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Incident in a Churchyard (standard:other, 518 words)
Author: kendall thomas Added: Jun 04 2002Views/Reads: 2220/1Story vote: 0.00 (0 votes)
A young, Civil War soldier goes squirrel hunting and discovers his destiny.
 



Incident in a Churchyard 

[Civil War] 

 

The young soldier climbed, slipping to his knees occasionally, through
the newly fallen snow,  slowly winding his way up the side of the hill 
through clumps of pine shrub and oak. 

Coming to the top, he stepped into a level clearing.   Large, fluffy
flakes clung to his tattered, wool overcoat.  Visibility was a few 
hundred feet where a purling fog concealed the world beyond like a 
white wall. 

His hollow face was rough and unshaven.  He shook from the cold. 

At the border of this still, impenetrable, white mass lay the ruins of a
church nestled among rows of tombstones.  To the young soldier the 
skeletal part still standing was like an etching in ink set against the 
white background. 

Pangs of hunger started him thinking again about finding a squirrel fat
on acorns.    He could make a fire with wood from the building and have 
a meal.   Many soldiers deserted during the winter when the cold was 
too much to bear, especially if the food rations ran low.  He was 
tempted, except he didn't fancy getting shot for desertion.  But if he 
didn't get something to eat soon . . . . 

He stepped cautiously out among the tombstones.  Most were tablet
shaped.   Tall and thin, cracked and leaning.  A few, thick and squat, 
just barely peeped from under their caps of  snow and ice. 

He walked slightly crouched, his musket held at port.  He didn't like
being in the open even though the enemy were supposed to be several 
miles to the east. 

The faded names were hard to read. 

“Where are you going?” 

A woman's voice broke the silence. 

The young soldier spun around, his rifle pointing. 

She wasn't dressed for this kind of weather.  What she wore was thin and
blue and made for summer.  Her black hair was a mound of ringlets, her 
blue eyes the sheen of the dress. 

“Maaah . . . maaam,” the young soldier stammered. 

The lips parted in a vague smile.  Her look was vacant.  He couldn't see
her breath.  She didn't seem  to feel the cold. 

A prickly sensation moved along the back of his neck. 

There were no footprints. 

Wherever she had come from she had left no footprints. 

He dropped his rifle and ran. 

He hadn't gone far when he slipped and fell in front of one of the
mottled tombstones.  Brown lichen almost obliterated the name faintly 
engraved upon it.  But not quite.  Terror engulfed him.  He cried out.  
Shrieked his disbelief.  He looked back the way he had come. 

No footprints. 

“Where are you going?” the woman asked again. 

And there was something abstract in the tone of her voice.  Her eyes,
staring through him, addressed some invisible something beyond, some 
hollow ghost of her fancy that had once been and was no more; and the 
young soldier heard the sound of the wind passing through the trees, 
and he knew that it was time passing and that it could never be 
recalled. 

The war had been over for many years. 

* * *  

* * * 


   


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