the short story project


Isabelle Bastien

Search For Family 

The American Civil War was a bloodbath. Hollow corpses lay everywhere. I’m not sure freedom was worth all of these lives. I’m lucky to have survived alongside two of my colleagues, Jack and Dylan.

We patrolled across the field, examining bodies to make sure none of them were still alive. I was hoping I’d find my brother, Alexander, but no one suspected that. I never wanted them to know that I was willing to carry my brother’s body several miles, back to camp. They wouldn’t understand or allow it. Suddenly, I heard a groan and looked at the pale fragile body closest to me. It was a boy sixteen-year-old with dark brown hair and a weary face. “Hey guys! Get over here, I think we have a live one!” I yelled. They ran and quickly halted: “Do you recognize this boy?” Jack asked hopefully. “No” I sighed. Dylan crouched down and looked at the boy’s face. “Should we help him?” That was a question we conspired to answer. Was it worth carrying a broken body all the way back to camp? I studied the boy’s uniform. Confederate. The boy is a confederate. “We should hel-” “No! He’s a Confederate soldier,” Jack vehemently shouted. I argued that he was just a boy. “No. I will not allow it Alex. He is the enemy and we must kill him.” Jack snapped. The boy’s eyes fluttered open. “Help me, please!” he begged with a weak voice.

Dylan asked the boy’s name, hoping to humanize this young man. “J-Joseph” the boy stuttered. “Are you hurt?” I questioned. Joseph nodded and looked down at his leg. His pants were soaked in blood. At that point, I ripped his pant leg and examined the wound. The leg was slightly bent at an abnormal angle. “Take him with us. Get him to the infirmary!” I ordered. “No. Leave him to die. Leave him to rot!” Jack shouted. He then turned and looked at me with burning daggers. “Well he isn’t my son. My son is dead. He died on the battlefield” Oh no. I had no idea. A heavy round black stone fell to the pit of my stomach. “Wouldn’t you have wanted someone to save him though?” I whispered. “Of course,” Jack replied.

“Then let’s save this boy. He is definitely someone’s son.” I said, hopeful to have shed some light on a very dark time. Dylan was already trying to pick up Joseph when Jack sighed. All four of us headed back to camp.

“You hanging in there Joseph?” I asked trying to make conversation. Joseph groaned, “It hurts pretty bad though.” I tried to change the conversation. “Do you have a family?” He smiled slightly. “Yes. I had a brother. An older one though. He was eighteen. I had a mother, father, brother, and younger sister. My brother died in the war. Sadly, he was killed in front of my eyes. I was on my knees next to him, mourning him, when all of a sudden, a horse stepped on my leg and something hit me on the head. My sister, Sue, died of Yellow fever. Now all I have left are my mother and father.” I stared at him with a grim look. “I’m terribly sorry. I’m looking for my brother, Alexander. I can’t find him. I don’t know if he’s dead captured or alive.” I felt panic and tears welling up in me all of a sudden. Is he dead? Could I have searched all that time and he be dead? Please let me be wrong! “I’m sorry” Joseph sympathized.

As night fell, we were halfway back to camp when Joseph asked “What’s going to happen to me when we get to camp?” “The government will probably take you prisoner and question you. Maybe even torture you if you don’t cooperate.” Jake explained truthfully. “Or we could get a uniform off one of the corpses and pretend he’s one of us,” I offered. “I’ll go get a uniform” I said as I wandered off. As I searched, as no one replied, I ran to work through my plan, I thought of my brother Alexander. Maybe he’s alive and we can mess with Ma at family gatherings like we used to. A profound hope of mine was that I could then know what it was like to be an uncle. Alexander would make our family whole again. As I walked, I continued to think about him. Instantly I found a corpse that had a uniform that looked as if it would fit Joseph. I flipped over the corpse to get it off and gasped. Realization hits me as hard as a bullet. It was my brother. He was dead. I felt like one of those corpses, cold and lifeless. No. No! Why?! Why him and not me? I fell to my knees and cried out in pain. Why?! Fury rolled through my veins. The Confederates did this. I must kill all Confederate. They must know my pain and sadness. As I let the fury consume me, I walked away from my brother and back to my colleagues.

“Hey, did you find a uniform?” Dylan asked, noticing my bloody hands. “No” I grumbled. “The plan won’t work” Jake replied. “I don’t plan it to.” I betrayed. Dylan looked at me with questioning eyes. As I approached Joseph, I growled “I. Hate. Confederate. Soldiers! They all deserve to die!!” I grab my knife and raise my hand to stab him. “What are you doing Alex?” Dylan yelled. Just as Jake reached for the knife from my hand, I brought it down with all my strength. My hand froze mid air as Jake caught my hand. “Don’t blame the boy for something he didn’t do. It’s not his fault. It’s some other Confederate soldier.” “You’re right, I’m sorry,” I breathed. “Let’s just get to camp,” Jake ordered.

The urge was simply too deep. I grabbed the knife from Jake. I heard a thunk and sticky wetness seeped through my fingers. I feel my heart racing and I hear the breath leave Joseph as I stared into his hollow eyes. He was now one of those empty, pale husks stained by the crimson war. I felt a giggle in my throat. As soon as I did, I lunged toward the next possible ending. Instantaneously, my air was cut off and I was pinned against the ground. All I did was laugh at the irony of how I just killed the enemy and now my friends turned on me thinking I was the enemy. If only they knew. Slowly my vision faded and my laugh receded. I felt myself go limp as I fell into oblivion.



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