A cold, harsh winter wind sweeps across a wide open field. Littered with the graves of artillery craters, all different widths and depths.
In the middle of all of this, tucked and hidden inside a deep man made trench James, forty years old, with his neatly maintained hair, handsome face and strong protruding jaw line is looking through the scope of his sniper rifle.
Simon, only sixteen but looking much older with his bad teeth and battle scarred face is down on his knees and drenched in mud and sweat.
Kneeling down beside James, Simon has a pistol on his belt and a army radio kit on his back.
“May I please have some water?” Asks James, his throat dry and lips cracked.
“I just want to say it’s a real honour to be serving with you sir.”
James pulls back from his sniper rifle, looks down at his feet and fetches some water for himself, desperate gulping mouthfuls. James drains the can empty, dropping it back down to the ground.
James again steadies himself, tensing up his shoulder, regulating his breathing as he places his eye to the snipers rifles scope, “thank you.”
Simon rises up a little, excited like a quizzical child to their parent, “you know, I could have been a sniper too.”
James stays fixed on his task, barely moving his lips to talk, like a skilled ventriloquist. “I don’t doubt it.”
Simon shuffles across the mud on his knees, getting closer and raising his voice, “I could have been as good as you if someone had just given me the chance.”
James takes in a sudden sharp breath through his nose, “Look lively son I’ve got movement.”
Simon’s eyes are wide and starry, “Yeah? For real?”
“A small group of soldiers on the move and they’re moving fast.”
Simon almost squeals, “are they in range?”
“I need you on that radio.”
Simon asks, “a small group? Kill them.”
James grits his teeth, his knuckles turning white as his grip on his rifle gets tighter. “Why aren’t you on your radio son?”
Simon hurriedly searches through his kit bag, finding and ripping out a pair of greasy, dirt stained binoculars. Simon steadies himself before bravely peering over the top of the trench.
“I see them. Just a couple, shoot them.”
James barks, “get on your radio now, that’s an order.”
Simon drops back down inside the trench, he looks James slowly up and down. Simon’s eyes narrow suspiciously, baring his teeth he barks back, “no, give me your rifle. I could even hit them from this distance. Easy.”
“Do I have to remind you of why you’re out here, help me with my mission that’s all. I need you to stay focused, please, get on your radio.”
Simon blots forwards, both hands out stretched he tries to snatch the rifle out of James’s hands. James pulls his head back, coming away from the scope and looks down at Simon, enraged.
Simon nods, “I can do it if you won’t.”
James still holds on tight to his rifle, won’t let Simon take it. A dangerous game of tug-of-war between them. Simon still fights to get it from James but James manages to hold on.
“Solider, out here I am your commanding officer and you will follow my orders. Get on that radio now.”
“No.” Simon still tries to pull the rifle free.
James is losing his grip, “then leave your radio here with me. You’re done. Get yourself back to base camp. I don’t need you here.”
Simon has tears running down his face, “I’m not a coward, I’m not going anywhere.”
James yanks the rifle back, regaining control, holding it to his chest. Simon refuses to let go, the two men brought toe to toe thier forehead crashing togheter, the tips of their noses touching, rutting like a couple of stags.
“You should never have come out here.”
Simon cries, “all of that talk of you killing countless men and you won’t do it now.”
Keeping one hand on the rifle, James uses the other to open up his jacket to reveal several bright medals pinned proudly to his chest.
James grins, “I’m the most decorated sniper in the history of the British army. And I’m commanding you, not only for my safety but for your own, get yourself back to base now.”
Simon shakes his head, determined, “I’m not going anywhere.”
“I left my fiancé waiting to be married so I could fight for my king and country. I’ve been away from home too long. I didn’t do this so that men like you could be jealous over what you think I have or haven’t done.”
Simon warns, “you shoot those Germans or I will.”
“Why? You’re a sniper. You tell me to do my job so you do yours,” says Simon.
“I’ve never shot anyone, I’m not planning on starting now just because you tell me too.”
Simon is stunned, “What’s, that impossible.”
“It’s my eyes that makes me valuable.” James explains. “I see details that all other men miss.”
“You’re a liar then.”
James snarls, “I’ve never once said I’ve killed anyone. I need your radio, the enemy is in the move and towards our lines.”
James leans back, using all of his weight he finally yanks his rifle free out from Simon’s grip.
Simon screams, “Give it to me.”
Simon bangs a clenched fist against his own chest, “I want to win this war.”
James’s eyes narrow,utter contempt flows out of him, “There are no winners in war, only losers.”
Simon, with a burst of sudden violent energy launches himself forwards attacking and wrestling with James. It’s clumsy and wild, like two punch drunk boxers trying to land a knock out blow. James uses the butt of his rifle and catches Simon across the chin, sending him crashing to the ground.
Simon scrambles around in the dirt, grabbing a hold of a sharp rock he leaps back up to his feet. With a warriors cry Simon smacks James over the head, a spray of blood splattering Simon across his face.
James is stunned, coughs and flops down to the ground with a dull thud. Finally Simon is able to yank the rifle from James’s hands. Simon steadies himself and takes aim in the middle of James’s chest.
“I’ll show you,” says Simon as he pulls the trigger, but nothing happens.
With a rising panic Simon checks the rifle over, trying to work out what’s wrong.
James, blood now flowing freely from his head starts laughing, “There’s no bullets in it. There never has been. Now do you understand, I won’t take a life.”
Simon throws the rifle down. “Then that means,” Simon spits, “you’re a traitor.
Simon removes his own pistol from his belt and without hesitation or a second thought he shoots James dead. Burying several shots inside of him.
Simon doesn’t breathe now for a few seconds, letting the boom and echo of the gun shots die down.
The silence is soon replaced with the sound of shouting German soldiers.
Simon snaps out of his daze, with a sense of real urgency fueled by life threatening fear Simon steals James’s medals. Every single one of them. Simon looks down at them in his hand and smiles. “I deserve these, not you.”