The AK-74 was chafing like a bastard. I ain’t got the broadest build in the world, and that’s putting it mildly – I am one skinny fucker. Now my skeletal, malnourished frame had the weight of an assault rifle to contend with. From what the interpreter had conveyed, I gathered that the burly quarter-master had insisted that the weapon was ‘lighter than it looks.’ Lying bugger. My muscles ached, my skin burned, and I had blisters all over my shoulders and hips where pointy bits were digging into my flesh. Fuck sake.
How long had we been marching, anyway? Felt like fucking forever. At first we’d belted out anthems to keep the spirits raised – Bandiera Rossa had been aired a few times, The Internationale more than once, and my personal favourite Comandante Che Guevara had even made an appearance. As time wore on though, and the fatigue set in, the voices waned. At this point, we were too busy gasping to sing. Too intent on simply putting one foot in front of the other to try remembering lyrics.
The faces around me were creased in concentration. We were a ragtag bunch, that much was true: different nationalities, a mixture of colours, varying degrees of facial hair growth, no real uniforms save for that little red insignia sewn onto shoulders or stuck on baseball caps… Looking at us, ya might struggle to see what we had in common. Everyone had that same expression on their face though; a look of sheer determination, an intensity of will desperate to avoid letting their brothers and sisters down. I woulda been truly inspired by this, had I been able to muster the energy to feel anything but completely exhausted.
Word came down from the top of the line; we were past the hilly part. The others cheered up at this, but I wasn’t so sure – I still had the image of the quarter-master fresh in my mind. I was definitely gonna take this information with a veritable fucking mountain of salt…which was quite apt really, given the sort of horrendous terrain we’d been traversing for the last god-knows-how-long.
It suddenly occurred to me that, if we got ambushed, we clearly would be in no shape to fight. In fact, given that the situation was so fluid, we could easily have stumbled right into enemy territory without even noticing. I decided to point out this salient detail to my nearest comrade, so I-
Solidarity, brothers & sisters…