The posters told of adventure; Of fighting for the good of nations; Of patriotism; Of duty. They never mentioned the mud, the tears, the blood and the fear. They never mentioned lack of food and sleep as we sheltered in our dugouts and trenches, awaiting the next bombardment, the next order to form up, to charge. Leaving the fragile safety of our subterranean shelters to run heedlessly across No-man's Land, struggling through the clinging mud and tangling wire, we grit our teeth and ignore those who fall to the teeth of the enemies guns, sometimes envying them their rest, their days of torment are over whilst ours show no sign of abating.
Through the mud, sheltering in great shell craters littered with the limbs and other parts of our comrades, ignoring the screams of the wounded, the pleas of the dying, we make our way toward the enemy positions, less than a stone throw away, impossibly distant. Running, stumbling, crawling, we make our torturous way forward. It is impossible to tell one mud covered figure from another; a steady procession of clay figures making their way into the fire to become hardened.
Just when it seems that it is all lost, that we have failed, that the enemy will drive us back, will keep their position safe for a while longer, I topple over the edge of their trench, tumbling down the sandbags into the narrow channel cut through the ground, where now a nightmare of struggling figures, smoke and corpses compete for attention. Without pause, I raise my gun, the clip empty, the bayonet sharp. Thrusting it forward, I feel the soggy impact of steel penetrating flesh, the scream of the victim sounding unnaturally loud in the confine of the trench. Training takes over; the steel is ripped free of the body and thrust again. And again. And yet again. Ceaselessly the sharp point rips and thrusts into the strong, young flesh surrounding me, leaving crumpled piles of meat where it finishes its work.
Along the line, more and more of my mates are taking control of their sections, the enemy are faltering in their defence. Shots up and down the line indicate there are still some of the enemy who are holed up and making a fight of things but the breakthrough has been made, the trench line breached. It is only a matter of time now until the rest of the line crumbles. The hardest task is complete. No-man's Land has been crossed. Now there will be cover for the next series of assaults, the enemies own trenches now working against them.
The whistle of shells overhead, drowned out by the roar and thunder of the first volley detonating, indicates the artillery have started up their barrage again. Ineffective prior to the attack, I wonder idly what use it could possibly be now. The whistle of a shell directly overhead forces me to duck, to look up, to wince. The useless bastards have finally found the range of the trench, too late to do any good, now more of a danger than the enemy.
The blast still rings in my ears. I lie on my back, looking up at the stars, unable to move, deaf to the noise around me, helpless to move the weight of the body lying over my legs. The shell dropped right on target, blowing a hundred metres of trench all to hell. The hundred metres we had captured only minutes before.
I close my eyes and let the comforting mud embrace me, clinging like a second skin, comforting me as I drift into release.
I really like it Nomad :) It describes the despair and relentless/restless nature of war . Always just one more hurdle to jump before yet another is created. Nice work !
Trench warfare at its worst. The second and sixth paragraphs bring out the impossibility of the orders given to the soldiers and how they still fight, even when their actions result in nothing minutes later.
SGT-Carson: Jeeze, Anne, everything you write is like heroin but in word form.Belazikkal: To Annemarie, the wonderful fate-weaver and plot-maker. Blessed by the Great Schemer and Architect you are. May your pen never run out of ink.