Winter Homeward Bound

by Dillon Kelley

Snow began to fall as their footprints solidified from the low, frosty gusts and bone chilling temperatures. The sound of distant gun shots lingered in the frozen wind. A few soldiers quietly whistled Echelon's Song through their frost covered lips. Almost staggering, but still trudging forward, the troop pushed North. Several miles North the black, star filled night sky was gently lit from what lay ahead. Their goal was to reach Borovitsy, an airbase where the troop was ordered to move to after an attempt to defend Polotsk from German soldiers.

Micchael, leader of the troop, stopped and looked over his men as they passed him by. Dry, frost covered blood crusted the left side of his face, from the left of his brow. His blue eyes looked over each worn, distraught, cold, and stressed soldier. As his eyes drifted past the last soldier he continued staring in the same direction. He noticed a small white rabbit about a hundred metres in front of him. He raised his VSS Vintorez and looked through the PSO-1 scope, it had a 4x magnification so it was perfect for typical firefight ranges. The rabbit lined with the center crosshairs, but something was wrong. It was January 21st and temperatures were averaging -8 degrees, and most larger game that hunted the rabbit had either migrated South or is still in hibernation. This rabbit was reacting to something in a fearful manner, it moved a little, stopped, and stared as if stunned by an intimidating opponent. Micchael's troops were too far away from the rabbit to cause any form of fear, so Micchael drifted his crosshairs left to the base of a tree a few metres away from the rabbit. There was a very subtle movement, but just enough for a reflection the size of a nickel to appear and disappear just fast enough to catch the attention out of the corner of someone's eye. Micchael focused on the object the see two black circles. One circle about 4 inches above the bottom one. The top circle was about the size of a golf ball and the bottom circle the size of a penny.

The air was uncanny still, the only sounds were frozen winds and the deep breaths of Micchael. There was a swift zip and silent crack of a VSS Vintorez just to Micchael's left, the last soldier of the line must've stopped beside Micchael and noticed the rabbit. The rabbit died instantly as the bullet knocked it about a metre from its original position, but alost immediatly after, the snow kicked up around the base of the tree. Shots rang from the camoflauged machine gunner through the still air, ripping through Micchael's comrade and throwing him backwards. Micchael, never taking aim off the circles immediatly put 3 shots into the machine gunners head and chest. The entire interaction lasted less than 5 seconds.

Micchael looked to his left and screamed for his troop to find cover or get down, but before any of them could react, three more hidden machine gunners opened fire on the troops flank. MG 42's shredding though the entire troop, ripping the soldiers apart and blowing them away like snow in the gusts. Micchael watched his entire troop fall as he dove forward to avoid any crossfire. He watched where the gunners shot from for any sign of movement and quickly reached over to the soldier who was beside him. He smeared his hand in the blood and rubbed it all over his abdomen and face to look as if he was shot down. He layed there, waiting, waiting for the German soldiers to come search the bodies for any survivors. He heard distant boots crunching the snow and quiet speaking, but it all began to fade away. Hours passed before Micchael tilted his head to the horizon. White halftracks made their way to Micchael's location. White halftracks were only used by Belarus, Russia, and Ukraine in this point of the war, so Micchael quickly stood up and began sprinting to the halftrack.

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