The Last Stand

<about my struggle. Had this vision many a time.>

Deathly silence clothed the atmosphere. The only sound that caressed the senses was the soft, distant moan of the icy wind coming down through the valley. Snowflakes drifted once this way, then the other on the shoulders of the freezing gust. Up ahead, where the cold, bluish-white and lifeless ground melted into darkness, towered two ragged peaks of uniform white and rugged brown, like eternal sentries with heads obscured in the still damp fog that hung in every direction.

Suddenly there was a sound from beyond the peaks a distant grunt, perhaps, short and quick. The wind carried it down through the peaks and swept it over the plane.

Immediately there passed a sharp tension through the air. Twenty-five visors snapped and twenty-five firearms were readied with short sharp sounds that echoed through the bunker. Not a word passed as twenty-five dark human figures readied themselves for another encounter.

Then there was another grunt from much closer, accompanied by scraping metallic sounds. The troop kept motionless, a rigid column of darkness, visors drawn against the vigorous snowflakes.

A few heavy moments passed in cold silence, interrupted only by more than one nervous heartbeat.

Then an earth-shattering growl broke the silence of the summit to pieces, as a great white form emerged from behind the shoulder between the peaks. It took a mighty step forward, metal grating against metal as the parts of its thick rusted armour moved against each other. Its giant paw sent a ripple of shock all around the ground where it landed, and the twenty-five black forms in the bunker felt it more in their heart than in their soles. Perhaps this was the last battle.

‘Okay’, whispered the commander, ‘let’s tell this snowman it’s summer.’

Twenty-four heads nodded in unison. Everyone knew what they had to do.

Another split second of silence as the great bear raised its forepaws and looked around, the wind ruffling its fur about where it showed beneath his armour at the back.

The troop charged simultaneously from all sides, with each alternate soldier climbing out of the trench and running blindly through the open ground, a foot of snow swallowing their each step as they ran on directly towards the white giant, their guns spitting fire at the tough rocky armour. The rest of the soldiers remained in position in the trench.

At the sight of these minute black specks running across the slope, the bear gave an angry roar that resounded through the valley. For a second, perhaps an expression of fear flashed across his cold, hard eyes, but then he crouched low, allowing only his armoured portion to face the chargers’ fire.

Their speed slackened halfway up the slope. The bear was showing no signs of moving. Unfazed, they broke formation, parting into two smaller groups advancing along either side, while the commander alone trudged up along the middle, his firearm landing incessant sparks of flame on the invincible armour.

The monster, realizing their tactic, tried to react quickly, but couldn’t. It lunged at its left with a growl, its fur bristling with rage. Out of the corner of his eye, the commander saw three of his men run around towards the back of the bear from its right while three others provided fire cover. Perhaps this time…

The bear was frantic by now. It could make nothing of this organized, purposeful movement of the tiny creatures, as it never had, and it decided on brute force. It turned its cold grey eyes on the commander who was trudging on towards him, studied his minute resolute form for a moment, then lunged into the air. The commander closed his eyes, his gun still spitting mouthfuls of fire at the armoured monster.

A split second later, the ground reverberated with a heavy shock as an echoing thud drowned all other sound for an instant. The bear was not upon him yet.

The commander opened his eyes. The bear lay on the snow, grunting loudly. on its right hind-leg was a bleeding wound at the joint. Six of his soldiers were stationed behind the beast and firing away, each spit of flame hitting the soft white skin where it enjoyed no armour. At last, after so many days…

The bear gave another roar of rage and stood up slowly, anger burning in its pitiless eyes. A patch of snow beneath its leg was red with the dark blood.

Before another moment had gone by, the bear had turned around and was limping like a raged bull towards the six stationed men. Four of them immediately responded by scattering in different directions, the perfect trick to confuse the beast. The two in the middle did not move a muscle. They watched in pale horror over their firing guns as the bear came upon them. It swept one away with a brush of the paw. He flew through the air before hitting a rock wall. On the second one it closed its jaws. By now the rest of the rank had closed in, and the remaining half had emerged from the trench to join the fighting soldiers. The commander’s dry voice echoed through the group as each followed the directions like a single-minded machine.

It worked. The bear, finished with its vengeance, turned its head towards the two columns of darkness cut out of the air, rigid and resolute. Blood and sinew dripped from the side of his mouth, along with a single black boot that dropped slowly to the ground, spraying blood over the pure snow.

The bear turned and limped slowly away through the shoulder and beyond the peaks into the darkness. After a few more minutes, the soldiers returned to their rocky bunker. The cold gust had picked up, and there might be a blizzard on the way.

‘Not quite summer yet, eh?’ said the commander. A few worn smiles passed through the group.

‘Come on, boys, we weren’t bad. He’s not gonna get a doc to fix his leg for him. That’s the first time we did it. Cheer up!’

Hardly any sign of achievement could be seen in the eyes beneath the dark visors that surrounded him.

‘Remember soldiers, we are the last stand. The last line of defence. Beyond us, there’s none. We have to stand up and hold our ground. We can do it, any day. He’s not gonna live. Some day now we will convince that snowman that it’s summer. And he’ll melt away into the past, like all our persistence and sacrifice and pain. Keep faith.’

Bowed against the chilly gust that was crawling down the slope, twenty-two black visors nodded in unison.



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