Wednesday, March 4, 2015
The Poison Sky by K.C. Finn Excerpt!
I was certain that something had gone terribly wrong, because the first thing I heard was a deafening, thunderous bang. Flashes of brown and black shot past my vision that convinced me I must have simply fallen off my bed in the barracks, but after I tried to move, I realized that I didn’t have the ability to do so. The hands in front of my eyes confirmed that I had successfully traveled to someone else head; they were hands coated in skin as black as coal. The man whose head I occupied spoke in French when he looked up, but I didn’t miss the urgency and strain in his tone. His vision was obscured by mud and tears, which he began to wipe away with the mustard-colored sleeve of his uniform.
So this was a trench. It was a deep furrow in the earth that was wet from an unseasonably damp autumn, and I was thankful that I couldn’t smell whatever it was that was making my soldier’s nose twitch violently every now and then. Another hideous bang went off overhead, its echo rolling like thunder, and my man dropped to the floor, covering his head with his thickset arms. Mud and debris flew everywhere, slapping him hard on the back with a heavy, wet slop. His gaze traveled down the length of the ditch in the ground, where I could make out six other figures huddled down in similar states of shock.
A British voice rang out among the men. A mud-caked youth with a scar on his face raced up to my man, his face a picture of panic as he crouched in the dirt.
Abdul just shook his head as another explosion rocked the very earth beneath his feet. Flashes of white light were visible in the right-hand field of his vision. He turned my view away from them, edging closer to the British man as he wet his trembling lips to speak.
I had spent a lot of time learning German at the Major’s request, and I reckoned that feu meant something like feuer, the German word for fire. The rest was easy to guess. Incendiary weapons. Fire from the inferno, which Abdul probably meant to mean Hell. I hadn’t realized that the French Africans were defending the homeland, too, but I felt the patriotic flame rise in the dark man’s chest even as he quaked with fear. I was proud of his bravery. As the British captain patted him on the shoulder, I felt him smile.
They didn’t have long to wait. When the last echoes had faded, I watched through Abdul’s eyes as he glanced into the clearing sky above. It was dull and grey from the recent fall of rain, with wisps of black smoke creeping across it like webs spun by a locomotive spider. The soldier and the captain panted heavily, two nations united by their patience as they let the tense, silent moments pass by. Soon, the British captain got to his feet and moved towards a ladder half-buried by mud in the wall. He shoved his feet onto the bottom rung and crept up the first step.
“Well,” he whispered, peeping over the muddy rise of the trench wall, “it looks like the barrage is at its end.”
Something small and bright suddenly flew past Abdul’s vision. Before he could even glance at it, there was a terrible bang—a louder sound than I had ever heard in my life. In a matter of seconds, a huge flash of white light filled the trench, leaving me blind to whatever had caused the explosion. I winced at the sudden burst of intense pain in Abdul’s chest, a searing, white heat passing over every part of his skin, burning into his body with wild abandon.