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Rolling Hills | Part 1

An Excerpt

By Kale RossPublished 2 months ago 5 min read

Sicily | 1943

Using the dense canopy of Indian Laurels, Peruvian Peppertrees, Weeping figs, and Rubber trees, Rosalie and Garret took a few moments to nurse their injuries, and catch their breath.

The third rocket landed just to the right of where they jumped, causing the softer Earth to avalanche down the hillside. Luckily, the misplaced rocket allowed Rosalie and Garret to ride that avalanche of dirt and grass halfway down the plateau’s hillside to the cover of the small grouping of thirty, and forty foot trees.

The holy site of Rocca di Cerere held up better than expected. Although the three rockets inflicted serious, and irreparable damage to the surface area, only the exterior edges of the cliff side broke free, which prevented Rosalie and Garret from being crushed to death by massive, cascading chunks of stone.

Their tumble, however, did not go unpunished.

Garret was convinced that at least two of his ribs were broken, or at best, fractured. Both of his knees throbbed and pulsated with a new wave of searing pain, and his forehead had a deep, claw-like gash across it from colliding with the protruding branches of a sharp shrub.

Rosalie however, had one dislocated shoulder, a severe sprain in her right ankle, and numerous bloody-encrusted cuts and discolored bruises up and down both of her exposed arms.

Aida, stood guard at the tree line, heaving heavily as she fought to breathe in fresh air through a punctured lung. Garret couldn’t see anything protruding, but her shirt was stained with blood just below her right breast, and it was dripping in long burgundy streaks down the side of her shirt. Her right eye appeared painfully blackened, and her neck had a gnarly, horizontal slice stretching from throat to nape.

Yet, she stood guard. Pistol in hand. Staring down the frantic swarm of buzzing German soldiers on the higher hills.

“They’re…coming,” Aida said, struggling and without turning, “We cannot stay here.”

“Rosalie’s arm is dislocated,” Garret said, taking Rosalie’s numb hand into his, “I need to set it before she can go anywhere.”

Aida slowly turned her head around to look at her daughter, yet kept the full extent of her injuries hidden by the thick shadows emanating from the dense canopy, “Help her. I will hold them off. There’s…a service road at the base of this hill. We will rendezvous there.”

Without allowing either one of them a chance to challenge her orders, Aida stepped out into the daylight and began firing her Beretta at the descending soldiers, using the debris as cover.

“Are you ready?” Garret asked.

“Just do it,” Rosalie grunted.

“Wrap your right elbow around the trunk of that tree. It will help provide the proper amount of resistance.”

Aida was still firing off rounds, but was now receiving return fire from the encroaching Germans. Running out of time, Garret sped up his procedure and tried to comfortably talk Rosalie through it, “This may hurt like hell, but the shoulder is the most commonly dislocated joint. I’ve set a bunch of them during my time at boot camp, and as a kid running around Boston.” Gently raising her dislocated arm with both hands firmly gripped around the elbow and bicep, he began slowly pulling and rotating her arm, “Have I told you about Fenway Park?”

Rosalie’s brain scrambled to answer his oddly timed question when a loud pop echoed in her ear, and the searing, numbing pain spewing from her shoulder was slowly washed away by a cool tingling sensation of realigned nerve endings.

“That wasn’t so bad,” Garret said, as he assisted her in leaning back against the tree trunk, “The dislocation was minor, and you shouldn’t be in much pain and the swelling will stay to a minimum if we can get some ice on it.”

Rosalie carefully tested the limits of the joints in her shoulder. They were tender, and sharp bolts of fire shot up and down her arm when she rolled it forward. But she could move it, and the distraction helped her forget about the sprain in her ankle.

“Thank you, Sergeant-,” she stopped herself, “Garret.”

Pop. Pop. Pop.

Bang. Bang. Bang.

Aida continued to keep the soldiers at bay, but they refused to let up in their assault.

“Those arms look pretty bad,” Garret said, “Use the water in your canteen to clean them. Your mother has to be running low on ammunition. We need to get to that service road.”

Rosalie reached into her backpack, and removed the dented canteen. As she pulled it out, she noticed that the puzzle box given to her by The Monsignor was destroyed - broken into chipped and jagged fragments. She also noticed loose, black shards mixed in within the wooden ones. The Mother Goddess.

She kept the discovery to herself, and flinched as she poured the warm water over the open wounds on both of her arms. She then removed a small bundle of soft fabric from her pack, and gave her best attempt to clean and dry the wounds. Luckily none of the cuts were deep enough to need stitches, so there was no need to stop any excessive bleeding.

“How's your ankle?” Garret asked, “How much weight can you put on it?”

Rosalie stood, using the tree trunk for help, and began testing the strength of her ankle.

Turning away from him, so he wouldn’t be able to see her contorted face, she walked a few good paces, then turned back around, “I can make it.”

“Walk towards the edge of the tree line, but do not break from cover until I return with your mother. No one else is getting left behind,” Garret said as he handed Rosalie his Beretta, “Here. There’s six shots left. If anyone comes through here that’s not your mother or myself, you use what you can.”

“Go get her,” Rosalie said, taking the pistol.

Garret nodded, then hobbled his way towards Aida’s position. Gunshots continued to ring out, but he was hearing Aida’s less and less with every passing second. He feared the worst, and couldn’t bring himself to tell Rosalie about Aida’s punctured lung. Not yet. Not now.

breaking free from the protected canopy, Garret saw Aida slumped over a chunk of smoking stone encrusted with overturned soil and shrub roots. She was bleeding from the left shoulder, and a second blood stain was dripping from her waist. Her skin was pale, but her eyes were focused. He continued to watch her fatally put her remaining rounds into the bodies of the descending German soldiers.

He then heard the click of an empty magazine, and instantly began firing his weapon in the soldiers direction, to keep them bogged down until he had enough time to safely get her out of there.

He finally reached her side, after climbing over smaller patches of debris, and found her nearly unresponsive. A few enemy shots pounded into the stone they were perched behind, forcing Garret to fire all of his remaining rounds.

Knowing it was now or never, Garret slung Aida over his shoulder into a Fireman’s carry, and rushed towards the darkness of the woodland. Bullets peppered the soil around his feet as he forced them forward with every ounce of strength his body had left.

A lucky bullet grazed his left thigh, but it wasn’t enough to stop his momentum. He barreled his way in between the trees and didn’t stop until he saw Rosalie.

She was waiting for them at the opposite end of the woodland, pistol aimed high, prepared to fire on any soldiers who gained too much ground.

“Run!” Garret screamed, as he hurdled past her with her mother draped over his shoulders like a large bag of grain.


About the Creator

Kale Ross

Author | Poet | Dog Dad | Nerd

Find my published poetry, and short story books here!

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