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The Dead Line-1st revision w/part 3.

' Wuld that I was an artist & had the material to paint this camp & all its horors or the tounge of some eloquent Statesman and had the privleage of expresing my mind to our hon. rulers at Washington, I should gloery to describe this hell on earth where it takes 7 of its ocupiants to make a shadow.'

July 9, 1864, Sgt. David Kennedy of the 9th Ohio Cavalry

“How long is he gonna sit there?” Sergeant Hill pointed at the Indian hanging naked on the Deadline fence.

“Who knows? ‘Till he starves or they shoot him, I guess.” Sgt. Key finished tying the rope that served as his belt. “We’d better hurry up. Crowd’s gettin’ restless.”

The two slogged their way from the latrine area toward North gate. It was another humid morning and the gnats were eager to begin their daily torture. Hill and Key wrapped their filthy bandanas around their faces.

By the time they got to the gate area, there was already an agitated mob. The two men hung by the outskirts and watched.

“How many dead you count, boss?” asked Hill.

Key shook his head. “I’ve stopped countin’ buddy.” He fought back a little laugh.

"Twenty years older than me, and he still calls me boss," Key thought.

A low rumble began to sweep through the crowd. Several large men, much bigger and better fed than everyone else began to shove through the crowd.

“Raiders are already out for blood,” noted Key. “We’d better get in there.”

The two men began to make their way through the mass of stinking men. They cut a path diagonally across, pausing several times to duck out of view of the Raiders.

They were half way to the gates when the timbers of the wall creaked and the sound of gunshots rang out. The crowd grew visibly more excited. They pressed toward the gate.

“We’re not gonna make it in time!” yelled Hill.

“We’ll make it!” replied Key. He slipped through a small pocket of men and eased up behind one of the Raiders.

The gates, massive and rough hewn, swung open. A small group of men, maybe fifty, huddled inside the holding area. Confederate guards lined the outer walls with rifles, yelling at the men to proceed.

“Get in there!” shouted a Lieutenant, firing his pistol close to the men. They moved forward and were immediately swallowed by the filthy mob.

Information passed through the men in screaming short hand. “Rhode Island! Got one from Rhode Island!” “ANYONE from New York? ANYONE from New York?”

The Raider in front of Key grabbed one of the new arrivals. He ripped the buttons off the front of his jacket. The man struggled back, and was dealt a viscous kick to his kneecap.

“Please, I’m an officer!” he begged.

“Not in here, you ain’t,” smiled the Raider.

He was about to kick again, when Key wrestled him from behind. He shoved him to the side, and the man fell on his face in the red mud and shit.

“Move!” yelled Key, as he scooped the fallen officer up. He helped the staggering man make his way through the crowd. Behind him, he heard the Raider calling after them.

“You’ll get yours, Key! Just a matter of time!”

Key and the officer shoved their way through to a spot along the Deadline. Hill and another man joined them. Hill looked at Key for a moment, then shook his head.

“You’re gonna get yourself killed,” he muttered.

The officer looked around with wild eyes. “Is this Hell?” he wondered.

“Close enough. Welcome to Fort Sumter.” Key extended his hand. “I’m Sergeant John Key. This is Sergeant Francis Hill. We’re here to show you the lay of the land.”

The man standing next to Hill raised his head. Circles of exhaustion under his eyes, he raised his hands toward the men. “What do you want?”

Hill reached into his pocket and handed the man a chunk of hard biscuit. “We want the same as any man here... to get the hell out. This way.”

He began walking up the hill. "Toward the Indian," Key thought.

“You can get a pretty good idea of what’s going on from up here,” called Hill. “Don’t fall behind.”

“Or what?” snapped the exhausted infantryman. “We’ve been marching for three days straight.”

“So what’s another five minutes?” said Key. “Trust me, greenhorn, it’ll be worth it.” He took a few big strides toward Hill.

At the top of the hill, they stood with their backs to the dead line fence. They rested for a while.

“So, kid. Where ya' from, huh?” asked Hill.

“I’m a New Yorker. Sir.”

Hill pointed off to an encampment along the eastern side of the fence. “New Yorkers are over there. I’m sure you’ll find somebody over there who’ll help get you settled.”

