The sniper sighed and shifted his position slightly, careful not to disturb the smallest rock, anything that might betray his spot to unseen watching enemy eyes. He slowly eased his finger back and forth on the trigger of his rifle and squinted into the sight, grimacing as a bead of sweat rolled down his forehead and stung the corner of his eye.
He waited. High overhead, a hawk wheeled aimlessly in the sky, searching, looking. The soldier rolled over carefully, onto his side and allowed himself a drink of water. He knew it was all about being patient, not losing the “edge” – or his nerve, but still he wished something would happen.
Night fell. He closed his eyes and dozed, a little, stirring once as a bold jackal ventured closer to investigate and sniffed delicately at his boots. Early hours – he awoke and stretched, another drink of water and a bite of chocolate – quick energy boost.
Dawn approached and the desert was painted in uniform hues of grey and silver. The sniper amused himself by focussing and re-focussing his rifle sight and settled down to wait again.
An hour or so passed and he watched a scorpion, intricate and jointed, scuttle across the rock in front of his nose. He knew it was harmless and didn’t flinch from it, momentarily distracted by its hinged legs and shiny carapace.
There! What was that? A flash of movement caught his eye and he raised himself up on his elbows to gaze through the rifle sights, anxious not to miss his target. But. This was not the expected enemy army convoy… a ragged group of men, dressed in what looked like robes and armed with – swords?
And as he watched, mouth agape slightly in shock, some men on horseback appeared – how? – and fell upon the ragged little group. The riders were richly dressed, the blues and greens of their robes stood out clearly in the sepia morning light.
He saw the ragged men fall apart, one man landing hopelessly, clutching at his stomach where rubbery ropes of coiled intestines slipped between his desperate grasping fingers.
Savage yells of pain and rage reached his ears, the whinney of a frightened horse whose rider was pulled from his saddle and set upon in a blur of blades and fists. They hacked and sliced and cut – the watching soldier winced as he clearly heard the wet thubbery sound of blade striking flesh and the myriad sucking, slicing sounds as the swords withdrew and bit again amidst angry roars and yells of pain.
He moved slightly and blinked and what? – The men were gone. Nothing. A swirl of sand blown by the wind made a miniature whirlwind across the patch of ground where seconds before he had glimpsed a horrific battle scene.
Nothing. The sniper sighed, and settled down to wait…