I do not own these characters nor do I make any profit, other than fun. I want to thank Shirley for her wonderful suggestions. Comments are welcome and I do hope you enjoy the story. Thank you. Ronnie
In the past few weeks rumors had intensified that the war was nearing its end. Scott at first was excited. They were all excited. But excitement took energy and after a while they tired. They couldn’t maintain enough spark to go from one hour to the next, let alone the fire that hope produced. But they prayed for the day when the doors would be thrown open and they were free. Only thing was, they were afraid they wouldn’t live that long.
But this time
the rumor seemed more than ghost and shadow. They could hear the sound of
the cannons getting closer and closer to the city. The guards, almost as
thin and ragged as the prisoners, were nervous, and not focused on their
duties. It’s not to say they wouldn’t shoot anyone they saw attempting to
escape; but they looked more towards the hills outside than the men inside.
“What ya think, Lieutenant? Sounds like them guns aren’t more than two, three mile away.”
Scott turned to the small man next to him. “They do sound close, Markus.”
Markus nodded his filthy head, the glimmer from his eyes the only thing clean about the man. “I figure they’re two, three mile away,” he mumbled distractedly. Limping away, he stumbled over the sleeping figure of another.
“Damn, Markus?” the now awakened rag pile exclaimed. “I was dreamin’ ‘bout my Mollie.”
“Sorry.” Markus put out a weary hand to fend off the reproach.
Pain caught in Scott’s throat at the pitiful gesture and he followed the form across the small enclosure as it found a free spot against the wall and slid down. He looked around the room and counted the men, as he did every hour. Still the same as last hour – 23 – but he needed to account for all under his command. It kept him from going completely mad.
He shoved that thought aside and concentrated on planning an escape; the favorite past time of every prisoner of war, he speculated. From the time he was captured, one year ago this month, that was always his second thought. The first was his men and how to insure they would survive from one day to the next.
If there was an escape, he needed to make certain that it wasn’t a repeat of the hellish try that happened shortly after his capture. Sixteen men dead, and he the only survivor. It was as if the guards had been warned, but he didn’t know who would have told them. The only other person aware of the escape was Cassidy, and he would never betray them. Scott didn’t even know where the lieutenant was; didn’t want to think the man actually died of the fever. But after that failed attempt, Scott didn’t know much about anything for several weeks.
It was different then; he was stronger and survived the punishment inflicted by the commander of the camp. Scott wouldn’t survive it today, he knew that. Too thin. He laughed at himself. Hell, emaciated was a better word. He looked down at his long fingers and saw only bone. The nails were broken, embedded with black of who knew what. No, Scott knew what and didn’t want to think of it. He had scratched at animals that fed off what was left of him, and his nails collected the feces the louse and bedbugs deposited on his skin. The pus of his festering sores was beneath those nails, as well as his own waste – and others.
his mind turned back to escape. The thunder of the cannon made him jump and
he looked in the direction it came from. It was closer, much closer and
each man in that hole stirred to the noise.
“Men,” Scott managed to bring himself upright, “we need to get under the beds.”
“Lieutenant, we ain’t got but five frames. What we gotta do that for?” The dreamer of Mollie looked at him stupidly.
The cannon sounded again, the whistle of the flying ball trailing the burst. Scott heard the violent thud as the ball hit somewhere too close. Indeed, how could thin wooden slats and the 2x4’s that gave them support protect them from the heavy assault of their own army? But it was all they had.
was closer now and when the cannon ball found its mark, the sound of
collapsing walls followed by men running brought his fellow prisoners to the
realization that Scott already recognized. Fearful, they looked to him for
“Quick, move those frames against the wall and get under them. That’s all we have.”
Scott staggered to the door and pounded, but none of the fleeing soldiers stopped. Another shell descended, bringing dirt and dust cascading from the roof. The men crowded behind the meager scraps of lumber, crouching close. Scott almost laughed at the irony that their starved bodies allowed for more people to squeeze behind the useless refuge.
Another cannon burst, another whistling ball, another explosion of rock, rubble and scrambling feet. “My God, it can’t come to this,” Scott whispered. He bent down and leaned into the filthy skeleton of one of his men. Another whistle and the walls of their prison crumbled around them.
“No,” he cried, and felt hands pulling at him. Something was on his chest; he felt on fire, and screamed “No” once more at the injustice of dying this way. His father would never know him!
Someone was calling him. Maybe he wasn’t dying after all. Strong hands were clutching his arms, not letting go, drawing him away from the pain and the heat. Scott hesitated to open his eyes, afraid of the carnage he would see. He could not endure seeing his men dead, broken by the stones of their prison.
“You’re safe. Can you hear me? You’re safe.” The voice again.
Grasping the arms that held him, Scott tried to prepare himself for the death around him. Would he live when all of the others had died? He couldn’t do it again. Not again. He slowly opened his eyes and fell back at the vision he saw.
“Murdoch,” Scott murmured, his voice weak. “Why are you in my prison?”
“You’re not in prison, Scott. You’re home. You had a very high fever and we didn’t know…if you would…” Murdoch swallowed and looked so very tired. His large hand touched Scott’s forehead and swept aside sweaty bangs.
“A fever?” Scott asked faintly, trying to understand.
“Yes, Son. You had a fever and we couldn’t get it down.”
He didn’t remember; everything seemed vague, shrouded, washed away. Only the prison had been real.
“What day is it?” he asked, trying to concentrate on his father.
“Son, the longest day of my life.”
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