An Endless Array of Broken Men

Endless Novella

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A harrowing account of life on the front edge of a 19th century battlefield hospital…

For Josiah Boyd, hell is twenty-four sleepless hours, every one of them scalpel in hand, standing under a cross in a nameless church atop a dusty hill after a pointless battle. For too many good men, this is where the world ends.

The surgeons in this place work at their unpleasant task with a fever matched only by the fervor of those that have inflicted their wounds. This camp of wounded is filled with men of both sides and these men wait their turn with an eerie patience, as if their fate has already been decided and it is the duty of those present in this time and place to carry it out. As the surgeons part arms and legs from each in turn, the pile of disarticulated flesh grows at a hideous pace, now eight feet, now ten feet high. The men move on and off the tables with nary a word, except for the occasional groan that can’t be suppressed. Indeed, there is little to be said at such times, each participant in the drama knows his place and the universal language of blood speaks for all.

On this sleepless morning, Dr. Josiah Boyd is the embodiment of exhaustion. The blood and sinew that soil his front apron are now a full day old, and he hasn’t had so much as a latrine break in hours. The muck on the altar floor is two parts blood, one part shit from exploded bowels, and one part tobacco juice; Boyd spits frequently. This is a seething hell of broken bodies and rotting flesh.

Except for the ever present hum of flies (they are everywhere, a constant distress), it is mostly quiet; no sounds of battle breaking the dawn stillness, only an occasional random shot. Outside the church-turned-hospital, those who have survived the night await their turn at the surgeon’s table. They are a quieter lot now, having seen the two extremities of their fate in those that have gone before them.

They will live or they will die. It is beyond their making now…

˃˃˃ Won honorable mention in The Seventeenth Edition of the Year’s Best Fantasy and Horror (2003).

This short story was the impetus for my larger work, NOT ONE AMONG THEM WHOLE: a novel of surgeons and the wounded at Gettysburg. It is an intense story, a surgical thriller in every sense of the term, vivid in its depiction of the deep wounds inflicted on the surgeons at a battlefield hospital as they labor endlessly over the wounded in a time before germ theory or antisepsis.

“…resembles THE KILLER ANGELS and COLD MOUNTAIN, and its artistry rivals those great novels…a terrific achievement.” David Poyer, author of A COUNTRY OF OUR OWN and THE SHILOH PROJECT, on NOT ONE AMONG THEM WHOLE.

A short story of about 10,000 words, which is to say an hour or two of awesome reading. Perfect for the commuter: planes, trains, or automobiles.

 

This novella is available right now for Amazon Kindle

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