Focus by D.I. Jolly

When George and his best friend Spencer, who everyone called Badger, were conscripted into the army, George took it with the shake of his head and a smile deciding that it was a joke and therefore didn’t require any more effort than was strictly necessary. Badger, on the other hand, had to put in extra effort, but enjoyed it and felt proud to be part of something he saw as bigger than himself. George had always been smart, athletic and capable so resented boot camp and being yelled at, whereas Badger was more of a companion and took orders well. George took none of it seriously, not even when they were sent into active duty and people started to shoot at them in earnest with the intention to kill them. Badger started taking it all very seriously and often found himself a little annoyed and embarrassed by how little effort George put in. It wasn’t until the moment that George heard a shot the sounded unlike any of the others he’d heard and Badger’s brains sprayed out over his face that he’d even considered any of it to be real. Up until that moment, he kept it separate from his real life and had thought about it as some sort of horribly annoying nightmare that he just had to sit through until it ended and then he’d forget about. In that moment, however, everything changed and his mind cleared of all distractions disappeared and his mind condensed to a knifepoint and suddenly he became the soldier that all the trainers and instructors had been yelling he could be. In that moment he not only came to terms with the idea that he would kill people he also suddenly wanted to kill them. He picked up his gun for the first time since arriving on the line turned to face the enemy and opened fire. But not reckless spraying fire into nothing. No, his breath was controlled, his aim was true and every time he pulled the trigger somebody died. With his mind clear of all other thoughts he could hear the instructions he’d been given over the months before and he took all of it into consideration. When he dropped back down to cover and called out,

“Reloading!”

The men around him stared in shock and horror at what was unfolding before them, unsure if it was Badger’s corps or George’s sudden deadly assault that was the more traumatic. By the end of the day, George had the highest kill score of everyone in his barracks and had almost single handily cause the enemy to retreat from their position. He had remained calm and focused throughout the assault, during the aftermaths, while carrying Badger’s body back to base, and during the debriefing where his Sargent was equal parts ecstatic at his performance and deeply sorry for his loss. As a reward and in commiseration they offered to give him a few days to come to terms, but he refused and instead volunteered to join a night operation that was being planned to try scout out a few nearby enemy camps. As the sun came up George had managed to find 6 camps and kill every last man in them, with his knife, while they slept. All the while he’d been playing the sound over and over again in his mind, the one he heard just before Badger died, trying to work out why it sounded so different and as he finally lay down to sleep it occurred to him that the reason it sounded strange was because it hadn’t come from the front line like all the other but from behind them. So that afternoon he went from room to room and slit the throats of everyone in his barracks until he was absolutely, one hundred percent sure, that whoever had killed his best friend in the world had paid for what they’d done, then he sat down, said a quiet goodbye to Badger, finally allowed himself a few tears and spread his own brains across the briefing room wall.

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