combat writing badge C O M B A T
the Literary Expression of Battlefield Touchstones
ISSN 1542-1546 Volume 05 Number 02 Spring ©Apr 2007


          The prisoners marched despondently in a single file toward the gate and the new prison camp. Dirty, ragged, and worn, they did not look forward to captivity and a life filled with mind numbing monotony. Still it was better than dying, if only by a slight measure.

          Inside the camp, there were three tables and a pair of buildings. A large loudmouth sergeant stood on a box in front of the tables. "You will process into the camp from here. Table one, is where you'll identify your name and rank. Table two, is where you'll register your next of kin for correspondences. Finally, Table three, is to detail any wounds or medical conditions we should know about. The people here are neutrals; they are not looking for secrets or military information. When you are finished, you will file into the buildings for cleaning up and prison issued clothes."

          Standing in line with the soldiers was a middle-aged man wearing rags covered in a mixture of blood and caked on mud. He said little to the young men around him and tried his best to remain unnoticed. After an hour or so, he finally made his way to table one.

          The young woman at the table was a blond with skin that was almost milk white. Dressed in a powder blue uniform she looked cold and frosty. She was punching away the information onto a small console. "Name and rank," She said quickly.

          "My name is John."

          She looked up and glared at him. "Full name please, followed by rank."

          "John Casper, I'm a farmer." He said.

          She frowned at him and said. "Were you a soldier in the regular army?"

          "No, I was not."

          "Then you'll be listed as a partisan."

          "I wasn't a partisan either."

          She looked at him with an expression of intense indifference. Then the guy behind him pushed John over to the next table.

          "Name and location of next of kin," a young man in a similar uniform asked. He was clean-shaven and had a bit more color. Still he had the same indifferent sneer on his face.

          "I haven't any." John said solemnly. "They're all dead."

          "That's what you get for being a partisan."

          "But I'm not a partisan."

          Again, the man behind him pushed him forward.

          A man in a lab coat manned the last table. He had grey hair and a mustache, yet he too was uncaring. "Do you have any wounds, diseases, or injuries that you'd like to report?"

          John shook his head. "No, all they did was beat me up."

          This time he moved on before the guy behind him could push.

          Inside the building was a man in a plastic overcoat. Steam was billowing out of a room to his right where a line of naked people stood waiting to go in. "Take off your clothes and toss them into the pile to be burnt. Keep your personal effects and put them into a clear plastic bag."

          John did that and got into line with the naked people. He had no effects or property so he just followed the people into the room. Here a series of showers mixed with disinfectants, coated and washed down the people. Any lice or other parasites were killed in a short time. Once cleaned, the people were marched into a room were a man and a woman wearing baggy lime-green jumpsuits issued similar clothes.

          Dressed and clean for the first time in weeks John felt a bit better.

          He then followed the crowd outside onto the camp's parade grounds. Here a man in a dark green uniform called out names one at a time, and told these people where to go next. Confused, he asked one of the people standing nearby what was going on.

          "They're separating the officers from the enlisted, and the men from the women," the inmate said in a whisper.

          "Where will they send me?"

          "Are you an officer?"

          "I'm not a soldier."

          The man looked at him sadly. "Oh, a partisan. Sorry guy, you patriots are considered dangerous. It'll be a hard life for you."

          John was going to ask what he meant when he heard his name called. Making his way to the front of the group, he said. "I'm John Casper."

          Immediately a group of burly guards grabbed him and whisked him away from the rest of the prisoners. Before he knew it, he was in a small yard with several hard looking men and women. All of them dressed as he was.

          "Welcome comrade," a young woman with a shaved head and a large scar across her face said with a grin.

          "What's going on?"

          "Interrogation and hopefully martyrdom," she said spitting.

          "Death will come sister, but not for some time," a man with an eye-patch said with a chuckle.

          "Yes, we will all feel the lick of the lash before the day is through," another said with a smile.

          "I don't understand. What did I do?"

          "You're a patriot, a martyr to the cause," the woman shouted at the sky.

          "No I'm not. I'm just a farmer who refused to give food to some soldiers," John said quickly. "For that they killed my family, and would have killed me, except an officer stopped them and sent me here!"

          The partisans stared quietly at John for a long while. Then the man with the eye-patch spoke.

          "Everyone here is a participant, soldier, officer, partisan, and even a few war criminals mixed in with the lot. Yet we went into this thing with eyes wide open." Then, with a tear in his eye, he said, "You, my friend, are a victim – a poor wretched victim of war."

by Joseph DeRepentigny
... who is a military intelligence veteran now working as a security screener for the Transportation Security Administration; with more than twenty-five published essays and short stories to his credit, principally in the fantasy, horror, and science fiction genres, including works previously published in this literary magazine.

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C O M B A T, the Literary Expression of Battlefield Touchstones