A Past Life

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: War and Military  |  House: Booksie Classic

Do you ever get the feeling of Deja Vu?

Submitted: February 17, 2018

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Submitted: February 17, 2018



The sea was extraordinarily tranquil this particular morning. Light waved gently brushed the bow of the boat as it steadily cruised along, bobbing softly as the engine popped away at the rear. The sky above was clear blue as far as the eye could see, only broken by the swirl of seagulls that sored silently and gracefully overhead. The sun was high and bright, its warmth caressing George’s face as he craned his neck upwards, eyes closed, soaking up the peace, a slight smile broadening his cheeks.
Besides him, his buddy suddenly vomited upon the deck, before wiping his mouth on his sleeve and washing away the remnants with a drink from his water bottle.
“Sea sickness” George thought to himself. “The poor chap has never been on a boat before” and he patted him stoutly on the shoulder, a pat which was greeted by a backwards glance and an approving nod.
George went back to soaking up the weather. Feeling the heat of the day warming his face. From behind him he heard another of his friends vomit, followed by embarrassed profanities and then apologies.
In this happy place that George was now day dreaming about, he was thinking about his fiancé Deborah. The night he had first laid his eyes upon her, the way her eyes transfixed on his. Her eyes drove themselves deep into his soul and grabbed it in a vice-like grip, he knew he had to talk to her. He had excused himself from his collection of friends and made his way across the dance floor and presented her with his hand.
 “May I have this dance?” he had asked her, immediately regretting the cheesiness of the line. Luckily she had found it amusing enough to place her hand within his and allowed herself to be lead onto the centre of the circular room. Keeping hold of her hand and placing his hand on her waist, he lead her in a dance to “Pack Up Your Troubles” by Murray Johnson.
 “So, by what name shall I call you, my dancing stranger?” The girl enquired to George with a flutter of eyelashes. George was captivated by her! Her eyes were so big and bright, with the most amazingly deep, cool colour blue he had ever seen. Her smile, adorned with red lipstick, lit up her entire face. Her hair was black, with loose rivulets of curls flowing elegantly over her slim shoulders. She wore a long red dress that hugged her petit figure as if it had been poured over her.
 “Erm, George. My name is George” he blurted out, which made her giggle, never once removing her eyes from his stare.
 “Pleasure, George.” She nodded, “My name is Deborah” and she grabbed Georges hand which was placed upon her hip and swung herself away, going with the flow of a faster song which had now began. She was moving her feet and swinging her hips, and George was mesmerized. She was pure poetry in motion and arguably the most beautiful girl in the room. He glanced back at his friends who all smiled and raised their glasses to him. George smiled back and started dancing himself.
 They danced all night, leaving at the close of the hall, sweaty and slightly dishevelled, but laughing. They went for a short walk along the promenade before George walked Deborah home, his jacket draped across her bare shoulders against the breeze. The entire time together they spent talking. Telling each other the intricate parts of their lives; Family, their employment (George was a postman and Deborah worked in a factory making shoes), aspirations for the future…
 George’s concentration was broken by a face full of sea spray as the boat hit a large wave. The sea was becoming a little rougher now, and he heard another two people bring up their breakfasts. The excited chatter of earlier had died down a little.
 “Sea sickness must be getting to everyone right now” Thought George, as he tried to take himself back into his memories.
 He and Deborah were laid on a grassy field upon a picnic blanket. They were staring up at the clouds, playing a game to find a cloud that was shaped to look like something else. But George wasn’t looking at the clouds, his head was turned to look at Deborah. His beautiful Deborah. Laid in her knee length, red, floral dress. He long hair fanned out upon the blanket above her head. They had spent every possible moment together for four months and were completely inseparable. George was in love with Deborah and Deborah was in love with George.
George had heard about this type of love, a never ending feeling of the need to be with another person, the heart stopping agony that clawed and tore at your chest when you were apart. It had been 6 months by this point and George and Deborah could no longer imagine their existence without each-others company. This was meant to be. George had found his soul mate. The one person who had been placed upon this earth who was specifically designed for him. They listened to the same music, read the same literature, enjoyed the same shows at the local theatre. They enjoyed the same foods and both loved the outdoors. It felt completely right. So right in fact that today would be the day that George would ask Deborah if she would make him the happiest man ever and vow to spend the rest of their lives together. Of course, she said yes.
 “Not long now gentlemen” came a call from the bow of the boat, again, dragging George back to reality. George still remained halfway between his day dreams and the here-and-now. The nervous and excited chatter had returned to his fellow passengers. The men around him were shuffling around, collecting their things, George again closed his eyes and slipped away.
