The Last Prayer

A soft evening breeze swept over the deep ravine. The cool draft moved as a phantom along the old wooden planks, causing them to tremble. It whispered past the faces of the two sentries. A thick fog had erupted from the ravine. Settling over the camp, it clouded the view to the other side. The sentries stood unmoved, watching intently at the swaying bridge before them. 

“How longs it been,” rasped the whispered voice of an older man. 

“Five days,” replied the younger, even quieter. 

“Weather is getting colder.” The old man continued. “You know what they say about the winter up here. Be mighty fine to be back in my warm bed.” 

“They’ll be here.” The younger insisted. “James told me five days at the most.” 

“Aye,” began the older one, “five days was yesterday, as I haven’t pulled out me second hand yet.” 

“They’ll come.” Smiled the younger boy. “We just need to hold the bridge until they make it back.” 

“James is a right fine officer.” The older man rasped, “Mighty fine captain indeed, but the stories haven’t changed. What is one company to do against a hundred strong?” 

“Nobody said a hundred.” Replied the younger. 

“Eh,” scoffed the older man, who bent over to light a cigar. “Nobody didn’t say a hundred either?” 

The cold breeze now licked the uncovered faces of the sentries. The long grass around their legs moved restlessly as it danced along with the melody of the night air. The sun was now completely down, but the sentries didn’t light a fire. 

“Curse this cold.” The old man croaked. “I can’t feel me toes.” 

“Just a little longer.” The younger was said. “James will be back.” 

“And what if he does, mm? What’s to say he doesn’t lead them right here to us?” 

“He wouldn’t.” The confident voice of the younger man rang out amid the darkness. “You know that, or you should. He’s probably been your captain longer than he has been my brother.” 

“Now you’re talking.” Smiled the old man, the cigar now half smoked and sticking to his lips as he talked. “Why did you ever want to join up anyways, boy? I mean I know I didn’t have a choice. Down to me last dime, and my wife to her last nerve.” 

Their conversation was interrupted by single drum beat from somewhere far away beyond the thick fog. 

“It’s Jude.” The boy laughed to himself as he chanced a glance at the old man who was trying hard to ignore the drum. “Was named after my grandpa.” 

“Strong name.” The old man said as he nodded his head. “Just Jude, or is it short for something?  Morris is my name, but you can call me Mo. Wife calls me Mo-ron half the time.” 

Jude smiled trying not to laugh, as several more drum beats could be heard, this time only closer and much louder. 

“Judah,” he replied, still looking straight ahead. 

“Is that right?” Mo said with interest. “Judah like the man who got eaten by the whale, or like the brother of Jesus?” 

“Jonah was eaten by the whale.” 

“That’s right, Jonah.” Snorted Mo slapping his leg. “Lucky us then, got the brother of Jesus right here with me. Wait till I tell my wife.” 

“Well, not exactly,” began Jude, “but if it makes you feel better.” 

“I feel like dancing with the daisies now, son,” laughed the old man, choking on the butt of his cigar. “Nah, my feet are still frozen. I’d probably just fall straight down that gully over there.” 

The drums were now closer and beating at a faster pace as the two sentries shifted in the foliage beneath the trees. 

“I could have sworn I felt something when I brushed by you earlier.” 

“Mo, I am not the brother of Jesus,” Jude said trying to stay calm, but the drums were getting louder and now dim torch lights could be seen moving through the trees across the ravine. 

“I knew I should have gone to church more,” whispered the gruff voice of Mo, as he attached a bayonet to the barrel of his rifle. “Now that I look back on it, I should of done a lot of things. Say a prayer for us, huh?” 

They couldn’t see anyone yet, but the bridge was beginning to shake as Jude finished attaching his own bayonet. He glanced in the direction of Mo one more time before lowering his head.