Half An Inch Of Lead
Matthew Ringenbergs, Grade 10
Half an inch of lead is all it takes to kill a man, half an inch of lead is all it takes to rip a man’s soul from his body. A small metal sphere that parts the flesh, breaks the bone and expels the blood leaving in its wake nothing but the empty shell of a corpse. I have long since had to come to terms with this fact; every time I march into battle I may be meeting my doom. But I am a soldier and that is what I do. Our leaders may say that I am not just any soldier, but a soldier in the glorious British Army. Pfft, it does not matter what army one is indentured to, it is kill or be killed, the survival of the fittest.
Even now I am aware of it as rank upon rank of redcoats march to their distant foe, Frenchmen barely visible upon the backdrop of the Spanish mountains. They stand also waiting for us, perhaps fearful in their blue jackets. ‘We have come to liberate Spain,’ our Generals and Colonels tell us. We have come to break the yoke of Napoleon’s oppression supposedly, what does it matter I must wonder for they will just trade one tyrant for another and be thrown back into the petty squabbles that plague nations.
French cannons open fire as we draw near, their metallic carapaces glittering in the sun. But the devastation they cause is far less beautiful. I grimace as men I knew are torn apart by brutal orbs of iron soon stained red by the blood of their victims. But their deaths are quick, and the alternative is truly no better. To stay back in England poor in money and health and watch as those you love waste away, wither and die before finally succumbing to the hunger in your belly that is starvation. Soldiering pays well enough; well, when they pay on time.
I watch as horsemen scurry about on the flanks eager to engage the enemy. Our generals make last minute speeches encapsulating on the bravery of the soldiers of the British Empire. It is hard to not get swept up in the cheering but I need to focus my mind on the task that is on hand, no doubt the French made such a speech as well, although in French. Both armies surge forward, just as eager to engage as the cavalrymen milling about on the flanks. The barrage of cannons continues as we get closer, tearing holes in the ground and bodies alike, but we march on. Fifty paces from the enemy we fire, unleashing hordes of those angry little balls so adept at reducing a man to nothing more than a pile of flesh. The French fire their own volley, cutting down my comrades in arms, fertilizing the ground with blood. And then it comes, after all these years. I finally feel it, that one bullet, that one lucky bullet and it brings... sweet… release.