Jim gazed across the devastated fields of battle as a dismal cloud of smoke curtained the scene. He closed his eyes when a fresh wave of pain came over him, beating at him furiously. He breathed in, hoping that the early morning air would dull this sensation, but instead noticing only the stale, heavy scents of gunpowder and blood.
Opening his eyes again, he attempted to peer through the thick air at the quieting chaos surrounding him. It was still mostly dark out, and the lingering smoke left from the gun- and canon-fire only impaired his vision more in this early morning. Through squinted eyes, Jim could just make out the forms of men lying scattered across the battlefield.
He began walking, stumbling through the bleak landscape as he reflected on what he and all these other men had just been through. Prior to battle, terms such as "Yankee" and "Confederate" were definite, solid concepts. Each side knew what they believed, and each side envisioned portraits of glory and victory in their heads. However, in the midst of the battle itself, these ideas and visions began to seem like vague, distant memories. True, each man had known his side still, but they all realized the true colors of war varied greatly with those of their imaginations.
And now, as Jim continued to stumble along, he saw the line between North and South fade before his eyes. For the moment, all were the same. All lying here were injured; all were broken. The blues and grays of the opposing uniforms blended together as one, only being interrupted by the bright streaks of red that found their way into view. Oh, the painting of war! Such a cruel and foreboding essence in contained within its colors.
Jim paused, closing his eyes again as another sweep of pain rushed over him even stronger than before. He put his hands to his head and fell to his knees. It was then that he realized it; it was then that he remembered. Of the many voices crying out in pain during battle, one of them had belonged to him. He had been wounded...but where? The throbbing pain in his head and the warm, sticky sensation he now felt on his hands answered him back. And he realized that one of the streaks of red that danced melancholically in the dismal picture around him must also be marked on him as well.
Willing himself to fight through the pain, Jim opened his eyes once again and looked up. First, at the bleak painting of war, the blend of blue and gray, and the ironic darkness of the bright red that wove its way in and out among the bodies. It was a dizzying enough sight to make even the strongest of men feel ill, and Jim desperately wanted to close his eyes and forget about it -- forget about all of it, and just sleep.
Yet, something compelled Jim to continue moving his gaze upward. And there, past the dreary landscape of death, he saw something amazing. For the sun had begun to rise, casting its light across the sky and filling the day with the brightness of new hope. Hues of orange, pink, and gold snuck above the horizon, illuminating the day with visions of true beauty from the divine paintbrush. The warmth of the colors in this new painting filled Jim's soul with peace and joy. He couldn't help but smile as he allowed this sensation to flow through him, numbing the pain and darkness that he had just been through. And as he watched the glory of dawn, he thought to himself that he had never seen a more beautiful sunrise in his entire life. With this vision filling his soul, he closed his eyes to rest.
Later in the day, as others came to survey the damage and mourn the casualties, many cold bodies of those who passed away would be found. Among them would be that of a young soldier named Jim, who died not in anguish, but with a peace so warm that it is only achievable through witnessing a scene painted by the Great Artist.
Caitlynn Lowe is a young student who is currently developing her passion for writing. She loves to tell stories, and her favorite genre is fantasy.