They had us shoot at silhouette targets during basic training, paper facsimiles that stood stationary while our rifle muzzles spat fire and sent round after round of lead through them. We became proficient at turning paper into pulp. They said the silhouette shape would condition our minds for combat, the theory being that it would make us less hesitant to pull the trigger in life or death situations--our lives, their deaths.
But as we are pinned down in these trenches, bullets ripping into sandbags and spewing debris, the circumstances are not so ideal. Even when our lives are in danger, there are those among us who fail to shoot back. Some pray. Some cower under the enemy's barrage. Some do nothing at all. For the ones that do return fire, our actions lack the discipline and certainty we had in basic training. Our trigger pulls are unsteady and our breathing is uncontrolled. In the chaos of battle, our conditioning wavers and no matter how many times we wipe the perspiration from our eyes, the images at the end of our rifle sights remain unchanged.
Here, the silhouettes move. Here, they shoot back. And when the firefight is over, sometimes we can hear them scream.
Born and raised in Queens, New York, Matt Mok currently resides in Hampton, NH, where trees and fresh air still scare him. His stories have been published in a variety of publications. Matt resolves to one day dream up a brilliant idea which he will turn into a completed novel.