Spray from the violent sea cascaded over the company, covering the floor of the boat with a thin layer of wet film. The boat stank of days-old sweat and engine oil with a hint of stale fish.

The Captain looked down and checked his rifle. He preferred the old M1 carbine rifle over the
new automatic Thompson sub-machine gun. He thought firing more rounds would distract him

from his true purpose here: successfully leading his men to complete their mission. After a quick check, two fragmentation grenades, a smoke grenade, spare ammunition cartridges, Bushnell binoculars, a map, and a Hershey’s chocolate bar, were all stored in their correct pouches and pockets.

The return to the action was an unexpected interruption to routine, having been absent from

the front lines for over 24 hours. Normally, the company of twenty soldiers wouldn’t be assigned this kind of mission this late in the day. Dusk was starting to set in, making the shadows longer, the seas more treacherous, and the enemy more daring. Concealed in their dens along the beach and jungle, enemy soldiers could easily pick off the attackers during the long sprint up the beachhead. The advantage was in the hands of the defenders. Regardless, the time for action was now. The island needed to be taken tonight.

“Sixty Seconds!” the boat pilot screamed over the noise of gunfire and exploding shells.

The small water craft leapt up and down through the tall waves, steadily approaching the
shoreline. Exploding mortar shells sent spouts of water up toward the sky. A stream of bullets
raked the side of the boat, hitting one machine gunner in the leg.
The pops of gunfire dramatically increased as the boat settled into the white sand beach.
Stray rounds bounced off the sides and sailed over their heads with a sharp whistle. Let loose
from the securing chains, the front ramp of the craft slammed into the ground, immersing them in a cloud of dust. The men began the run toward the jungle, zig-zagging to avoid the incoming
rounds. The Captain nimbly maneuvered between the giant hunks of steel and downed trees set by the enemy to slow their pace. One defender leaned out from behind a tree to fire. The Captain deftly raised his carbine and fired off two rounds. The defender dropped out of sight as he jumped into a mortar hole.
Two more enemy soldiers pinned another squad of six men behind a sand dune with steady
machine gun fire. He leaned out from behind the cover, lobbed a frag grenade in the machine
gun nest, and sprinted for the next downed tree. The explosion sent sand over his head and
shards of wood bouncing across the ground. The Captain leapt from behind the downed tree and fired off three rounds into the jungle canopy.
That wasn’t very effective, he thought.
The Captain made it to the rally point, finding his radio man and the remnant of his company
at the edge of the jungle behind another sand dune.
“Captain!” the radio man yelled. “HQ just sent in new orders! We need to take the village
two kilometers inside the jungle to the north.”
He pulled out the map and reviewed the terrain. The village was down a winding game trail
through the dense vegetation. There was also a wide dirt road leading from the beach to the
village, but it was probably well defended. He chose the game trail, leading the men in a long
single file column. As they crossed the threshold of the jungle canopy, the last light of day faded
into a black night.
One enemy sniper popped out from a covered foxhole, firing at the oncoming soldiers. The
Captain quickly lifted his rifle and returned fire aimlessly into the darkness. Shots pinged off the
ground, nowhere near the intended target. The sniper fired again, hitting the Captain in the arm. Wounded, the Captain dropped the enemy with another shot. The wound was easily patched with a first aid kit.
Only three first aid kits left; I better be more careful!
He stopped again to check the map and catch his breath. They were now halfway to the
village. The previous objectives of taking the beach and meeting at the rally point were now
completed. The march was quickly resumed, and two more enemy snipers were eliminated
before reaching the village.
“Sergeant,” the Captain whispered, “Take your squad left.”
“Yes sir,” he whispered back. “First Squad, move left.”
“Corporal! Take your squad right.”
“Yes sir! Third Squad move out!” he said.
“Second Squad on me!”
The company entered the village and made quick work of clearing the five huts of resistance
fighters. Only six enemy soldiers held the village, and they were no match for the seasoned men.
“Captain!” the radio man yelled. “HQ reports enemy reinforcements heading our way! They
are trying to drive us back to the beach!”
“Squad Leaders! Defensive Positions!” he shouted, and ran to the center of the village.
Enemy fighters rapidly emerged around the clearing, enveloping the company with rifle and
machine gun fire. The well-disciplined soldiers held their positions. Tracer rounds rocketed back
and forth between the attackers and defenders as brilliant streaks, slicing through the stifling
night air. The Captain fired three rounds into the tree line before taking cover behind the village
well. He moved to a crawl, fired two rounds at the enemy, got back into a crouch, then jumped
up and ran behind a hut.
I’m a better shot than this! They need to be pushed back!
He jumped out from behind the hut and sprinted across the clearing into the tree line. With
the enemy distracted by the soldiers in the village, the Captain crept along their line and silenced them one by one. Occasionally, one of the defenders noticed him and tried to fight back, but they stood no chance. After clearing the tree line of enemy fighters, he returned to the village.
“Captain! New orders from HQ!” said the radio man. “Our company has been tasked with
taking the airfield!”
The Captain pulled out his map and inspected the terrain. The airfield was three kilometers to
the east and enveloped with mine fields. Only a few main roads leading into it from the
surrounding villages were left unmined by the enemy. After choosing a road that seemed clear,
he pocketed the map and issued orders. The men fell into line as the Captain took off across the clearing toward their next objective.
Upon entering the perimeter of the airfield, he noticed a sign with a red border and some
foreign letters scribbled on it.
That doesn’t look right. I better stay clear.
He followed the line of signs along the road. The signs made a sharp right, but he missed the
turn and drifted into an area covered with tall grasses. Suddenly, the ground erupted in flame,
and everything went black.
The Game Master got up from his over-stuffed bean bag chair and angrily tossed the
controller on the couch, narrowly missing the leaning stack of unfinished algebra homework. He shuffled his way to the kitchen and rummaged through the cabinets.
“Mom! Where are my Pop Tarts?” he yelled down to the basement.
“We ran out; eat something else!” she yelled back.


“Don’t eat the cookies on the counter! I made them for your sister’s slumber party!”

“Yeah, yeah,” he muttered under his breath and resumed his search.

He looked behind the empty box of Pop Tarts and found a bag of Orville Redenbacher’s
Kettle Corn. Two and a half minutes later, the microwave chimed. He dumped the steaming hot
bag of popcorn into a large red plastic bowl and shuffled back to his chair. Picking up the
controller with greasy fingers, he scrolled through the menu screens.

I guess I’ll try this level again, he thought. Stupid landmines . . .

Spray from the violent sea cascaded over the company, covering the floor of the boat
with a thin layer of wet film . . .

Mason Brandt is a senior civil engineering major. His pieces were inspired by
assignments and prompts in his creative writing course. He currently lives in central
Pennsylvania with his wife and cat.