Monday, July 4, 2011

A Fourth of July story

Hello everyone, and happy Fourth of July! I'm posting a short story I wrote for a contest a long time ago about a character of mine during the Seven Years War. Hope you like it!

The night was cold. Mist hung around the ground making ghostly wisps in the pale moonlight shining through the trees. Dirk Hawthorne lay on the side of the rode concealed in the undergrowth. His musket was cocked and ready, clasped in his cold hands and pressed to his shoulder. He barely dared to breathe as he listened to the eerie sounds of the forest in the middle of the night. Dew gathered on his buckskin tunic and he was uncomfortably cold but he still didn’t move.

He didn’t know why he was doing this, perhaps because he wanted to end the war. He fingered the trigger restlessly, the only part of him that moved, and blinked through the mist.

He had been waiting for almost two hours now and there had been no signs of life in the forest. He sighed inwardly. It wasn't too late to walk away.

But then he thought of the possibilities if he accomplished the job. Not only would it aide in the ending of the war, but it would also be money in his pocket for his family in these hard times. He closed his eyes and thought of his son growing up in poverty in a war-ridden country and grasped the musket tighter.

Then a crack of a branch further along the path brought Dirk back to reality. He jerked back into a tense position and turned his head slightly to see what was coming.

A small troop of men were coming down the path, most of the company on foot but the leading men on horses. They were only about a hundred yards away. Dirk looked closer and saw the man he was looking for.

Lieutenant Colonel George Washington.

This was the man he would be paid to shoot, the one who was commanding the Virginia militia. Dirk hardly dared to breathe as he came closer, slowly, his horse only at a walk. Sweat beaded on his brow despite the cold night and Dirk wanted to reach up and wipe it away but didn’t dare. He clenched his jaw and closed one eye to sight down the barrel of the gun, moving ever so slightly to aim at his target. He saw Washington’s face clearly in the pale moonlight. When he was sure his sights were true, he moved his finger to press the trigger.

But he didn’t.

Something in his mind stopped him from shooting. He didn’t know what it was but something would not let his finger pull the trigger and shoot the approaching man.

Come on, Dirk, he said to himself. You’ve killed men before. Shoot!

But he didn’t listen to himself. Lieutenant Colonel Washington was just passing him on the road now, only a few feet away. Soon it would be too late. But he still didn’t shoot.

Why? he wondered to himself as the rest of the men passed and he watched Washington march away, unaware of the danger he had been in just a few minutes before. Why couldn’t I do it?

But he didn’t have the answer. He only knew that when he had seen the man’s face in the moonlight that he had been unable to think of killing him. Why? He didn’t know. Perhaps it was the look of honesty that showed in his young eyes, or the air of command he held from the back of his horse. Dirk had heard stories about him. Everyone though he was invincible for he was never touched by bullets on the battlefield. Dirk looked down the barrel and a small smile formed on his lips.

The last of the men were passing his hiding place and he watched their backs as they marched on down the path into the night, following their brave leader. It was only when they were well out of sight that Dirk stirred from his cramped position and rose to his knees. He stood up slowly and turned in the direction of the long retreated men and raised his musket to his shoulder and fired it ceremoniously into the air. He touched a hand to his forehead in salute then turned and slipped back off through the woods.

Tell me what you thought!

Slainte, Hazel