All, in the previous post today, I spoke about how my current project is progressing. Well, I decided to release a non-spoilerrific sample today in my alternate history; some of the pure hell our ancestors dealt with in World War One, both in our history and in my alternate one.
Here goes, fresh off the presses.
Bill tried to scream underwater; he could feel that his feet were stuck in the sucking mud. He panicked and twisted. His struggles were rewarded by the sensation of the muck releasing his boots. He bobbed upwards. He stroked with his arms as if he were a bird taking flight; he kicked with his ungainly, booted feet.
“AH!” He broke the surface. Bill vomited the hole’s corrupted effluent from his lungs; after a few heaves he could breathe again. He doggy-paddled in place, then he picked the closest point in the mud at the bottom of the crater and swam towards it. He puked again as he swam, he had to stop as he heaved.
Mother of God, he thought. There were at least three bloated bags of skin in the hole with him. German, Allied, who fucking knew. He paddled some more in the flare light, after some indeterminate length of time he reached the muddy slope. He tried to crawl out, his knees braced against something kind of solid underwater. He rested against the mud, he panted and retched some more.
For fuck’s sake, he thought. He had breathed in a lungful of corpse water. When he thought about it, he vomited again into the slime. He was wrung out, he couldn’t move. He could barely lift his arms, let alone struggle to the top of the pit. He panted, then the solid thing beneath his knees, perhaps a rock, shifted.
He slid back into the water, screaming. His hands shot out and he tried to grab something, anything. It was for naught. He settled back into the yellow dead man’s pond, his feet scrabbled once again for some type of purchase. This, he decided, wasn’t his fucking day. He resorted again to doggy-paddling, something rotten, soft and stinky bumped against the back of his head.
Oh fuck, he thought. He steered towards a different part of the shore and prayed for a rock, a root, something. He made it just as his arms stiffened and gave out. With a heave he threw himself upward. His hand shot out and probed for something, anything, to grab as his legs thrashed about.
He was rewarded when his hand grabbed something sort of round and hard, his body began to slide backwards once more. The movement into what could have been Bill’s watery grave was arrested by a protrusion in the muddy object that Bill had ahold of; after a few seconds his fingers identified the jutting-out bit on the object he held on to for dear life.
He held onto the front sight ears of a buried Enfield rifle; a dead man’s dropped weapon had saved him, at least for now. He panted, his chest heaved. Another flare shot heavenward. Bill finally had a second to look around at his environs. The bodies in the sluggish, stale water drifted about, probably as a result of his struggles. Their blackened uniforms and equipment strained against the bloat of decomposition gasses pressing to be free; one man’s eternal vacant and eyeless gaze pointed to spectacle overhead as if in awe at the light show.
Bill looked up, too. Tracers streaked overhead, along with a blue flare. The artificial light lit the hole with a frigid touch. Speaking of which, thought Bill, he needed to get the hell out of this water or he would die of exposure. He shook his head and tried to control his breathing. Hyperventilating would do no good, and it robbed him of his dwindling strength. He pulled on the rifle some more, and prayed it was jammed on something solid.