A short scene written in play script style.
|The Price of a Mile|
(The scene opens at the top of a hill recently taken in battle. Blood has soaked into the ground and the dead and wounded are being carted away. Commissar Keld stands at the top of the hill surveying the scenes below while Major Stahl approaches from behind)
Commissar Keld: Quite the sight, isn’t it, Major?
Major Stahl (steps up next to him): It is, Commissar. And what a sight. How many did we loose taking this forsaken hill?
Commissar Keld: Full body count hasn’t come in yet. But, I think I can take a guess…
Major Stahl (sighs): Too many. Far too many.
(They turn from the edge of the hill and walk toward the center where a small outpost was erected by the opposing force)
Major Stahl: How many more, Commissar? How many more?
Commissar Keld: How many more what, Major?
Major Stahl (angrily): How many more of these fucking hills? How many more men will I have to loose to these pointless meat-grinders? Not to mention the men you execute.
Commissar Keld (eyes narrowing): Major, I do what my duty demands of me. If I have to execute the bad seeds to ensure the morale and efficiency of these men, then so be it!
Major Stahl (calming): I know, I know. This all just seems pointless. And that makes it frustrating. Are these hills really worth the loss of life? What about the miles trekked to get here? We spent days taking this hill and lost who knows how many men and command won’t even have the decency to give us a break.
Commissar Keld: We are moving on to the next hill, then?
Major Stahl: Yes, Commissar. We are. I haven’t told any of the men yet.
Commissar Keld: Letting them have a small reprieve, I take it?
Major Stahl: These men have more than fucking earned it.
Commissar Keld (removing his hat and nodding): I agree, Major. They’re good men.
(They turn from the outpost and begin walking about the summit of the hill)
Commissar Keld (muttering): How do you measure the price…?
Major Stahl: What was that, Commissar?
Commissar Keld: What? Oh, nothing important. I was just thinking of a question my mentor once asked me.
Major Stahl: What was the question?
Commissar Keld: “How do you measure the price of a mile in our work?” I finally get what the answer is. The answer is lives, Major. The lives and the blood of the men and women under our command is the price of each mile walked and each objective taken.
Major Stahl: But is it a price worth paying, Commissar?
Commissar Keld: Think about what we’re fighting for. Liberation of this world. I would say the price is certainly worth paying. And these men and women are eager to pay it.
Major Stahl (sighing): You do have a point. Before I became an officer, I was more than willing to lay my life down. But, now that I have a command of my own, it’s different. There is one thing I’ve always wondered, though.
Commissar Keld: Well, don’t keep me in suspense, Major.
Major Stahl: How exactly do you manage to keep the men in line with so few executions?
Commissar Keld (nodding with a smirk): That goes back to something my mentor said, as well. “Throw your men into positions once there is no escape and they WILL prefer death to flight.” If presented with a completely hopeless position with no real way to run, they will gladly die.
Major Stahl: Potential death becomes their escape… You Commissars never cease to amaze.
Commissar Keld: Well, Major, I think you’ve put off telling your men the news long enough.
Major Stahl (grimly): You’re right, Commissar. We’ll loose hundreds, possibly thousands, but damn it we WILL take that next hill.
Commissar Keld (laughing lightly and clapping him on the back): That’s the spirit, Major! These rebels will fear the sound of thousands of feet marching toward them.
Major Stahl (nodding): I may need your help to keep their spirits up, Commissar. I never was brilliant with speeches.
Commissar Keld: Part of my position demands me to be able to orate with some skill. I am here to assist, after all.
(The two men walk toward the path winding down the hill. In the distance, the sound of heavy guns are heard as the scene fades to black)