Fortress
Tyler Dunham
Fort
Kevin Dillinger
Songs swept through the desert sand. Grunting, screaming, terrifying songs that sent shivers down everyone's spine in the very same guttural rhythm as they were sung in. All of my men were hiding in the fort's four primary towers, praying to whatever manner of god we worshiped. Some of us managed to cling to our symbols. All the crosses, stars, and idols were now drenched in the very blood of the persons who were clenching them, the rough edges piercing the tender skin of hands. More blood trailed down each individual's holy symbol each time the winds carried the wails of the enemy over the walls.
The phrase "we" doesn't accurately describe my army, for I, an unwilling conscript who thought war an unneeded blight on the world, was one still worthy of the title of soldier. While everyone else in my regiment quaked in fear and clung to their religions like helpless dogs, I was tending to the fort and keeping and patrolling its walls,
all the while sharpening my spear, readying it for its next encounter. Since I was without a whetstone for sharpening, I had to use the remains of my musket, which had been worthless for a while anyway, considering we ran out of gunpowder more than a week ago.
The songs of our enemy were terrible screeches and moans, each one full of more pain, suffering, sadistic pride and confidence than our entire army could muster. Never once was there a moment of silence in this forsaken desert, never once did the song stop. And I learned its beat and actually found a sort of solemnity within it. Maybe that was the reason that I was able to keep my wits about me, that the enemy's song had no effect on me . . . but this notion is much less likely than the fact that my men are a bunch of cowards who didn't know how to handle war. I became so accustomed to the tune that I began sharpening my spear to it, my scratches working as a kind of base rhythm for my own ears.
Perhaps the reason I could appreciate the song was that I could understand the enemy’s pride, for two days ago I killed one. The enemy scout came too close to the fort and, with a swift throw, I stuck him with my spear. Now that the blood of these unstoppable heathens is on my hands, it is as if it runs through my blood as well. I have part of their pride, courage, savagery, and with it I know I can destroy them all without the help of my weak-willed companions. If I could kill one . . . I could kill them all.
* * * * *
My food rations ran out a fortnight ago. This disgusted me, for I had to go into one of the towers and sift through the belongings of my comrades for their rations. I was surprised to see that they had plenty left, but was not surprised to see them all belly down in the darkness, sleeping feverishly. On my way out I spat on one of their backs, expecting this to provoke some sort of threatening response. But he just lay there, unmoving. It was pointless to scold them anymore. They never listened to me anyhow, so I shrugged off their incompetence and went back to my duties.
* * * * *
For weeks now I have looked over the horizon waiting for them to come, but seldom do I ever see even a single enemy through my spyglass. Food is running out, and I hope for my patience and health that the enemy will show themselves soon. It is not until just now that I have finally managed to see what it is I have been hoping for. A massive army of figures, shimmering in the unforgiving heat, marching toward the fort from every direction I can see. Their song is more powerful than ever now, each drum beat seeming to shake the fortress walls. It is to this song that I tap my foot eagerly.