The Heart of a Soldier

By: Sam Schmidt

There’s a saying we use for a time like this: “War turns the heart to stone.”

Let’s say you are just a young eighteen-year-old kid off the streets who claims he joined the war to get away from his old man.  Then you experience combat and just freeze; incapable of doing anything -- move, aim, shoot and even speak.  All you can manage to do is cover your ears to prevent the horrifying screams of your comrades getting plowed by Fritz’s MG-42 machine gun.  When that happens, you’re considered a coward - a bad soldier.

Or, you can be a good soldier.  You can aim down sight, despite the zipping sound of bullets flying through the air, and fire upon the enemy, take their life, and not feel a thing.  My best friend, whose name happened to be Jerry, told me a good soldier doesn’t see the enemy as another human being.  He sees himself as a good soldier.  I could sit here and tell you…I was a good soldier.  But I was somewhere in between. 

I knew what I had signed up for.  I knew that I was gonna take down Germans.  If they are willing to kill me, I must be prepared to kill them.  I knew it was my duty to fight, and not back down.  I knew my job was to kill the enemy; but I also knew my job was to see the enemy as human.  I’ve killed before.  Plenty of times. Too much, as a matter of fact, and I remember the faces of every single enemy soldier.  When the combat settles, I always remember where I dropped them. The least I could do is get an idea of who each of them were.

I’ve killed many Nazis, and unfortunately, a lot of them were just kids not even old enough to buy themselves a beer.  At the moment you have to pull the trigger, you will freeze, I don’t care what kind of soldier you are.  Instead of being at home, at school with friends, you are forced to fight the horrors of war - and die.  Just think about that - I have to live with that.  For the rest of my life, I have to cope with the fact that I have killed boys - kids! 

To a good soldier, “this is war,” is an excuse to get away with killing.  To me, it’s just a freaking phrase.  Before they send you off to your death, you’ll be telling yourself “this is war,” and you will have to kill.  When you finally take someone’s life, it feels as if the devil took a shot at you, and he’ll take another shot after every kill.

Things change once you serve for Uncle Sam.  You can be known as the local paperboy; friendly to everyone.  Then you come home, and you’re a new person - someone who has probably seen things that they regret seeing in the first place.  You can go from this kind-hearted person to a stone-cold war hero.  Everyone will see you differently when you return, everyone will know your new character.  But in the end, what I - we - can’t change, is that it is just the heart of a soldier.


Sam Schmidt is 18 years old; he lives in Bozeman, Montana. Sam is pursuing a career in piloting and he spends summers playing American Legion baseball.


image: SatikevaElenaS @ Pixabay

The Cassette Tape

By: Thee Sim Ling

“Mum! Lizzy took my homework again!” Ruth failed to understand what made Lizzy think it was fun to hide her schoolwork around the house. What was her deal? She could do all of Ruth’s homework if she wanted to; if so, Ruth could enjoy the next episode of her favorite TV show.
“Go find it then!” Lizzy’s head popped out of the attic as she stuck out her tongue. “Come on!” That pesky midget, Ruth thought. She ran to the attic, thinking that her
younger sister probably hid her homework here. She may think she’s smart, but I’ll get back at her, I swear.
“Ahhh! What is that thing?” Ruth screamed.
“Hmm?” Lizzy emerged with a confused look. “Hey, I didn’t set any booby traps here.
That, whatever it is, is not my fault. Now why are you screaming?”
“Be...because of that.” Ruth pointed a trembling finger at the strange object on the ground.
“Don’t worry, Ruth.” Lizzy waved dismissively. “It’s probably just an old box of Hi-Five CDs. You know, those five Aussie adults that sing...”
“Okay, okay, I get it.” Ruth wouldn’t fall for Lizzy’s trap again. “Now, if you’re so brave, why don’t you go wrestle with the monster.”
“Pff! Watch me, scaredy-- Eeek!” Lizzy jumped back and shook her leg violently. “Get this thing off me!”
Ruth gasped when she saw a strange thick string wrapped around her sister’s leg. “What was that?”
“Anything wrong, girls?” Fortunately, her sharp-eared father raced up the steps to the attic and arrived in the nick of time.
“Something got entangled with my leg!” Lizzy wailed.
Surprised, Father took a closer look at the sinister serpent-like object. Then he let out a loud guffaw.
“What’s so funny?” Lizzy looked less than amused. “Hello, there’s an emergency situation here!”
“I see you don’t know what a cassette tape is.” Father wiped away his tears of laughter. “Don’t worry, it won’t bite. It’s not even alive.”
The two sisters shared a glance. “What’s a cassette tape?” Ruth asked, confused, as her father helped to untangle Lizzy. Father showed us the sealed plastic unit.
“A cassette contains something like a length of audio tape, videotape, or film wound on a pair of spools, for insertion into a recorder, playback device, or other machine.”
“Singlish?” Lizzy, a true Singaporean girl by heart, needed a translation in the local slang.
Father sighed. “Like, you know, black-black thing with black-black tape. Like correction tape for listening to music.”
“Ohhh…” Lizzy nodded her head. “Your generation’s version of the iPod.”
Father nodded. “At least all you Gen Z kids can understand it that way. Better than not getting to know about cassettes at all.”
“Was this yours?” Ruth noticed a piece of masking tape stuck at the back with Father’s name on it.
“Yeah.” He nodded. “I still remember the day I got this. I was ecstatic. I could now have the freedom to listen to Cantonese songs. Also, we listened to Teresa Teng, Andy Lau, Jackie Cheung…”
“All old Chinese singers,” Ruth noted.
“Yep. We also liked to listen to the Beatles.” Father smiled as he started to hum Hey
“Wow. That’s so cool. Your own portable MP3,” marveled Ruth.
“Yep. But with current technology being much more advanced, treasures like these get
sold in junk sales or left forgotten in attics. Of course,” he chuckled, “there is the occasional prank.”
“You didn’t need to remind us,” the two sisters muttered ominously.
Lizzy pointed to the cassette. “Hey, do you think it will still work after all these years?”
“Maybe,” Father said. “Let’s try to play it. Does anyone have a pencil?”
“Why do you need a pencil?” Ruth was bewildered.
“Hang on, I’ll show you. I’ll be right back.” Father went down the attic steps.
When he came up, he used the pencil to rewind the cassette tape. He also remembered to get some new batteries. (The old ones in it were so filthy with dust that everybody immediately started sneezing.) With bated breath, he pressed the ‘play’ button. Silence. Everyone sighed, resigned to the fact that some old things would never work again. But then they gasped and cheered. The familiar tune of ‘Hey Jude’ resounded in the attic.
Ruth swayed to the music. Staring at the now-prehistoric invention, she wondered what other fabulous treasures were lost in the relentless flow of time.