 “…and I promise to hold you, love you, cherish you and honour you for the rest of my life, until I take my last breath, and that last breath shall belong to your name.” George finished reciting his vows. The Vicar finished the ceremony and George and Deborah headed out of the church as man and wife. Their family and friends sending up a cascade of confetti and rice into the air as they made their way along the church path towards the awaiting wedding car. Within the car, Deborah kissed George, allowing her hand to slowly stroke his cheek afterwards,
 “I love you George Matthews.” She spoke softly, her face beaming.
 “I love you Deborah Matthews” He replied, kissing her forehead as the car pulled away.
 “Prepare yourselves for landing!” came another bellow from the front of the boat.
All the talk had ended now. The atmosphere within the vessel had thickened. George could hear every man’s heavy breath, smell the smell of fear on their breath. Next to him, shaking uncontrollably, a man had wet himself.
 “Ready!” came another call from the front of the boat.
 “I love you” said Deborah.
 “Ready!...” came another call.
 “I love you…”
The front ramp of the Higgins boat dropped open and the craft was smashed with an ungodly hail of machinegun fire. Men all around George were suddenly ripped apart before his eyes, standing bodies convulsing under the impacts. George dropped his head, crouched down, hand on his helmet and let out a terrified scream.
“Move! Fucking move forward!” came a bellow from the Sergeant leading the boat.
“Keep moving forward soldiers! Keep moving forward or you will die! Keep moving forward and remember your training and you will come back alive!”
The remaining soldiers, which now numbered half of those who initially boarded, piled forward out of the vessel. George stepped over the dead bodies of his comrades and exited the boat. He quickly scanned up and down the beach and could see 50, maybe 60 other boats suffering the same, if not worse fates as they had just done. Within seconds George had seen two of his best friends almost tore in half from machine guns, now he was running up the beach, his Enfield rifle gripped in his right hand, his left hand clinging onto his helmet.
All around him, men were being stripped of their lives, the sheer ferocity of the German gun fire was deafening. Men were screaming, clutching bullet wounds, clogging gushing wounds, medics frantically ran up and down the beach, trying their hardest to stop the inevitable. Bullets were whistling past Georges ears, causing him to flinch. The man in front of him was shot in the head, showering George with blood and skull and brain. Still, along with everybody else, he continued moving forward.
They were halfway up the beach, defensive cover was 50 meters away, when suddenly a torrent of mortar explosions shook the very earth. Men were flung through the air, blood curdling screams were heard, limbs were scattered. George could suddenly see many bodies missing legs and arms, many men still alive who were reaching for feet that no were longer at the end of their legs. These men tended to be quiet, shock overcoming the pain. The looks of unbridled terror etched upon their faces scorched themselves into George’s mind’s eye and he feared he would never forget those looks for as long as he lived.
The German gun fire continued, never ending, never slowing down as George and the rest of the men reached the comparative safety of the slight cover provided by the barbed wire enforced  sand banks.
“What the fuck do we do now?” yelled another soldier to George.
“I have no idea!” screamed George back.
“Let’s just kill these bastards!” the soldier yelled back. He cocked a bullet into his rifle, stood and opened fire, cocked a fresh bullet into the chamber and fired again. Two German soldiers fell.
George pulled a bullet into his own chamber and followed suit, felling 3 soldiers with 5 bullets before dropping back behind cover.
“Keep moving forward!” came the call again from his distant Sergeant. George reloaded his rifle, got to his feet and set off running. All around him were sounds of gunshot, mortar explosions, men screaming, grenades going off. Sand was being thrown all over, going in Georges eyes and his mouth. It tastes of blood. The smell of blood and spent gun powder lingered in the air. George had never felt fear like it, it was almost immobilising. But the adrenalin hit was huge, and that was what kept him going. He took shelter behind a corrugated sheet metal and unloaded the 5 bullets in the clip, killing four Germans, before reloading and setting off running again.
A German soldier had him in his sights and fired off his rifle, it smashes into George’s thigh and causes him to drop to his knee. George looks up just as the German soldier takes aim again and fires…

The teacher is in full swing, telling his students about the unspeakable horrors of the Normandy beach landings, as the walk up the very beach on their school trip to France. During this portion of the walking tour, one of the students comes over all dizzy and begins to feel very ill before collapsing. He comes round seconds later surrounded by his fellow students and a very concerned looking teacher.
“George, are you ok?” He asked, concern written all over his face.
“I don’t know, Sir” George replied, before turning over and vomiting on the sand. Coughing up the final remnants of his breakfast, and wiping beads of sweat from his brow, he continues…
“I just get a really strong feeling that I’ve been here before…”

© Copyright 2019 Craig Arnold. All rights reserved.

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