Fiction

No Dead Man’s Land

16th January 2020 — 5

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Fiction

No Dead Man’s Land

16th January 2020 — 5

This writing prompt is courtesy of Sue Vincent’s fun #writephoto challenge is and entitled “keep”. It’s a great photo, I look forward to knowing where it was taken. I’ve gone with a bit of a medieval dark comedy (~650 words).

Owen threw back his hood. The rain had eased and he wanted to get a proper look at the figure confidently striding across the courtyard. “This the kid?”

“Yeah, Sarge,” said Skinner. The tall stranger had been the subject of much speculation in the pub the previous evening. “They reckon he’s a dead shot out to 400 yards. Never missed.”

“Great, just what we need.”

The two men watched the figure make his way along the battlements. A couple of guards pointed him in the right direction. Reaching the top of the ladder the stranger asked. “Sergeant, Owen?”

Owen nodded.

“The names Fletch. I hear you fella’s need a hand,” said Fletch, offering a hand.

Owen turned and grinned at Skinner. There was no mirth in his eyes when he turned his attention back to Fletch. “Really lad. What’s that then?”

“The word is y’ guys have a bit of a problem gettin it up. Yer arrows that is.”

“Really?” Owen prompted.

“They say, you’ve been shooting short,” said Fletch, pulling an impressive bow from his back. “Don’t worry I’m here to help ya out.”

There was a long stony silence, broken only when Owen suddenly reached out and shook Fletch’s hand. “Well thank god, son. Me and Skinner here have been at our whit’s end. Ain’t we Skinner?”

Skinner pulled out an apple and started polishing it on his tunic. “Yea, Sarge. Proper bamboozled.”

Owen eyed the bow. “Is that one of those new-fangled longbows. Let’s have a look.”

Fletch handed over his pride and joy. Owen scrutinised it, running a hand along its impressive length. “It’s a monster. You seen one bigger, Skinner?”

“No Sarge, it’s a biggun alright,” said Skinner,  taking a bite of his juicy apple.

“Right you are, Skinner, right you are,”  said Owen handing the bow back. “So, son, you gonna show us what you can do with it?”

“Sure, where’s the target?” Fletch asked.

Owen pointed out across the misty green expanse to the distant tower. “Over there.”

Fletch looked across no man’s land, judging the distance, the height, the crosswind. He could just make out two enemy guards standing at the top of the tower. “350 yards?”

“362 yards,” Skinner corrected.

Fletch nodded. “Left or right?”

“Try the left,” said Owen

Fletch notched an arrow and with a sharp intake of breath pulled it back with incredible strength. He held his breath, unwavering under the huge forces until locating his mark and with only a slight nudge from Owen, the arrow flew into the sky.

“What the hell,“ Fletch screamed, watching as the arrow arced towards the distant tower only to impact harmlessly on its walls. He could see the enemy guards had been alerted. “You bloody idiot, I had him.”

“No doubt, son. T’was a good shot,” said Owen.

“You got some skill,” Skinner added, through a mouthful of apple.

“Thing is, this ain’t no shooting gallery,” Owen said, waving at the far tower. An enemy guard waved back. Owen gave a thumbs up and a nod to Skinner. Skinner threw his apple core high into the air. Three enemy arrows ensured that all that came back down was pulp. Owen winked at the stunned Fletch. “I saved your life today, son, you’ll best remember that.”

With that, Owen was gone down the ladder. Fletch was left picking bits of apple from his tunic.

“We’re all dead shots here, son. Could kill each other anytime. For what? All that’d change is it’ll be our brothers and sons up next,” said Skinner, nodding across no man’s land. “It’s the same for them. So we have an understanding.”

Skinners hand moved to his belt as he turned to face Fletch. “Do we have an understanding, son?”

The message was clear. Fletch got it, or rather, thanks to Owen, he hadn’t, at least not yet. Skinner would ensure he’d get the point, one way or the other. Sheepishly, he nodded.

Smiling, Skinner tucked the blade away and patted him on the back. “Good lad. Come on then, let’s get you a drink and then you can show us your skills at the dartboard.”

5 comments

  • The Urban Spaceman

    17th January 2020 at 2:53 pm

    Great story. And it goes to show, one again, that the men fighting wars often have more common sense than the men starting them.

    Reply

    • Chris

      17th January 2020 at 3:29 pm

      Glad you enjoyed it. To quote Major General William T. Sherman, U.S. Army:
      “It is only those who have neither fired a shot nor heard the shrieks and groans of the wounded who cry aloud for blood, more vengeance, more desolation. War is hell.”

      Reply

  • willowdot21

    21st January 2020 at 3:55 pm

    Great story I enjoyed it 💜

    Reply

  • Sue Vincent

    22nd January 2020 at 7:21 pm

    Would that all wars, if there have to be wars, could be fought with such common sense…

    Reply

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