call to make, but, given what he knew and his moral believes, he made what he felt what was the best decision. The soldier believed that doing what you believe is right and taking responsibility for the calls you make, whether viewed as right or wrong, would always garner respect. The reason he had become a soldier is to defend what he believed in.

        The soldier made the decision to rescue the little girl, take her far from harms way. He put his weapon on the ground and took the helmet off his head, revealing a crop of untidy hair. The soldier also smiled at the girl, a simple, friendly smile, the same smile a longtime friend or family member who genuinely loved you would. To the little girl, he no longer looked like a frightening tool of destruction, but rather a friend.

        The problem was that the girl would not get out from under the bed. She was waiting for her parents, as she chose to cling to the idea they were just stuck in some other part of the city. The soldier took out a piece of candy from his rations and held it out in front of him for the girl to take. It seemed like for the two of them, the war was on pause, as the battle was being fought outside, the girl was in deep thought, about whether or not she should go with this soldier, wherever he was going. For the first time since the battle began, she got out from under the bed, unwrapped the sweet, tangy candy and put it in her mouth, and smiled back at the soldier. It may be hours, or her parents may never come for her. She felt that she had a chance of escaping this battle if she went with this soldier.

        The soldier carried the girl down the stairs of the house and proceeded to the front door. The soldier kicked the door open and, for a brief moment, was able to see the destruction outside. The dead, both the girls townsmen and the soldiers comrades, lay all over the street. The dying, some resigned to their fate and some screaming for help, also lay all around the town. The soldiers continued the grizzly fight, simply having to ignore these men and continue on with the mission. This was a horrid thing to witness for anyone at any age and the girl knew this would be stuck in her memory for the rest of her life. The soldier slowly shut the door. He realized that attempting to get the girl out the front door would simply be too dangerous, there was a high chance that the girl and the soldier would end up dead. For now, they would just ignore the horrid scene outside. For now, they would just focus on getting the girl as far away from the frontline as possible.

        The soldier then began to think of his other options. The girl grabbed the soldiers hand and led him to a partly obstructed backdoor of the house. It was shockingly tranquil in the backyard considering the circumstances the village was under. Despite the horrid fighting on the street in front of the girls house, there was absolutely nothing happening in the backyards, less than one street away from the main fighting. The little girl led the soldier by the small geranium patch her mother cultivated in the backyard, carefully picked the one that she liked best and reached up to give it to the soldier. It was a gift for him, the little girl fully realized the unnecessary risks he was taking by saving her and felt bad she could not offer more. He tucked it into one of his shirt pockets for safekeeping, so that only the bud was poking out.

          The soldier picked the girl up and began to run from the house and from the battle. The girl could hear the distinct sound of the soldiers shoes crunching through the grass as he run, the sound of his heavy breathing as he ran, the sound of his various equipment and weapon rustling around. The soldier ran down to the end of the street the girl lived on and then to end of the next street, running through several blocks without stopping. The girl heard as the noises of the battle grew ever quieter, until they sounded incredibly far off.

          The soldier eventually gently put the girl down several blocks from the town. This was certainly not the destination, but the soldier was certainly tired. Running, while carrying a small girl, a weapon and several pounds of equipment is not easy by anyones standards. The soldier dropped his weapon, propped himself against the wall of a house, having a hefty drink from his canteen and brushing the sweat from his eyes and forehead.

          As the soldier was resting, out of nowhere came another soldier: an enemy soldier. Both the soldier and the girl were puzzled by how this man could have ended up alone, far behind enemy lines, but that didnt matter. What mattered is he was there, weapon drawn, ready to kill. The soldier quickly stood up and hid the girl behind him, but the enemy quickly saw him and aimed his gun directly at the soldiers heart. The soldier put his hands up, hoping that his life would be spared. After a highly intense moment where the enemy thought of his options, the little girl finally peaked out from behind the soldier. The enemys eyes quickly went to her and then back to the soldier.

          The enemy quickly realized that the soldier was not on a mission of war, but a mission of mercy. He realized that, at this moment, this soldier should not be regarded as a warrior, but as a humanitarian. He was not fighting the soldier as a man, the soldier was from an opposite part of the earth and had done nothing to wrong him. The enemy was fighting the ideas the soldier believed in, and the rescue of the little girl from harms way was an idea the enemy agreed with. The enemy simply lowered his weapon and motioned for him to go by and, for a brief moment, the two were no longer enemies, but were united in a love for humanity. The soldier grabbed the girl and continued running, the enemy then headed towards the field of battle.

          The soldier eventually reached a massive church, far from the battlefield where the brutal noises of battle were far off and not frightening, that had been turned into a makeshift hospital, where there was a frequent influx of wounded soldiers constantly streaming in from the battle, with the doctors and nurses finding themselves increasingly busy as the full magnitude of the battle was becoming known.

          The soldier eventually found a nurse at the hospital to speak to. Although the little girl could not understand what was being said, she correctly assumed the soldier was telling of the current situation and asking the nurse to take special care of the little girl. The soldier was about to begin his way back to the battle, as it was his duty as a soldier to win the battle, but, before he left, the girl wrapped her arms around one of his legs as a parting hug. The soldier smiled back down at her, and the girl couldnt help noticing that he still had the geranium in his shirt pocket.

          The nurse eventually held the little girls hand and led her into the hospital, but the little girl couldnt help but noticing the soldier running back into the battle. She realized did not know his name, his language, his nativity, whether he was a saint or a sinner, a rich man or a poor man, or even his motives for taking her away from the dangers of the battle, but she realized he was a hero, her personal hero and in the trying days ahead for her his courage would be an inspiration and guide for her decisions, and she would always have the man with her in her heart all the days she lived.

        As she saw him going back to the battle, she did not know whether he would be killed upon his return to the battle, or if he would live for a hundred years more. All she could do was hope, wonder and pray that he would be taken through the war and back home again safely.

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