by Andrew Davis

The soldier has a gun.

He is twenty-six years, nine months, and seven days old. In his five years of service, he has used it to kill seventeen people. He knows the number well, although he does not want to. He cannot remember every kill. Most of the time, he does not think about his kills: he holds them in the back of his mind, and makes brushing his teeth or shining his shoes the centre of his world. As he shines his boots, he remembers the videos he watched in cadets, instructing him on the correct shining method. Base coat first. Just a tiny dot of polish. Brush vigorously.

He does remember the fourteenth kill: a civilian, whose death he thinks about often. The soldier was not aiming at the man. As he pulled the trigger on his gun, the world had shaken from a fallen bomb, and his gun veered to the left. The civilian had been wearing a red scarf. No, it was white. Then it was red. It was as if the bullet was always destined for the man. This is what the soldier tells himself.

The gun does not protect the soldier from the bullet that is destined for him. The bullet that speeds through the air at two hundred miles per hour, piercing the front of his skull and exiting the back in a fraction of a second. The soldier dies instantly. The desert sand beneath him stains red, until the blood dries in the baking sun.

When she gets the letter, Yasmine cries, uncontrollable, ugly tears. Her new lover tries to comfort her, but she pushes him away.

The soldier has a gun.

He is twenty-one years, six months, and four days old. The gun has yet to be fired, is instead strapped around his back, free of bullets. He is uncomfortable in his uniform, ironed and pressed, with the top button of his shirt done up. He stands on ceremony as the sergeant bellows a speech, the last before they fly out to war for the first time. The sergeant’s cry is powerful, deep, unrelenting as a wall of diamond. As the sergeant finishes, the soldier looks for Yasmine in the crowd, sees her applauding, her eyes shining, her lips curling into a smile, but twitching as they do so.

That night, the soldier will take her to the lake outside of town, the place where they had their first date. He will give her a ring, his promise to come back. In the next five years, he will only come back on two occasions. After he proposes, they will make love. It will not be their last time, but it will be the last time they mean it. The last time before he will see too much, and she will see him too little.

The soldier has a gun.

He is seven years, three months, and eighteen days old. He is running around the school playground with the other boys. He makes the gun by pressing his hands together, curling in his third and fourth fingers, and pointing with his first two fingers. He points the gun at Eric Jones, who raises his hands and says, ‘I surrender!’

The soldier does not take any prisoners. He taps his forefingers with his thumbs and says ‘BANG’, firing the gun.

‘You’re dead,’ says the soldier, and Eric crumples to the floor. The soldier holds out a hand for Yasmine, who Eric had been holding captive. She joins the soldier as he continues his hunt. A few moments later, Eric gets up, scuffing his shoes as he does so, and goes to play football with the other children who lost the war.


Andrew Davis is a Creative Writing MA student at Cardiff University. Born in England, he likes to consider Wales his adopted home, because really, it’s a much better country.