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The Immortal Soldier (Story)

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2019

There was a time when I was positively mesmerized by the way my hand heals itself. The way that the bones crack back into place, the tendons fuse together, and the skin restitches itself until my hand looks just as it had a moment before. It was once incredible to watch. I would relish in the satisfaction and the raw strength of immortality. Now, I’m bored of it. I don’t even glance at my hand when I feel drops of my blood roll off my palm. I have more pressing matters to attend to. 

 

I take in a long, sweet breath of my surroundings. The pungent smell of burning coal, sulfur bombs, and metallic blood fill my nose, and the scream of bullets and the cries of explosions ring through my ears. I can hardly contain my excitement as I tighten my grip on my M1918 rifle and glance around the concrete wall at my back.

 

As the sun sets behind the crumbling structures that provide the Germans coverage, the orange smoke lingering across No-Man’s Land makes it nearly impossible to find a good shot. As I kneel to get a better angle, I notice something gleam from the corner of my eye. The metallic flash lingers for a moment in the air before it hits the ground roughly a hundred meters to my right. The explosion shakes the earth under my feet and sends me to my knees. My hands jump to my head to keep my helmet on. Once the quaking subsides, I wobble back to my feet, unable to stop the grin from spreading across my face. What a time to be an immortal. 

 

I plunge through the thick, dark smoke, and for the first time since arriving in France, I look around at the other soldiers. Many men are firing into the night with their helmets pulled low over their heads. Some men sit in the mud and reload weapons again and again for the other troopers. Others are on their knees, praying before they leap up, drag themselves over to the canons, and prepare to fire. And still, there are a couple of men who trudge through the darkness, wearing bright, red cross patches on their sleeves and helmets, searching for the wounded and dying.

 

No one can withstand the pain of bullets like I can. I can tear a path across No-Man’s Land all by myself, and take out every German with my bare hands. I have no reason to fear death. Death eludes me. 

 

Everyone here is weak; they’re all going to die. Every soldier’s life is fickle; for most of them, their lives will end here. Me? My life will never end. It hasn’t for the past four hundred years, and I’ve tried just about everything. Poison, hanging, swords...nothing has worked. My insipid body refuses to crumble, to waste away, to give up. So really, what else is there for an immortal to do but search for something that will take away the ever-constant numbness? 

 

I shake my head and laugh. These soldiers think they’ve got it hard. Ha! Not even close. Their families didn’t die out centuries ago, leaving them alone for the rest of eternity, never able to join them. Nothing in this life will ever get me to feel anything, so I’ll take something, anything, to replace the numbness. Might as well start with fame and glory. I’ll become the greatest warrior this world will ever know. Yeah, that’ll do for a couple of centuries at least. 

 

I raise my head towards No-Man’s Land and stride around the protective wall. The barricades are nothing more than a few scraps of barbed wire and a lost boot. The Germans have gained significant ground, but it doesn’t matter. They’ve already lost this battle.

 

I continue to march forward until I see a soldier dart out of the darkness, heading straight towards me. He moves to pull the trigger of his gun, but I beat him to it. I feel the force of the rifle blow into my shoulder as the bullet soars out of the gun. The German falls to the ground. I casually step over his corpse and continue on, grinning.

Bullets rain around me as I tread another fifty meters. The German troops emerge from the darkness. Their scopes shine like yellow eyes in the dark. They see me and take their aim. I laugh as I get down on one knee and take aim too.

Published in Metal Magazine 2019

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