The Soldier's Cry | Teen Ink

The Soldier's Cry

June 12, 2009
By SilverQueen SILVER, Reseda, California
SilverQueen SILVER, Reseda, California
6 articles 0 photos 10 comments

I am dying. I know that. The knowledge is an icy finger running down my spine.

I am being consumed by the dread plague that has swept mercilessly through our camp, has killed so many of my companions. Fever is burning me; it is a fire that rages under my skin and burns me. My head is being squeezed with a vise and a hammer is pounding behind my eyes. Pain wracks my joints. It feels like someone is injecting acid into my knees and elbows and fingers and spine. I cannot endure it.

But neither can I find relief. I cannot even scream; I can barely moan.

I struggle to breathe. My lungs are destroyed and I gasp for air. When I can draw a breath, it is foul with the reek of blood and death and filth. I loathe it. I loathe this disease. I want to die.

No. Not that. I want to live. I am desperate to live. I am young; I have my whole life before me. And that life will end here, on this cot.

Not even a bed—there are none left—but on this dirty cot on the floor between two beds. It still stinks of its last occupant. Through the haze of pain, I see a nurse walking toward me.

“Water,” I try to croak, but no sound comes out. My lips barely move. I can no longer keep my eyes open. The nurse bends at the far end of the cot. I feel her tie something onto my toe, then she straightens and pulls the thin sheet that covers my ruined body till it also covers my head. I want to scream that I am not yet dead, that I am still among the living, but I cannot. I cannot move, cannot speak. The thin cloth over my nostrils makes the already arduous task of breathing near impossible. I am not dead yet, but I soon will be.

The thought makes me want to weep like a child.

Then I feel myself being lifted. The sudden motion makes my stomach lurch, but there is nothing left in it to come up, not even bile. I am carried unsteadily for an eternity. With each step, I can feel my life draining. I imagine a trail of it on the floor behind me, like blood.

Then I am dropped. I do not think they meant to do so, but they did. The pain is unbearable. My joints burn. My head throbs. My lungs pop like fat in a skiddle. Please God, let me die.

Yes, I have nothing but agony here now. Let me die.

Footsteps approach. Something lands on me. It is large and soft and excruciatingly heavy. It must weigh two hundred pounds. I realize what it is: a dead man.

Horror crawls up my spine and creeps into my skull. They stack the bodies in the hall outside the morgue like a pile of wood. I realize I have been placed there. And they have started to pile bodies on top of me.

Another body lands on me. I am being crushed to death by those already within death’s grasp. I feel a rib, already fractured from uncontrollable coughing, give way completely. Two ribs. The throbbing in my head is all-encompassing now and my mind begins to narrow. It darkens to a single spot of burning light.

Then the light goes out.

The author's comments:
Historical Note: This story takes place during the 1918-1919 influenza pandemic. It is based, not a specific incident, but on a specific nightmare. A nurse stationed at the Great Lakes Naval Training Station remembered that during the peak of the pandemic, the overworked nurses would sometimes move soldiers to the morgue before they were dead. It saved time. For the rest of her life, this nurse was haunted by a recurring nightmare: “what it would feel like to be that boy who was at the bottom of the cord wood in the morgue.” (Source: Barry, John. The Great Influenza: The Epic Story of the Deadliest Plague in History. New York: Penguin Group, 2004.)

Similar Articles


This article has 14 comments.

Gavin said...
on Jan. 18 2012 at 6:57 am
Yeah Buddy, i cried for 5 hours :'(

on Jan. 17 2012 at 9:03 pm
__horizon133 PLATINUM, Portage, Michigan
26 articles 0 photos 231 comments

Favorite Quote:
"laugh, and the world laughs with you. laugh hysterically, and for no apparent reason, and they will leave you alone." anonymous

what a horrific way to die. morbidly compelling--well done.

on Jul. 17 2010 at 11:25 pm
WordSmith BRONZE, Sydney, Other
2 articles 0 photos 6 comments

Favorite Quote:
"The price of freedom is eternall vigilance."

This is great, good use of descriptive  langauge and atmosphear to set the scene. I really like this!