The kid shifted his weight. “I thought that’s what you were doing.”

Key shrugged. “We’re just here to help you get where you need to go. Tell the truth, it’s him we want to talk to.” He nodded over toward the Captain, who had sunk down and put his head in his hands.

The kid stared out at the camp. He took it all in. In just a few glances, he could see how dire the conditions at the camp were. No tents. Just some lean-tos. Wall all the way around. Through the middle of the camp ran a swampy, brown colored stream. From a distance, it looked like a cotton head snake winding its way through the prison. Its poison was visible also. He could see the men shitting and pissing into it on all banks. Hundreds of them. His gaze swept from the head of the snake, past its swollen middle, and down to the end. Rather than a taper, it ended in a burst.

“There’s no drainage. How many have died?”

“Pretty much all of us who have been here for a while. If nobody comes for us soon, we’re all going to die.” Key paused. “Now look here, I’ve already decided I don’t want that. I’m looking for a way out.”

The kid's face quickly crept up the dead line fence. Hill caught his gaze, then shook his head. “That’s the dead line, son. You don’t want to climb that fence. It’s the coward’s way to go. On the other side of that fence is another one. One lined with snipers. Nobody's gettin' out that way. My father survived his war, and yours survived his. We can make it out of this.” He pointed over at Key. “I trust this guy. I think he can show us the way out of here.”

“Who do I gotta look out for? In the camp?"

"Those guys you saw. The Raiders," replied Key.

“Well, as near as we can tell, they’re mostly pirates,” stated Hill. “They’re mercenaries that were fighting for the North is the most recent story floatin’ around camp. God knows where they were from, but now that they’re together...”

“They have weapons,” Key picked up when Hill trailed off. “They’re just men with weapons. They’re not as tough as everyone thinks they are. Now that guy...”

Key’s hand pointed the length of the dead line fence. Yards away, the body of the Indian hung. Sticks ran through his flesh, and he stared ahead in a fixed intensity. Twine ran about the sticks and were lashed to the fence. His feet dangled two feet from the ground.

“...that’s a tough guy.” Key shook his head in admiration.

The kid recoiled. “What sort of monsters would do this?”

Key and Hill shuffled a bit. Finally, Hill spoke up. “Um, that’d be us. We did it.”

The kid jumped out of his skin and began to back away from the fence. “I’m going to find out if anyone from my regiment’s here. I’ll see you later.”

Hill yelled after him as he began to pick up his pace toward the New York camp.

“He was askin’ for it!”

“Dammit, Hill, the object of this is to get some people on our side!” Key muttered.

“I’m just havin’ some fun. What, do you think that he’s not gonna find out what we done from someone else? He's a young 'un. He'll be fine. We're
gettin' out of here.”

Key laughed. “You’re not helping, you know. This is serious.”

Hill tapped him on the shoulder.”

“Made you laugh, didn’t it?”

Hill walked over to the Captain and knocked him soundly him on the head. “You gettin’ all this, sir?”

The captain raised his head and looked up at the two men. He squinted in the bright noon sun. “You killed that Indian, and now you’re gonna do the same to me. Is that about right?”

Key kneeled. “He’s not dead. And he did ask us to do that to him. It’s the way of his people.”

The captain stared over at the man hanging on the fence. “His people?”

Key nodded. “He’s some kind of holy man. He says that it’ll show us the way out.”

The captain put his head back in his hands. “If that’s the way out, I’ll stay a while.”

Heh. He doesn’t know I can hear him. None of them do. They look at my body and all they can see is stinking meat. They don’t see the real me.

My people have had these traditions for longer than your Word. Did you stop to ask us about them?

I’ve currently taken my place outside of this narrative. I see that I am fiction. The One who Reads me may be Fiction as well. I have stepped out of this story to see What May Come for us. I see this future, where you read my words on your Glowing Windows. I have seen the People’s Fate.

I see that I am but a minor character in this story. I will return to save the White Men in this fiction. It will change nothing. I am only a fiction. My name forgotten.

The Indian woke screaming.

Hill, Key, and the Captain jumped back.

You should have seen their faces.

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