Blood between the nails of his white-knuckle fist, dentures clenched, a prayer escapes his lips. “Oh God, dear God, please God, let me live.” A geriatric nineteen in an army of conscripts, he fingers the trigger of his rifle and peeks out the lip of the foxhole. He says a second prayer, a secret prayer known only to those whose career is blood.

The Combatant’s Prayer

Dear God,

            Please let
            My enemy
            Deserve it.

Kill or be killed here in this foreign land, he fires at the first silhouette he spies through the sights of his Kalashnikov. A miss, a miss, a miss. Barely trained and barely fed, accuracy is not his strength. Something in the rifle clicks and it fires no more. It is either empty or jammed, and he does not know this weapon well enough to know without looking.

Some powerful force strikes his left shoulder. He knows that it is painful, but he is too far away from himself to feel it. Adrenaline has gripped him, ripped him from his soon to be corpse. He crawls back down into the foxhole.

He knows that he will die, knows that he is already dead. He reaches into his jacket, draws a pack of cigarettes from the inner pocket. His fingers tremble as they fumble out a single serving of farewell tobacco. He places it to his lips and searches for his lighter. “Dear God, oh God, help me God.”

He doesn’t see the drone overhead, but the drone sees him. It releases its payload, drops a pair of fragmentation grenades into the foxhole where he hopes to light one last cigarette. He sees the first grenade, grabs it, and throws it away. The second detonates underneath him, removing a quarter of his flesh. He curls up like a millipede.

The drone footage is publicly available.

I watch the boy die on my two-by-six-inch mirror, and I smile at this small Ukrainian victory. I blow air out my nose, a silent reflexive laugh when I see the Russian invader fail to light his cigarette. No peace, no respite, no mercy.

I tell myself he deserved it. I tell myself that this boy and his government are synonymous, that he must be vile because his nation is vile. I revel in the spilling of his blood despite the fact that less than half of his military is composed of volunteers. He is the enemy, and it is good for the enemy to die.

Photo by Viktor Talashuk on Unsplash

CategoriesFlash Fiction
Andy Hardy

Andy Hardy is a student author pursuing a creative writing degree at Western Washington University in Bellingham, WA, USA. His work has appeared in Reed Magazine, the Whatcom Writes Collection, and he was a finalist for the Tobias Wolff Award for Fiction.