It wasn’t the rattle of gunfire which caught my attention, but rather the prolonged screaming which followed.
I am well familiar with the sounds of battle, the cries of the wounded, and the painful shrieking of the dying.
This was something different. Something worse.
I put my spurs into the horse’s sides and sent him off like a bolt down the trail, branches whipping me as the horse hurtled fallen trees and men. As we broke through into a small clearing, I saw the source of the screams.
A young sergeant was on his stomach, the side of his face pressed against the earth and a crazed look in his eyes. His entire body was straining, as though he was trying to push himself away from the ground, yet he appeared unable to gain any purchase. The young man’s shrieks caused my horse, hardly a skittish animal, to shy away.
Leaping down from my saddle, I ran to the sergeant to see where he was injured, and it was only then that he realized I was there. His eyes widened, focused on me, and in a hoarse voice, he shrieked, “It won’t let go!”
It was then that I saw his arms were in a hole in the ground, and no matter how hard he pulled pack, he could not free himself.
I drew one of my Colt’s, aimed it into the hole, and emptied all six cylinders, yet still, the young man was stuck. Furious, I drew the second, fired it until she was dry, and then cast the weapon aside.
I unsheathed my Bowie knife, and the sergeant looked at me in understanding. He gave a single nod and closed his eyes.
It took me less than a minute to cut through both his elbows, a minute more to tie off the wounds. Beneath me, the ground rumbled as the unseen beast scurried off with its meal. I reloaded my weapons, cleaned my knife, and set the unconscious soldier on the back of my horse.
The sergeant’s name was Alvin Youst of New York, and he sobbed when he awoke.
Not from pain. Not from sadness, but with the sheer joy of being alive.