Every muscle in my body tenses as a hail of bullets pelts down on me like a deadly rainstorm. The small piece of cover protects my trembling body, but only just. If I move even so much as an inch, I will die. If I stay here for even so much as a minute, I will die. The inevitability of the end washes through me with the force of a tsunami and warm tears spring to my eyes, causing the hellish visions before me to haze slightly.
Except for the single white feather that glides elegantly down through the battle and bloodshed.
The sight of such a pure, delicate thing transfixes me, instantly wiping the grim thoughts from my mind. As if the whole beach was suddenly doused in treacle, the world around me slows. Sound fades away. The watery morning light dims. A bizarre sense of calm blossoms in my chest. How? How could anyone find solace in a place as terrible as this?
Distantly, as if it happens in a separate universe, I register the dull thud of a body collapsing to the sand by my feet. I tear my eyes reluctantly away from the feather, still winding its way slowly down through the curtains of bullets, and look down.
The man flails helplessly on the ground; a crimson puddle rapidly forms around his head from the gaping hole in his throat. One of his blood-soaked hands feebly reaches out for me, but too late. He draws in one final, gurgling breath and goes limp.
I look back to the feather and the tranquillity it granted me turns sour. It isn’t a good omen, it never was. Just the mark of a coward: the mark of a man who sits crying behind meager scraps of cover while his comrades die nobly around him. The sourness turns to determination.
That will not be me.
The feather lands. I rise to my feet.