Why us? Why me?
Bang, Crash. A cry of pain. My eyes flicker open to the sight of a private being carried back, away from the front line. The constant mortar bombardment sends shrapnel and mud flying through the hot, dry air. Looking around me I see helpless, unknown soldiers everywhere; their open wounds oozing yellow pus and blood all over the wet, muddy ground of the trench. My brain tries to make sense of it all, where am I? What am I doing here? Then I remember.
France, on the river Somme. Such a beautiful part of Europe ruined by the plague of war. Holes have been dug to protect those who endanger the lives of others; trench warfare; the art of the devil.
We have been here for six cold, dangerous, hellish months sitting in this god forsaken trench surrounded by rotting corpses of men who once were full of life. Looking across to the other side of the trench, a few centimetres away from my outstretched feet lays a young boy of fifteen. His blonde hair matted by the dried blood that had exited from the hole in his forehead a few days ago. His deep blue eyes are vacant. Dead.
I clamber to my feet, pick up my trusty rifle and make my way to the front line, making sure to keep my head low. I think back to the fallen angel corpse and how he must have been inquisitive. The vision of him, peering over the top of the trench at the barren wasteland that lies beyond, enters my mind. I don’t want to make the same mistake that he did.
Arriving at the front line is like dying and going to hell. It starts with the pain of seeing your friends fall, blood gushing out of their wounds like water out of a hole in a bucket and dripping to the floor. Then you are delivered to hell, surrounded by corpses still, but these have fresh, open wounds. The maggots have not yet got to them, let alone death. It’s 7:15, July 1st 1916, almost time to go. I’ve been over the top before and survived, god won’t grant me yet another chance, I know this.
My brother! He’s been with me all this time and I’ve been too scared to talk to him. Too wrapped up in my own thoughts to even pay attention to him. I turn and see him, time freezes. An expression of excruciating pain stretched across his ever reddening face; he looks at me, his dark, green eyes drilling into mine, asking a question; it’s on his lips as well, the question that needs answering… Why us? Why me?
I catch him and he falls, slumping into my arms. His eyes still have life in them, there’s still hope! But then I realise there’s not. He tries to speak but his words are slurred, I tell him that everything will be okay and my words seem to soothe him. His eyes snap shut. He looks like a sleeping angel. I kneel there for a moment, with my brother in my arms, there’s a crowd gathering around us, tending to his wounds, but I know there’s not chance. I know he’s gone. I remember back to before the war. Our country home on our farm, him and me playing in the fields and looking after the horses, pigs and sheep. Then my mind flickers back to reality, I’m alone now. No one but me. My brother’s gone. I can still see him, being carried back to the bottom of the hill by the medic, away from the violence.
Checking my watch I realise the time is now 7:30. The whistle blows. I clamber up the ladder in front of me and walk to the barbed wire. I look down and see the ground beneath me. Dead bodies, mud and water. My boots squelch as I begin to run. Bodies fall all around me but still I soldier on. I want revenge! I run, run and run. Faster and faster. Then I feel a bite. Pain. I slow to a walk. Another bite, this one on my arm. I stumble. I fall. I roll over on to my back and see my family all around me… Then my eyes close and the world plunges into deathly blackness.
© Copyright 2016 J Taylor. All rights reserved.
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