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The Visitor--an inspirational short story series

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For The Strength of Youth

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The Visitor--an inspirational short story series
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The Visitor--an inspirational short story series
    Ch. 44 The Wisdom of the Wise
 
Submitted by Steven ODell on 12 January 2009 - 5:27pm.

First Watch
Steven G. O'Dell © 2008

“Well, as I look back on it now, I know that I owe him my life. I never met him then and I still haven't to this day—and yet I would be dead without him. That takes some explaining.

“I was a new private during the Great War, what you would call World War One. At that time, there hadn't been a second war of that magnitude, so we didn't call it that. We just hoped there would never be such a war again. Anyway, I was on watch for my first time. It was important work. If you didn't pay attention, or if you fell asleep, the enemy could have the advantage and completely overtake your camp by surprise. It was so important to stay alert that to fail was punishable by death.

“So, there I was, my first night on the watch. I have to admit that I hadn't slept well in several nights, what with the fighting of the previous days. And I was to get less sleep this night, due to my assignment.

“The first few hours weren't too bad. I was fully awake and alert during that time. But as the monotony wore on, I decided that it wouldn't hurt to stop patrolling a bit and just stand still now and then. I would still listen for any noise that might come my way. Well, you know what they say about the best laid plans of mice and men. Things didn't end up the way I planned.

“Before I knew it, I was closing my eyes now and then. After that, I was finding it hard to keep them open. And of course it became sitting down to keep from falling down. Soon I was asleep altogether. Sitting there as pretty as you please, possibly snoring. What an invitation for the Germans I must have been.

“I don't know what time it was, but all of a sudden I came awake with a real start. I mean wide awake. I listened real hard, but all I could hear was the beating of my own heart. Believe me, it was pounding. But what had woke me up? Well, sir, it was a voice in my ear, just as plain as you hear me right now. Maybe plainer. Needless to say, I stood up quick and started to patrol again—and this time I meant it. It wasn't too long before I thought I saw some movement on a ridge not far from the camp. Dark as it was, there was enough back light to catch some motion, so I ran back real quick and reported what I had seen. We were ready for the Germans when they came. They had hoped to take us by surprise, but they failed.

“What really shocked me afterward, though, was the evidence that I hadn't just dreamed it. I went back later to where I had been sitting and there were fresh footprints in the wet dirt there beside me. They weren't Army boots, neither. Right there in the mud where I was. The voice was real, I tell you. I don't know who it was, to this day, but I do know that if he hadn't woke me up, I would have been dead and so would a lot of other men. I owe that man a debt of gratitude, I can tell you. I hope to someday get a chance to thank him, but I'm pretty sure that will never happen, unfortunately. Thank God he came along when he did. He saved a lot of men that night.”

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