Ypres: An Introspection

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: War and Military  |  House: Booksie Classic
A story of a soldier during the Battle of Ypres, contemplates his fate, and the fate of the others he commands.

Submitted: April 04, 2012

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Submitted: April 04, 2012



The cold singe of morning air rushed my nostrils like my team rushed the last trenches. With a painful flare, my nostrils signaled my awakening. It was early morning when I woke up. The sun’s thick morning rays moved and diffracted in the damp morning mist. I checked my surroundings, only to notice the same tent I slept in last night. With a large huff, I lifted my bulky figure from the comfort of my cot, and sat bedside. “Morning’s”, I said with a smirk. “I don’t want to wake up, maybe just a few more minutes” My eyes closed tightly as I fell back to my personal heaven. Thoughts of home, friends and family danced within my head, as I listened to the chirping of the white bodied Belgian birds seen so frequently. Mid-thought, two of my men suddenly jerked me from my bed, pulling us all to the ground. Unknowingly to me, a small mortar struck just outside our tent. “What the hell just happened?” I asked frantically. “Glad you have ears private. ‘Cause I could’ve sworn that mortar was loud enough to have been heard a mile away. It’s not every day you hear a high pitched squeal like that”, Said my commanding officer with a look of disappointment on his face. Slowly the rest of camp began awakening, and like earlier, took in the first deep breaths of the cool Belgian air.

“God sure did bring us a favour today, I mean, giving us an absolutely beautiful morning like this, eh?” said a private in the Bravo squad, as we packed the trains for departure. He was right. Even though the destruction ensued from constant warfare and the dead bodies that litter the ground begin to decay and suffocate it, the Earth still offered its infinite beauty to us. We witness the endless realm of skies and the deeper wonders of the sea, things that normally only our allies of the waters and skies played in. But Mother Nature has thrown our division several curve balls, dumping upon us what seems to be the North Sea, and seemingly swallowing our soldiers into the crust of the earth. No matter who we were, we felt her effects.

Luckily we seized a railway station, and were now able to move soldiers to and from the battlefield with relative ease. We began boarding the first of the three trains headed towards Ypres, a place known by the Americans and British as “Hell”. I sat quietly and began resting my head. I pulled out a small book from within my jacket. “Fearful Symmetry by Northrop Frye, glad I got something to read”. As I began to peruse the book, I looked around the train car. I noticed something peculiar. The faces of my men varied from each person. Why was it that some fear death, and some embrace it? So willing to throw their lives away, and for what? “The mind is a place … and it itself…” I muttered, trying to remember the verse to something I read long ago. “Those British soldiers called this place Hell”, I said to my squad. Through the thickness of chatter, I began to contemplate the meaning of life, of morals and their understanding. Are we no better than they?  I began wrestling with my newly formed ideas, and allowed them breathing room. For instance, what is the definition of Good and Evil? “These krauts put up a real bloodshed this time. Heard they killed all the Americans and Brits that went there. I wonder what makes a smart bunch like them evil anyways”, said a soldier sitting near the door of the train. What does he know? He knows what people tell him. There is no evil, but thinking about what our politicians tell us, what the news tells us, and apparently what the Brits tell us, is what makes them evil. I peered out the cracked door of the train car, only to notice the once lush grass and blue sky starting to decay. That blue sky now a dim shade of grey and the grass, dead among the dead.

We arrived at the battlefield, earlier than expected. As we approached our drop zone, we saw allied forces waiting for our train, so that our men could be directed where needed. It was raining. It wasn’t just a dribble, or a mist. It was a tsunami from above. As I began to exit the car, I was pulled by several soldiers who began issuing commands on the fly. “The sky” I muttered to myself. Amongst the constant pushing and shoving, I glanced up to notice the sky. The sky was now a grey canvas painted with the bloodiest paints. Fire, burning brightly, rippled from the sky towards the ground, shattering bones and breaking spirits. As our squad gained ground, the more gunfire we took. Bullets razed skin and tore into suits. They also kept us alive. The bullets were the constant reminder that we were alive, and that they still wanted us dead. Suddenly, the barrage of bullets ceased. We sat for a moment, veering our eyes towards the highlands, searching and scanning for German soldiers along the cliffs. A pungent smell aroused my senses, and from out of nowhere, a yellow mist began enveloping us. Suddenly, my world went dark.

As quickly as it came, the darkness left. Sound rushed my ears, ringing harsh bells and high squeals. My eyes returned to work, slowly gaining focus and adjusting contrast. I checked my surroundings to find my men scattered throughout the trenches scavenging what little they found on the dead. I rose slowly feeling sharp pains course throughout my legs and arms, knowing that the enemy still remained. I caught the sling of my rifle and pulled it close to my chest, cleaning it and checking the ammo clip.

I ran up to several of my men, and spoke. “We have one shot at this. We cannot fail, for your children, and your wives. Do it for your neighbours and your parents; for your friends and your loved ones. Once we jump this trench, we hold the line for reinforcements. We’ll rest when we’re dead.”

With a rallying cry, we jumped the trench, rushing the enemy lines back further and further. The air was ripe with gun powder and thick with smoke and dust.

We pushed on.

We lost many men at this point, far too many to recount. I could no longer hear the firing of my gun, but could only feel its jerk against my shoulder. We held a secure position in front of the Germans, but were slowly running low on ammo.

“Those reinforcements aren’t coming, are they?” a Private asked. Within seconds, he was shot and killed. I could feel it near, a chill in my bones that told me that it was nearly over.

I looked to the sky in hopes of help from above, scanning the clouds down to the trees. There I saw birds, flying freely, singing and whispering songs to each other. Slowly, the sounds of the world became silent. A sharp whistle, followed by absolute silence and my body fell, as metallic shards tore at my skin. My legs were torn off in a torrential release of energy, as a mortar struck to my left. I dropped onto the ground; my head slumped back into the cool mud, as my eyes slowly shut.

My mind, almost through courtesy, released DMA into my blood. It knew my time was up. It sat me down at a table, put its hand on my shoulder and told me it’ll be alright. It knew I was in pain, that I lay there in mud without my family, without my wife, my love. It knew the world around me was a harsh and horrendous beast, and that I fought for the liberation of its innocent prisoners. It felt bad for me, and gave me its final gift; rest. My eyes shut tightly as tears streaked my blackened cheeks, and with a sharp gasp, my mind and body shut the world out.


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