Fatigue had seemed the win the war on the other side of the wasteland. After months of barrage and attack, there seemed to be a moment of profound silence and tranquillity, which Hans Muller, although entrusted with the necessary and important job of sniper, chose to neatly rest his head on top of a sandbag.
Muller had fallen into his perilous duty due to his exceptional marksmanship exhibited during training. Hans was an older gentleman, married, father of three and had just made the cut-off when conscription was introduced after Germany they had gone to war. ‘The illness that had infected our country’, that’s what they told us. He tried to remind himself of that. He had wanted justice for those who wanted to harm his country, but in the four-foot mud, he longed for the lasting, lonely hours at the steel factory.He instinctively grasped his rifle, as his eyes began open. He was tapped on the shoulder and informed that the British troops were ‘going over’. Although Hans had been at war near three months, all the death and destruction he had experienced had been from artillery fire, offering him the lustful, plausible deniability that he was not the one pulling the trigger.
Faint sounds of screams and hollering came in the distance, the distance was growing closer. He tightly grasped and hugged his rifle bringing the butt of his companion against his cheek. He carefully urged the rifle through the sandbags, resting it uncomfortably.
He cocked the piece and glanced through the sights, hoping for his rifle not to meet the heart of his ‘enemy’. The sights covered the head of a man wielding his gun, whom in that moment seemed colossal. ‘A touch upon the trigger and all will be well’ he thought. He was squeezing the life out of his rifle. He looked closer at the man; he saw himself, his face, his eyes, and his body. Is it so terrible to kill an enemy of war? The thought pondered, ringing around his head.
He grew pale, his limbs began to shake, and his hands began to shudder. He saw statuesque dark silhouettes rise and fall in front of him, moving unsteadily against the raging sky. He could hear the determined moans of invisible men grasping at their missing limbs amongst a sea of forsaken smoke.
His head lowered and rested in his hands.He threw his head from upon the ground and his hands assumed position back on his rifle. His forefinger carefully sought the trigger. The duty of a solider was obvious: he must be shot dead, without warning or a moment of contemplation. Screams and shouts came from Muller’s comrades, they hollered as they shot. He grew calm; his nerves were as tranquil as the deep sleep of his infant son. His breathing suspended.
Duty had conquered. He pulled the trigger.