Night had fallen long ago. A large creaking sound chimed from the torn remnants of a large clock at the city centre, valiantly attempting to chime as it once had before. The sound of footsteps echoed through the abandoned streets, reinforced by the chink of metal shortly after each step. Not a word had been ushered for the past week of December, as the four of them marched in stout silent synchronization. The smallest of the four shivered, then began humming under his breath. This continued for a few minutes, slowly getting louder and louder.
He sighed and went back to marching in silence. There was a grunt.
The smallest soldier perked up at the sudden defence. The girl in front of him, who couldn’t have been older than twenty, had come to a halt. She was looking at their leader intently. He’d stopped too, but he didn’t turn to look at them.
“The quieter the better,” he argued, “We don’t want anyone finding us.”
He began marching again, the second soldier still following him in silence. The smallest soldier looked at his defender, then back at the other two.
“Don’t you know what day it is, captain?” he queried.
The march fell to a halt once more.
“Does it matter, Spring?” the captain asked, still not turning to face them. Spring cleared his throat.
“It’s Christmas morning, captain…”
The captain finally turned around and stomped towards him.
“I don’t care! We’re not here to sing carols or open presents or even pretend to care about a long dead holiday!” He glared intently at Spring. “So shut it and get back in line.”
They marched on through the ruins of the city for another half hour before it happened. Soft white flakes began to fall. Spring couldn’t help but smile, while the captain began grumbling. The other two remained indifferent.
“Still don’t care.”
“Captain, what do you have against Christmas?” the girl asked.
There was a pause but they kept marching.
“No, really? We’ve hummed before and you never tried to stop us.”
The captain remained silent with the exception of his feet, which stomped louder as he led the march through the snow.
“There are more important things to be thinking about,” the fourth soldier said, “we’re out of food.”
The three of them stopped and looked at him. He was a tall scrawny person and a flicker of blonde hair was visible underneath his helmet.
“Why the hell are we out of food?!” the captain snapped, grabbing him by the shoulder.
“C-captain, we didn’t have much to b…begin with…our last set of rations are missing…”
“Wonderful,” the captain sighed, buried his face in his hands. “It doesn’t matter. There was only enough for three people anyway. We get the job done together, or no-one goes home.”
Despite their objections, they continued marching until they reached the edge of a cliff, where the city had been torn in two by an earthquake. A very fragile-looking bridge was waiting for them, fashioned out of rope. The captain ordered them to stop marching.
“People have been here. This doesn’t look good. We’ll set up camp here and head across tomorrow.”
The other three were silent. As the captain gazed around at them, their glum expressions and negative demeanour were impossible to ignore. He looked across the gap and towards their destination. Someone would have to fix the break in the electrical circuit, and whoever manually fixed the circuit with their own body would most likely die.
Christmas morning came a few hours later, as the bleak daylight rose. Spring shivered as he woke, taking a deep breath and looking around. The captain was gone. The other two soldiers continued to sleep. Spring stood up and took a few steps away from the camp, towards the cliff edge. The bridge was missing. Panicking, he turned to face the camp, only to spot something irregular on the ground, accompanied by some kind of message carved out of the settled snow. There were three sets of rations. Still confused, Spring looked back across the canyon then down at the message.