NAWolfrom GOLD said...
on May. 12 2010 at 6:09 pm
NAWolfrom GOLD, Bel Air, Maryland
13 articles 0 photos 4 comments

Favorite Quote:
"You have to take it as it happens, but you should try to make it happen the way you want to take it." -German Proverb

Oh my goodness. That is fantastic. I love it, in a creepy depressing kind of way...


anyway, way to go!

on Apr. 2 2010 at 7:29 pm
dancer4jesus BRONZE, San Marcos, California
2 articles 0 photos 14 comments

Favorite Quote:
The heart writes the words of the music that the soul dances to.

Wow! I could totally imagine what was going on, and it left me thinking, "Is he dead yet?" Because of the fact that they thought him dead before. That was so realistic!!

katie-cat GOLD said...
on Feb. 19 2010 at 6:48 pm
katie-cat GOLD, McClellandtown, Pennsylvania
13 articles 0 photos 163 comments

Favorite Quote:
"Look after my heart, I've left it with you."- Edward Cullen
"To love another person is to see the face of God . . ."- Les Miserables
"Don't say the old lady screamed. Bring her out and let her scream." - Mark Twain

i thought that this was really good. One of the best i've read from this website. keep it up, you've got something special

on Feb. 19 2010 at 10:17 am
Lauren101 SILVER, Mansfield, Texas
5 articles 3 photos 21 comments
That was good. Could you check this out and give me feedback? http ://www.teenink .com /fiction/historical_fiction/article/97138/The-Tripoli-Chronicle/

on Dec. 20 2009 at 7:56 pm
DomClaudeFrollo GOLD, Greenville, North Carolina
10 articles 1 photo 8 comments

Favorite Quote:
"I can't help being a gorgeous fiend... it's just the card I drew."
~ Lestat

Oh my!! This story was completely haunting, and I can't possibly think of enough words to praise it. I cannot even begin to imagine what it would be like to be carried out, not quite dead yet, like that. It sends shivers down my spine. Thank you for writing this! Well done!

solot said...
on Oct. 21 2009 at 1:03 pm
This was a very interesting topic. You described the pain and suffering well especially when you said, "Pain wracks my joints. It feels like someone is injecting acid into my knees and elbows and fingers and spine. I can not endure it." It is as if you were an actually soldier dying of the plague. Also it is sad to read that the sick had bad living conditions like when you wrote, "And that life will end here on this cot. Not even a bed... occupant."

on Oct. 7 2009 at 8:26 pm
SilverQueen SILVER, Reseda, California
6 articles 0 photos 10 comments
Thanks for you comments, I really appreciate it! As for why I wrote this story, laster semester I wrote a paper on the Spanish flu in my American History class for my final. This story was birthed from that. I felt so sorry for the people who faced that plague, and I couldn't express all that within the confines of my essay. So I wrote this story.

stotlers said...
on Oct. 7 2009 at 11:32 am
Wow this is really good! It is sad at he same time too! I do have a question though. What encouraged you to write this? How did you come up with the ideas you did? You wrote this piece so wonderfully it was actually as if you were in the place of the young soldier. Where you write " Fever is burning me; it is a fire that rages under my skin and burns me." really shows the soldiers pain. I also like the fact how you put the historical note to the side. Where it says " ... the over worked nurses would sometimes move soldiers to the morgue before they were dead. It saved time. For the rest of their life, this nurse was haunted by a recurring nightmare, " what would it feel like to be the boy at the bottom of the cord wood in the morgue." is horrible but really helps to understand the nurses feelings about what she has done. Great job!

Jaquie BRONZE said...
on Sep. 14 2009 at 7:53 pm
Jaquie BRONZE, West Palm Beach, Florida
3 articles 0 photos 407 comments

Favorite Quote:
This is certainly one of my favorites: "I will become even more undignified than this, and I will be humiliated in my own eyes." -2 Samuel 6:22

Amazing! I love it! I'm so glad I've found a truly good piece among the works of the mundain. Really, a wonderful work. Keep writing.

God bless,


SilverQueen said...
on Sep. 12 2009 at 6:43 pm
Aw, thanks, bro!

Neojohnson said...
on Sep. 12 2009 at 6:32 pm
That was awesome!!!!