Thee Sim Ling is 12 years old and lives in Singapore. She enjoys doing HTML (HyperText markup Language) which can be used to create websites. When she grows up she wants to be a writer. 


By: Isabel Ives

The darkness. The door. The crumbling brick; it all begged me to enter. I tucked a loose strand of flying black hair behind my ear and looked through the broken window. Darkness and the flickering light of a candle, slowly dying. After a few moments, the flame extinguished, leaving a trail of silver smoke. I pushed open the door, which groaned like a child in pain, leaving a fresh sound in the silence of midnight. I took out my lighter, which provided my only source of light, casting strange shadows over dusty concrete walls. The air was musty and ancient, like a memory or a forgotten dream, nothing like the cool night air outside. My quiet steps left muddy footprints on the dusty floor. A gust of wind blew through the house, inviting the shadows formed by my lighter to dance and beckon me forwards.

I walked cautiously away from the hallway, through a doorway that smelt of mildew and crumbled slightly under my touch, which opened to what must have been a living room with an old, slowly deteriorating moss colored sofa, another wide and broken window, three empty rusted bronze picture frames, a fireplace missing the warm embers it once held—embers I would be grateful for, I thought, breathing into my numb hands –a rotten wooden chest and a broken glass chandelier hanging from the ceiling. Of all these objects in the room, only one held my attention:  a clean, fresh cardboard box. It sat in the corner of the gloomy room, with the numbers “1604” printed in large black letters on the side. I opened the box to find a silver ring, rusted beyond repair, clearly missing a small diamond or gem.
I slipped the ring onto my finger, only to find my head filled with colors and numbers, echoing through the depths of my mind. With trembling fingers, I tried desperately to remove the ring, but found it sinking into my finger and merging with my pale skin. My lighter went out. The numbers “1604” flashed through my mind, and the empty room around me began to transform.

First, the wide window repaired itself, fragments of glass flying into it from around the room and fitting beside one another like perfect puzzle pieces. The moss colored sofa turned charcoal grey and became soft and velvety. The rotted wooden chest was polished, and a paler shade of grey. The picture frames were filled with beautiful black and white oil paintings of the night sky, white stars dissolving into a sea of blackness. The floor was covered with a soft Persian rug and a sturdy wooden fireplace stood beside the sofa, filled with silver flames. Wallpaper spread across the walls, patterned in black and white with elegant swirls and delicate curves. Plush black curtains hung from silver rods and an eerie grey sunlight shone through the window. A strange melody wafted through the house.

I attempted to look out the window, but all I could see was a milky blur. I pressed my hands against the glass, and when the ring touched it, it lit up with recognition and my finger throbbed with a hot, searing pain. I backed away from the window. Desperate, I tried for the front door. Somehow, my hand seemed to pass through it. A weak knock came from the other side of the door, and the floor creaked behind me. A tall, English gentleman with curly black hair, a ruffled white shirt peeking through a black tuxedo, three quarter length beige trousers and tall white socks stood over me. He reached through me and opened the door. I screamed, but it fell upon deaf ears. A once-beautiful woman stood in the doorway now, the picture of distress. Her eyes were swollen red from crying, and her cheeks were spotted with tears.

     “Ah, Marianne. How dost thou?” The man behind me said gently.
     “I am well. Where art thy wife, Catherine?” She asked, twirling a strand of light wavy
hair around a delicate finger, styled to perfection.
     “Cometh inside, presently the lady is upstairs, she should beest down soon.”
Marianne stepped inside gratefully. I made for the open door, but it slammed like a blow to the face. Not knowing what else to do, I followed them into the living room. Marianne sat in a very ladylike manner on the sofa, legs crossed and hands folded politely in her lap. After a few minutes of awkward conversation, Catherine finally entered the room. She was a lady of roughly thirty years, with long dark hair, a cascade of silken strands that reached her waist. On her face was an expression of pure rage, her brows knitted and her lips tight. Her blue eyes danced with fire.
     Catherine’s voice was soft but laced with menace, “‘Tis done, then? He is dead?"


Isabel Ives is 13 years old and lives in Irasburg, Vermont. She loves drawing, has a dog and has lived in four different countries.