The morning sun crested over the top of the far off hills, the valley between filled with early morning fog. As they rose to their daily lives they smelled it in the air, the spring, that beautiful season in which flowers bloomed and things grew. Many had never seen a spring away from home, their youth protecting them in it’s invincibility. At least, that’s what they all thought. He envied them, the young ones, they had never seen a battle before, never heard or seen men dying in the myriad horrible ways that mankind had created. For, no matter what else anyone may disagree upon in regards to humanity, all had to agree on one thing; man was excellent at creating the tools to slaughter each other. He snorted, and he was very practiced at the use of these tools. No, he decided, he envied the youths for another reason, they had yet to learn how to kill. But God knows they knew how to die. He’d been through enough to know how they could die. He’d seen those boys a hundred times it seemed, each just as brave as those before. Their bravery meant nothing when they lay with their guts hanging out, blood spurting everywhere, screaming for their mothers, or God. He stopped for a moment as he cleaned the flint lock on his musket of moisture. He hadn’t thought of it in so long, he had been a practicing Catholic in the beginning, now, now he wasn’t sure of anything. He often doubted God existed, most strongly when he saw these children playing soldier lying in pools of their own blood, or being torn to pieces by the fury of man’s bloody harvesters. He looked up at the sky, if God was there, if he truly existed, than why oh why did he let these children die like they did? He couldn’t understand how a supposedly loving and compassionate God could possibly allow this to happen. He’d not only seen the young boys die on their side, but also killed many serving the enemy. He could never forget the face of the poor boy whom he had bayoneted in the throat. The boy had tried to fire his musket, but had forgotten the to put powder in the priming pan. His eyes had grown wide as he saw the death coming towards him. The bayonet had pierced his wind pipe and he fell, blood spurting everywhere. Breaths coming in gurgling sobs as he fought for air, his body fighting to stay alive. He’d looked into that boys eyes and seen the fear there, seen the terror as he realized he was dead. The realization that he would not go home, that he would not see his family or friends ever again. He realized in that moment, for the first time in his life, that the sun would rise tomorrow, and he’d be gone, but the world would continue on. That poor boy had never known life, had only known Death. He’d knelt down and closed the boys eyes after he died, his face filled with a peaceful calm, a serenity that only the dead ever knew, no priest or monk could ever know that serenity. He’d reached into the boy’s pockets, finding a letter to his family there. He’d taken it out and read it, his Enlglish somewhat rusty. He’d vowed then to the corpse of the boy that he would deliver the letter to his family and tell them of how he died. Tell them to be proud of their young soldier who’d done his duty to the best of his ability. Then he’d gotten a shovel and dug a grave. Gingerly he’d placed the boy in it, then fixed the bayonet to the end of the youth’s musket and stabbed it into the ground. He picked up the boys hat, a crumpled blue tricorner, and placed it on the butt of the musket. He then filled the hole and said his last prayer. That was the last time he’d said a prayer, when he first got to America. That was two years ago now, when he was so much younger than today. He was twenty, yet felt as if he were two hundred. He’d volunteered back home to be a soldier, how he regretted it now. He did not hate Americans, rather he’d thought of deserting and joining their fight. But knew he could never do that, he’d sworn an oath. He could never dishonor his family so, that would be worse than Death. He smiled as he began to wipe his musket with the dry cloth from his pack. Even if he did slip away, the Americans would probably kill him as soon as they saw his uniform. He’d never killed an unarmed man, nor an innocent, but trying to prove that to a group of angry American soldiers would be impossible. He looked about at the other men going through the morning routine, just like a thousand times before, and who knew how many more. No, the Americans would surely kill him rather than accept him as a soldier. He knew how they feared his people, had seen it plenty of times upon their faces when he’d come at them from across some field in some place no one had ever heard of before. That look of fear and utter terror as they saw him, saw their Death. Many had run as fast at the sight of him and his comrades as if the Devil himself were after them. He’d been glad of it when they had, he didn’t enjoy killing these men, it was his duty. He wished he’d been born in America instead, then he might be a soldier and fight for this fledgling country. Maybe, just maybe, one day he’d be able to live here, to make this his country. But that was a dream he knew may never come true. Perhaps, one day, if he had children of his own, they may come and settle this land, make a home, have their own families. He could not see surviving long enough to see that dream come true. He’d experienced the hatred from the people as they marched through the countryside, the men and women spitting at them. The children pointing imaginary muskets at them and doing their best immitations of musket fire. He had felt sorry for them at that moment, now he felt more sorry for himself and his comrades. He turned his head as a cry went up through their camp, an American scout had been found hiding in the tall grass to the East, lower down the hill from their camp. He stood, knowing he would be called upon to speak to the boy. He spoke English, but he had a hard time reading or writing it. He slung his musket and walked towards the scout. Three men stood with him, two on either side, and a third behind him. As he looked about him his eyes were filled with terror. He slowly reached out a hand towards him, trying to smile in a friendly manner. “Hello, what is your name?” He asked, even to his ears his accent was obvious, but apparently he was understood. The scout, a mere boy, probably at the cusp of age seventeen, slowly raised his hand and took his in it. He shook the boy’s hand and smiled, trying to show he was no threat. The boy was still full of fear, but had now mastered himself so as not to show it. His grip was strong, his hands calloused from years of manual labor. His brown eyes defiantly looking into any of those around him who would look at him. A sergeant stepped closer, hand resting on his bayonet. “Maybe if I cut your eyes out boy you’ll not be so insolent.” He said, thrusting his unsheathed bayonet at the boy, then imitating using it to cut his eyes out. The boy gulped, withdrawing his hand and taking a step backward. He shook his head at the boy and put his hands up to shoulder height, showing them to be empty. “It’s alright, I’m not going to hurt you, I am merely going to ask you questions. Please don’t try to run or they will shoot you.” He warned, seeing the boy deciding on his next course of action. He could beat that damn sergeant’s head in, the boy may not have understood his words, but had understood the tone and the gesture. “What is your name?” He asked gently again, the boy took another step backward and the man behind him lowered his bayonet and poked at the boy’s back. “My name?” He said, for all the world as if he hadn’t a clue who he was. “Charlie, Charlie Deevers.” He managed to say after a moment. His voice hesitant at first, then filling with confidence as he decided to stand and act as a man with all the courage in the world. He admired the boy for it, but knew that in a prison ship in New York the boy would not be allowed to be brave. “Ah, and what unit are you with, Charlie Deevers?” He asked, trying to sound friendly, but knowing the moment he finished speaking the boy was going to be tough. “Private Charlie Deevers, Second Company, Third Regiment of Continental Volunteers from Virginia.” He said, his courage increasing with each word, standing more erect as he proclaimed his rank and unit. “You are a brave boy.” He said, sadness tinging his voice. “Yeah, well until now I thought you were all from Hell’s Belly.” The boy said defiantly. He snorted. “Be brave boy, maybe one day will shall live as neighbors.” He said, holding out his hand to the boy. “Maybe, see you in Hell, Harry Hessian.” The boy said, taking his hand and shaking it strongly. “See you in Hell, Johnny.”

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